For more than 30 years, buildOn has been constructing schools in economically developing countries with the aim of eradicating poverty and illiteracy by providing access to education. In 2014, buildOn opened its first offices in Burkina Faso and three important programs were implemented: School Construction; the Enroll program, which seeks to bring out-of-school children back to the classroom; and the Adult Literacy Program, which helps men and women learn basic literacy and math skills so they can develop income-generating activities. buildOn targets communities with the greatest needs in each country and works hand-in-hand with rural populations to build schools, and empower more children and adults to be literate.

Each construction project includes a block of three classrooms and two blocks of latrines. The communities buildOn partners with are located in rural areas which lack proper infrastructure, forcing students to study in confined, dark, and unfit shelters, or simply under trees when the weather permits. Some students chose to walk several kilometers to reach a nearby village with a proper school while others simply give up and decide to quit school altogether. At buildOn, we strive to build as many schools as we can to allow as many children as possible to get a proper education and break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy. However, it is not always easy, and here in Burkina Faso we have encountered several challenges–– especially in regards to gender discrimination.

At buildOn Burkina Faso we believe that the first step in battling gender discrimination is to start with our own team. We know that discrimination can arise within the workplace and that it can affect employees as well as the communities we work with. To prevent this, our office here in Ouagadougou has recruited candidates from diverse backgrounds regardless of their ethnicity, gender, or religious beliefs. As the Country Director, I work hard to promote a healthy environment for the employees which plays a huge role in their personal development. I believe that a happy team leads to better outcomes and thus far, I can proudly say that it has also had a huge impact on the work we have done. Even though our diverse team includes more men than women, more women are joining us––and the managerial team is led by three women in the roles of Country Director, Construction Manager, and Finance Officer. This proves that––despite prejudices and a lack of support for gender equity in Burkina Faso––that women can hold positions of authority.

These great women have proven to be valuable assets for the work we do by showing community members how important it is to educate girls. When we go to the field and the community members—especially women—see that a woman is leading, it encourages parents to enroll their girls in school. They realize how important education is, and they understand that gender discrimination has no place in the classroom. buildOn’s successful female staff are evidence that women can accomplish anything. Not only does this encourage parents to change their views on education, it also empowers young girls to believe in themselves and hopefully become financially independent one day.

Read the full article about buildOn by Joceylne Tenkouano at Global Washington.