International Women’s Day

To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, we interviewed Nathalie Ilboudo, Executive Director of our partner organisation ODIS

Nathalie Ilboudo is a Burkinabè based in Ouagadougou. She is the Executive Director of ODIS, as well as a founding member of the “Making Change” movement.

Nathalie working with ODIS project beneficiaries

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on 8th March. In Burkina Faso, women celebrate this day by dressing in outfits made from a special women’s day cloth and celebrating together with dancing and feasting. This is also the one day of the year that husbands go to market and buy food to cook a meal for their wives. This year’s theme is Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow, and Nathalie shared with us her thoughts on the challenges of gender equality faced by women and girls living with disability in Burkina Faso.

Tell us about yourself and how you got involved in ODIS.

My name is Nathalie Ilboudo. I am a lawyer by training as well as a trainer in gender leadership and inclusive development. I am a founding member of the USA-based “Making Change” movement, which is an international network of women leaders with disabilities that exists to advance the issue of disability in policy-making around the world. I work in the humanitarian sector as a Gender-Based Violence Case Manager in the eastern region of Burkina Faso, an area affected by the security crisis and the presence of armed groups. Firstly, I identify as a disabled person as I was a victim of poliomyelitis at the age of 5 and I lost the use of my right leg. I walk by leaning on my knee and with the help of a crutch, and sometimes I use a wheelchair for longer distances. Since 2019, I have been the Executive Director of the Organization for Inclusive Development and Solidarity (ODIS). The idea of ​​setting up ODIS came to me in 2017, as a way to address the difficulties encountered by vulnerable people, the majority of whom are people with disabilities.

What motivated me the most was the case of a child with disabilities who had been abandoned by his father and who was rejected by the children in his neighbourhood. I said to myself that it is imperative to do something to help this young child who did not choose to be disabled.

By nature, I like to help others and I don’t hesitate to risk my life to help or save a person in distress.

Who was your female role model when you were younger?

When I was in school (in Year 8) a woman named Mrs. Rosalie Gansonre inspired me a lot. She was my form teacher and French teacher. She had a disability and walked with a prosthesis. It was the first time I had met a disabled person amongst the teaching staff. She was a fighter, and she encouraged me to speak in class and appointed me head of class so I could lead the working groups. This allowed me to improve my school results and overcome my shyness. This woman set up an association for deaf children and fought for inclusive education in Burkina. Mrs. Gansonre is a big role model for me because, thanks to her support, I learned to accept and overcome my disability.

Nathalie wearing the International Women’s Day pagne (cloth) for 2022

This year’s international women’s day theme is Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow.  What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing women with disabilities in achieving equality in Burkina Faso?

Burkina Faso has been experiencing a very difficult security context since 2015, and this has further deteriorated over the past two years. Inspired by the international theme for Women’s Day, Burkina Faso has chosen a national theme which is: “Security and Health Challenges: Which Strategies for Better Protection of Women?”

When we talk about equality, women with disabilities must have the same chances and the same opportunities as other women, which is not yet a reality here. Women with disabilities in Burkina must overcome several challenges, the greatest of which are security and health challenges. Most of Burkina (two-thirds) is occupied by terrorist groups who make their own laws and oppress women.

In regions affected by insecurity, women with disabilities are more or less forgotten; they are victims of sexual assault and have their dignity taken away. They often suffer in silence without any opportunity to have their voices heard.

Women with disabilities do not have access to shelter, water and sanitation, health centres or education. In addition to these difficulties, they must overcome challenges such as access to vocational training, micro-finance and employment. To speak of equality and a sustainable future, these challenges must be addressed.

What advice would you give to other disabled women and girls to help them overcome these challenges?

You know that alone a person cannot change his or her condition. I invite women with disabilities to join movements and associations for people with disabilities, as well as organisations and networks that promote opportunities for female leaders with disabilities. In these different bodies, they have the opportunity to develop projects in a participatory manner and to make their voices heard. Above all, I invite them to get in touch with ODIS, where they can express their needs and try to find solutions to their problems.

