Rachidatou Sana and Awa Traore live in Bobo-Dioulasso, the second largest city in Burkina Faso after the capital Ouagadougou. They are lucky to enjoy their right to education in a country where more girls than boys are out of school, and where literacy rates, although improving, are still markedly lower for women than men.
Gender equality is a global priority for UNESCO and the Organization collects and monitors gender data on education, ensures better legal, policy and planning frameworks to advance the right to education and helps countries empower girls and women through better quality learning opportunities.
Head down, serious, eleven-year-old Rachidatou concentrates on getting her answer exactly right. Already an outstanding pupil at Kua C school in Bobo-Dioulasso, she loves mathematical problem-solving but will have to find her own solution in the fight to keep on with her studies. 'I feel very lucky to go to school every day. My mother did not get that chance,' Rachidatou says.
Awa, 21, is working from morning to night to catch up. She grew up in the tiny village of Banzon where she completely missed out on schooling. When the chance came up, she moved 30 km away to the city of Bobo-Dioulasso where she lodges with her uncle and aunt and in return shops, cooks and cleans for them. Her days are long. After dropping her nephew at school, she sets off to the market. Only when her daily chores are done can she turn to her books and prepare for her literacy class at 6.30pm.
Awa knows she has a lot of ground to make up for and that other women with more education than her are having difficulty finding work. Despite the odds, she is determined to use this second chance at literacy as a stepping stone to a profession in the health field.
'I don't know what the future has in store for me but this is my second chance and I don't want to waste it,' says Awa.
Like many girls her age in Burkina Faso, Rachidatou was born to poor parents (her mother is illiterate) and is daily torn between home chores, earning a living and studying to better her situation. All she wants is an equal chance, the same as everyone else. She plans to go to college to train as a nurse 'so I can help others and my family.'
Photos: Sophie Garcia
This story is part of the UNESCO’s #EducationTransformsLives exhibition, displayed at the United Nations Headquarters in New York during the months of July and august 2019.
The exhibition is organized in partnership with Education Above All, the Qatar Foundation, the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the United Nations as well as the co-chairs of the Group of Friends and Lifelong Learning (Argentina, Czech Republic, Japan, Kenya and Norway).