For many young girls in Burkina Faso becoming a woman comes far too early. Change is coming but for many girls it hasn't been soon enough. Several years ago, laws were enacted to make it illegal to force girls to marry before the age of 18. Before then, girls had little say over their futures. Girls younger than 16 were sometimes taken from their homes and married against their will.
Even today, women are considered second class citizens in many communities throughout Burkina Faso. Women in their mid twenties may have as many as 12 children, unaware that pregnancy can be prevented. It may be rare, but some women may not even be aware of the connection between pregnancy and sex. Those that know about contraception may be forbidden to use it by their husbands. Many others cannot afford the injections after their first visits to health clinics.
Burkina Faso has one of the lowest rates of contraceptive use in the world. The country also faces one of the highest maternal mortality rates. For these reasons alone, women's health and the education of young girls remains a high priority. Fighting for women's rights over the past decade has led to some change, but women are still struggling.
Lumière des Enfants, or Children's Light, is a non profit that was established to address the challenges faced by women and children around the world, including Burkina Faso. They are focused on women's issues faced by populations with a suppressed voice. In Burkina Faso they work with single moms struggling to support and care for several children on limited resources. They also seek care for children whose mother's are sick or incarcerated and unable to care for them. Simply put, their goal is to provide a better life for disadvantaged kids.
While they work to place orphaned children in loving supportive families, they also recognize the value of keeping a family together. They strive to produce resources for single moms trying to make ends meet.They have vocational training for women and assistance to help purchase food, diapers, and school supplies for the kids.
Children's Light believes in nurturing the physical, intellectual, emotional, and psychological well being of disadvantaged kids. They assist in child development, assuring education is available to all children regardless of their family situations. They see to it that children receive at least one guaranteed meal a day, have regular doctor visits, and receive all their needed immunizations.
They are already requesting a third container of bikes, a testament to the success of the project. The addition of the bike component to Children's Light has added 7 full time jobs and offers some part time work when the influx of bikes arrives.
Richard (seen here) is one of those part time employees who helped unload our last container. He is a student from a single parent household. His mother works as a seamstress to care for him and his younger sister. Children's Light donated this bike to Richard for his help with the project.
From our first shipments, many students received bikes including five students who re-enrolled after receiving bikes to help with their commutes. The importance of the bike project is to increase the opportunities available to these families through improved mobility.