Girls with disabilities need to be stronger, and they need to fight without giving up; they must speak out, denounce what they are experiencing and claim their rights.

What will you and the organisations you work with be reflecting on this International Women’s Day?

This year, Burkina Faso is living in a much more difficult political and socio-security context than in previous years. We are in a period of transition and so far the members of the government and the representatives of the people are not yet known. We cannot therefore officially organise ceremonies without the approval of the authorities. Nevertheless, two women with disabilities from ODIS have been invited by a charitable community to participate in an interactive radio program on the national theme for Women’s Day.

What can LAFI Burkina and other organisations do to support disabled women to become leaders in their communities?

We thank LAFI Burkina, our partner organisation that has supported us since the creation of ODIS in 2019 up to now. Through technical and financial support for our two largest projects – mobility and inclusive education, and inclusive vocational training – this year we have benefited from greater funding, which allows us to reach more beneficiaries, and we think that in the future we will be able to have structured, longer-term programmes ranging from 3 to 5 years.

For us to support women with disabilities, we need to provide them with further training in leadership and personal development. They also need the opportunity to meet and share experiences with other women in the West African region and internationally.

We appeal to international NGOs to support LAFI so that they can, in turn, support us. The more autonomous ODIS is, the better it will be able to properly support disabled and vulnerable women.

To learn more about International Women’s Day, please visit the United Nations International Women’s Day page.

L4LAFI 2021

We are happy to launch this year’s L4LAFI Challenge, which will take place throughout the month of June.

Last year, the L4LAFI Challenge helped us fund an urgent appeal for our partner organisation Tigoung Nonma. This year, we are raising funds for our partner organisation ODIS, who we are supporting with an Inclusive Education and Training project.

How to Take Part

To take part in the L4LAFI Challenge, we are asking you to do something beginning with the letter L during the month of June. This could be running LAPS, doing LUNGES, LEARNING a LANGUAGE, jumping LEAPFROGS, making someone LAUGH, or anything else that begins with the letter L!

You should post pictures and videos online of your L activity, with the hashtag #L4LAFI to show you’re participating. You can also tag @LAFIBurkina (twitter/Instagram) and @LAFIBurkinaUK (Facebook) so that we can share your efforts!

After posting your pictures and videos, you can text L4LAFI to 70470 to donate £5, or text L4LAFI + the amount you wish to donate e.g. L4LAFI 3 to donate £3. Texts cost one standard rate message plus the donation amount. After donating, you can nominate others to take part in the L4LAFI Challenge.

How to Collect Donations

If you’d like to support us for the entire month of June, you can setup a fundraising page for free using Virgin Money Giving to collect donations. Visit our L4LAFI 2021 event page and click the Start fundraising button to setup your page. Alternatively, you can contact us to setup a page on your behalf, or you can ask supporters to donate directly via text, or via the ODIS project fundraising page.

Thank you very much for your support, and we hope you enjoy this year’s L4LAFI Challenge!

International Women’s Day

To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day theme of Women in Leadership, we interviewed Zoénabou Savadogo, Coordinator of our partner organisation Tigoung Nonma

Zoénabou Savadogo is a Burkinabè based in Ouagadougou. She is Tigoung Nonma’s Coordinator, as well as the President of the Association for the Development of Disabled Women (ADFH), and the Treasurer of the National Union of Women with Disability in Burkina Faso (UNAFEHB). 

Zoénabou at a Tigoung Nonma stall in Ouagadougou

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on 8th March. In Burkina Faso, women celebrate this day by dressing in outfits made from a special women’s day cloth and celebrating together with dancing and feasting. This is also the one day of the year that husbands go to market and buy food to cook a meal for their wives. This year’s theme is Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World and Zoénabou shared with us her leadership journey and the challenges that prevent more women and girls living with disability in Burkina Faso from accessing leadership positions within their communities. Here is her story.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Zoénabou Savadogo. I grew up in a polygamous family and I’m the third oldest out of 14 brothers and sisters. I’m physically disabled as a result of contracting polio at 9 months of age.

