HeForShe: Creating dialogue on equality in Burkina Faso

18 November 2021
ITC News

HeForShe is a UN initiative tackling gender disparity around the globe. In Burkina Faso, the Ethical Fashion Initiative, a flagship programme of the International Trade Centre (ITC), has introduced HeForShe activities to challenge gender stereotypes.

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, the EFI has worked to double its 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 an attempt to break the stigma behind gender stereotypes, the 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 – things like carrying large buckets of water.

At the same time, women in the group are asked to perform tasks commonly executed by men, such as changing tyres on a bicycle. Following the role reversals, both men and women are asked 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 lead 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 said the goal of the workshop, above all, was on educating men.

‘The idea here is to put men at the same table as women to discuss issues that hinder women’s development,’ he said.

The participants of our HeForShe one-day programmes. 

Throughout EFI’s 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 the programme. Shining a light on gender equality help to dissolve taboos and 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, benefit communities, and maintain community values. ITC realizes the strength of collaborative efforts in accelerating development. Such workshops help increase mutual understanding and cooperative activities between all members of the community, bringing positive change.

Created by the United Nations alongside UN Women Goodwill 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.

ITC believes that inclusion is essential for effectively addressing economic, social, and environmental disparities. Supporting HeForShe means men, women, and people of all genders work together to build businesses, raise families, and empower their communities.

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