HeForShe: creating dialogue on equality in Burkina Faso

HeForShe is a UN initiative tackling gender disparity around the globe. In Burkina Faso, the Ethical Fashion Initiative has introduced HeForShe activities to challenge gender stereotypes.

“No society can function properly when a good half of it is excluded from basic human rights.” – Simone Cipriani, head of the Ethical Fashion Initiative.

Back in 2019 EFI joined the HeForShe movement, an invitation for men and people of all genders to stand in solidarity with women to create a united force for a gender-equal world. Since then, we’ve worked to double our active commitment to promote women’s rights in Burkina Faso, starting with their social and economic rights, accompanied by a strong emphasis on challenging traditional gender roles. The resulting initiative is a special programme that consists of frequent one-day workshops that simulate role reversals and ignite conversations. 

In the attempt to break the stigma behind gender stereotypes, our HeForShe workshops offer innovative ways to challenge the norm. Run by local community leaders, the one-day programmes ask men to perform tasks usually performed by women (i.e. carrying large buckets of water), and simultaneously ask the opposite of the women in the group: to perform tasks commonly executed by men, such as changing tyres on a bicycle. Following the role reversals, we ask both men and women to sit together in focus groups with a facilitator as they discuss their experiences of roles within their families and households. Social workers have found that these focus groups have led to meaningful conversations about gender roles within the community, as well as promises from both men and women to strive for a fairer division of work at home.

Women compete in a race to change bicycle tyres, a job usually done by the men in the community.

On one occasion, a particular workshop tackled an important subject: breaking the taboo of the menstrual cycle and providing a better understanding of the female body. This workshop taught participants (both men and women) how to manually fabricate reusable sanitary napkins. Organiser Oumar Bila Lankoandé confirms that the goal of the workshop, above all, was on educating men, stating,The idea here is to put men on the same table as women to discuss issues that hinder women’s development.”

The participants of our HeForShe one-day programmes.

Throughout our work and involvement with communities in Burkina Faso, the value and importance of including men in the gender equality dialogue is at the forefront of our programme. Not only does shining a light on gender equality help to dissolve it, it also encourages a dialogue between both sexes. What was it like to exchange roles for a day? Their discussions double as powerful ways to address gender equality, positively impact communities, and maintain community values. 

Created by the United Nations alongside ambassador Emma Watson, HeForShe brings people from all over the globe in the quest to end disparities between sexes, because women’s issues are human rights issues. Supporting HeForShe means men, women, and people of all genders work together to build businesses, raise families, and empower their communities. We’re better together.

You can learn more about HeForShe and find out how to participate here.