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Listen to the girls!

“I want to see changes, so that girls are no longer treated like slaves. I want us girls to have the same rights as boys, and to have the chance to study for longer before having to get married.”

“People need to listen to us girls, because we’ve got ideas about how to solve problems,” says Anita, 14, who lives in the village of Nakamtenga in Burkina Faso.

When Anita was at preschool, she developed an illness that affected her legs and she ended up being unable to walk.

“I was in hospital for three months. After a few months at home, I developed a sore in my left leg. The doctor said he would have to operate. When I started my first year at school, the doctor X-rayed my right leg and said that it would also have to be operated on.”

Unfortunately, in rural areas of Burkina Faso where Anita lives, children with disabilities are often abandoned by their families. Many live in poverty and cannot afford health care. And people are often prejudiced against children with visual or hearing impairments, or who can’t walk, like Anita, so the family is reluctant to keep them.

“I still have problems walking, but I’m very proud of the fact that my parents supported me and didn’t reject me, even though we are poor farmers,” says Anita.

“Girls should be allowed to study longer before having to get married,” says Anita.

Friends’ rights violated

“It’s important to be aware of children’s rights, so we can tell those who are violating them and teach others who don’t know that children even have rights. Children’s rights are not respected here. My friend Alice was married off by her dad at the age of 14. She refused, but her dad forced her. She cried the whole time. Alice wanted to run away, but her husband made it impossible for her to. She had her first child at 15. Bintou from our village was also married off at a young age by her dad. Her husband mistreated her, but tradition meant that she couldn’t leave him.”

Anita’s friend Fatou was mistreated by her stepmother and forced to work hard. “She wanted to get away, but where would she go? She stayed until she was 15 and then she was married off. Another friend, Ami, had to quit school. Her parents said that girls don’t need to go to school; their role is to look after the home. Her dad stopped paying her school fees and she had to leave school in fourth grade. Ami cried and cried, and begged her parents to let her carry on at school, but they wouldn’t let her. When she was 15, her dad forced her to marry an old man.”

Anita helps out at home, but her brothers help just as much with the household chores.

“I want to see changes, so that girls are no longer treated like slaves. I want us girls to have the same rights as boys, and to have the chance to study for longer before having to get married.”

Siblings agree

“I tell my siblings, parents, grandparents and friends about how important it is for everyone to know about the rights of the child, particularly girls’ rights. We shouldn’t be subjected to injustices and we need to have an education; we shouldn’t be married off and should have the right to speak freely. We should have the same rights as boys.

“My brothers, sisters and friends agree. But my older relatives, such as my grandparents, think there’s no point in educating a girl. Girls are married off at a young age, because that’s the custom here. And they say that girls don’t have the right to say what they think, and that only boys have this right. I think girls should be listened to, because sometimes we have ideas about how to solve problems. If girls aren’t given the right to speak, then maybe the problem won’t be solved.”

“In my family, boys and girls share the same tasks at home, because my parents have understood that girls’ rights are important, and that all children should be treated equally. I think they’ve made a good choice, because boys and girls should have the same rights. It’s important to be an ambassador for children’s rights, because then you can share knowledge about the rights of the child. It’s great to be able to talk to other children about the changes we [ambassadors] want to see.”

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