Marie was recommended to us by the club chaperon in her community. According to him, she is one of the few girl club members who manage to “talk well”. He also mentioned her as an example on how the club membership can help making positive changes in the life of children.
Marie participated in a non-structured interview including the life line exercise . We also had the chance to gather information from her teacher and chaperon and to observe her during a group discussion with other girl members. The case study was conducted on the 21st May 2010 in an empty school building.
Marie wears a wrap around skirt, a tight, fancy t-shirt with the print “princess” and a bling jewellery necklace. Her facial expression is sad. She is coy, rather passive and withdrawn during the entire interview. She concentrates on the questions and makes sure that she has well understood before she answers. Her French is limited. When starting to develop her life-line, Marie experiences difficulties to organize her experiences in a chronological order and has problems remembering how old she was when certain events took place. She had to re-arrange certain events several times when narrating her story. She has difficulties recalling for how many years she has been to school. At first, she reports to have gone to school for 12 years but then mentions later on that she started school at the age of seven.
Although described “as the most outgoing girl of the club” by the chaperon, Marie had significant problems to express herself during the interview. When we saw her in comparison with other girls during a group work session, we understood that the expressiveness of the girls within the club was generally very low. Marie was among a small group of four girls who managed to give answers that were longer than just “yes” or “no”.
Marie is a 17 year old girl who was born and has grown up in a rural community in the province of Bam in Burkina Faso. She lives with her parents and one other sibling. Most of her older brothers and sisters have already moved out. She is a Mossi by ethnic group and a Christian by religion. Marie has gone to school for 10 years, but she is still at the level of the “college” (junior high school).
She was selected to join the Bibir radio club four years ago and is now considered by the chaperon as a “senior club member”. She reports that she “was selected because of my good grades in school”. 4.1. Decisive life stages of the participant Marie defined her important life events with the help of the life line tool. Her life stages are written down as narrated by her.
1st flower : “During the first years of my life, there was pride in my family. We were living together in peace. We – that is my parents and their seven children. I have three brothers and three sisters. I am almost the youngest of the girls. We were living in a hut and we had three cows, some goats and chicken. We had enough to eat at that period and were happy.”
2nd flower : “I was sent to school at the age of seven years and I remember how I liked to start my education and to study. I received good grades and the school rewarded me with presents : a school bag, exercise books and pens. These were things sent by white people for the three best students in class. I was feeling joyful and my parents were proud of me.”
1st stone : “In the same year in which I started school, one of my paternal uncles died. But this was not what really made me sad. The real problem was that my father married the wife of his late brother. I was still seven years old when she moved in with us. This brought a lot of problems to our home.”
2nd stone : “As my father had taken a second wife, I could not get baptised as my older brothers and sisters. I was very bitter about that. It was really important to me and I had been looking forward to get baptised for a long time. Our family was not something to be proud of any more. Every day, there were quarrels between my mother and my father’s new wife.” [8 years]
3rd stone : “I was nine years when one of my sisters was married by force. She was 15 years at that time. I observed how she was violently dragged away by strangers. I was scared and
wondered what would happen to her. The next thing I heard what that she had run away and started staying with a boyfriend. She was banned by the family for that.”
4th stone : “Another sad event happened in the same year. One of my brothers used to be very good in school and my father supported him by selling part of his livestock. But it was not enough. That year my brother had won a competition, but since we had no money, he could not continue schooling. He was very angry and left for Cote d’Ivoire. We have sometimes news from him, but I haven’t seen him since he left.”
5th stone : “Another sister married by force to someone. She was dragged away and I have not been able to see her ever since.” [she does not recall her age at that time]
3rd flower : “A good friend of my mother invited me to come to Ghana with her. I was about 13 years old. I went with her and spent my vacation there. All together, I stayed there for a period of was three months. It was a very good time for me. I discovered new places and ate good food, things that I had never seen before.“
4th flower : “Soon after my 15th birthday, Plan came to set up the Bibir radio club. We participated in trainings and sensitization session. We had so much fun ! I liked in particular the theatre activities and enjoyed exchanging with other children. I also made new friends. I still remember how we learnt in a training one day that excision is not a good practice.”
6th - 8th stone : “During the years to come we had a lot of financial difficulties at home. They started more precisely when I was 10 years old and last up to now. My father has not enough money. He cannot even pay my school fees any more. He had no choice but to accept that my school fees and food are paid by an uncle and my brothers. Sometimes they don’t give me money for food. I am worried a lot and often struggle to have food during the day. My mother is selling food, but my father does not manage to gain money. He has never been to school.”
“I was selected and trained to participate in a radio broadcast. I spend some excellent moments during training and activities with the other club members. It helped me to be less shy and to practice my French. People have told me that other children admire me because I am recognized as one of the active members of the club. I help the facilitators to initiate new club members and to teach them what I know. This had made me more popular. But at the moment, the club is only having an activity once a year and the chaperons hardly ever gather
us for meetings. And I live in misery struggling to have my school fees paid and to find something to eat. So I cannot say that the club has done much for me at the moment.”
“I want to continue my studies and at least get a high school degree. I just fear that I will get kicked out before because there is no money left. At the moment all I wish is to continue my education.”
• “Marie is the most outgoing girl of the club. She expresses herself well and we can always count for her to gather the children when we come here or to set up activities.” (club chaperon) • “She is kind to younger students and helps us to learn from. She has been in the club for a long time so she knows much more than us.” (younger girl peers)
Marie has joint the Kids Waves project at the very beginning and participated in the first training and radio broadcast on air in her community. Although the radio club never produced another broadcast after the initial on-air event, the club continued to engage in diverse activities during the following years. Marie participated in trainings and club meetings and was among the students who prepared and carried out the radio talk. During that time, Marie was able to make significant achievements : she improved her French, her public speaking capacity and her expressiveness.
These achievements brought her admirations from her peers who started approaching her in order to learn from her experiences and to receive advice. Marie became popular and gained new friends. She willingly shared her knowledge with younger peers and initiated new members. The recognition from peers and teachers and her new tasks boosted her self esteem. In 2009 and 2010, the activities of the club were drastically decreased. In 2010, only one activity was planned and carried out. The cutback of the activities interrupted Marie’s process of strengthening her assets.
The club quickly lost its vibrant dynamic. Without the challenges and recognition of the club work, Marie became quickly withdrawn and pessimistic. As she had not yet progressed to build up a strong agency, she could not make use of her previously reinforced assets. At the moment of the interview, we met a deeply worried young woman who has little hope and vision for her future. Marie’s case illustrates how children often manage to build up assets in the scope of the youth media work but fail to develop a strong agency due to lack of support or interruption of project activities. Her case resembles the stories of many other boys and girls met during the evaluation activities.
This case study exemplifies that the empowerment of girls in rural areas can rarely be achieved in short-term interventions and demands extensive resources.