My father sent me to school in spite of the prejudices of the people in the neighbourhood where I grew up.

I was the first of my brothers and sisters to go to secondary school and to get my Brevet d’Etude du Premier Cycle (BEPC) [similar to GCSE level in the UK]. The year I got my BEPC certificate, my father retired from his job and could no longer provide for all of the family’s needs and I was unable to continue my studies. 

With my BEPC certificate, I tried unsuccessfully to get a civil service job. I then thought about what I could do with my two hands to help my parents to feed, clothe and educate my little brothers and sisters. I learnt to braid hair and would braid the hair of girls in my neighbourhood. I also learned how to weave cloth from my mum and I started to teach other disabled women how to weave and knit. I saved up my money and took a computer course in 2002 and supported [disabled people’s organisation] Handicap Solidaire Burkina as a volunteer secretary.

I am now involved in a number of organisations that support women living with a disability. I am a founding member of Tigoung Nonma, an association and cooperative of artisans living with a disability. Tigoung Nonma in my local language, Mooré, means ‘strength through unity’. Tigoung Nonma was created in 2005 and officially recognised as an association in 2006. It is a cooperative of disabled artisans that creates opportunities for artisans to sell their work, provides training and creates job opportunities for women.

I was hired as Permanent Secretary of Tigoung Nonma from 2006 to 2013, and I was promoted to Coordinator in 2014. Since 2016, I have been doing this role on a voluntary basis as, unfortunately, due to the deteriorating security situation in Burkina Faso and COVID-19, Tigoung Nonma and its artisans are unable to sell their products and the association therefore doesn’t have the means to pay me a salary.

I am also a founding member and President of the Association for the Development of Disabled Women (ADFH), created in 2011, which is a member of the National Union of Women with Disability in Burkina Faso (UNAFEHB). UNAFEHB is an umbrella organisation that defends the rights of women living with disability in Burkina Faso and participates in advocacy at the national level. It is a coordination body that has 65 member organisations, with 45 focal points from every region of Burkina Faso.

Which woman was your role model when you were younger?

When I was younger, my role model was Joséphine Ouédraogo, who was Minister of Family Development and Solidarity under President Thomas Sankara. She is now an Ambassador based in Rome.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is Women in Leadership. What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing women with disabilities in accessing leadership positions in Burkina Faso?

Disabled women in Burkina Faso face a double disadvantage based on being women and being disabled. Girls and women with disabilities face accessibility problems, socio-cultural constraints, lack of interest from families and, above all, extreme poverty, all of which prevent them from fully enjoying their right to access education and training, and subsequently to have a job or activity that would provide them with financial security. 

In the absence of education and financial security, disabled women lack confidence in their own abilities and are unable to assert their rights and needs within their families and communities. 

They also lack opportunities to participate in leadership programmes. For disabled women to access leadership positions, there is also a need for public and private sector actors to recognise the ability and value that disabled women can bring to local and national politics. Disabled women are neither visible nor represented in local decision-making structures.

The current insecurity in the country and the coronavirus pandemic has actually made the situation worse for disabled women. Since 2016, there are fewer tourists visiting and fewer people buying the products made by Tigoung Nonma’s artisans. Many disabled women are scared to leave their households to engage in their artisan activities for fear of being attacked or robbed or of contracting coronavirus. Many of our members, due to their disability, are shielding. This has exacerbated their poverty.

Zoénabou wearing the International Women’s Day pagne (cloth) for 2021

What advice would you give to other disabled women and girls to help them overcome these challenges? 

My advice to my disabled sisters in the world, and particularly in Burkina Faso, would be to:

  • Overcome their fear of the security situation and the coronavirus pandemic;
  • To learn about their rights and duties under the law;
  • To have confidence in their abilities;
  • To lobby the authorities in their local areas to take into consideration their specific needs;
  • To be proactive in seeking information and not always wait to be given information;
  • To participate in local politics.

What will the organisations you work with be reflecting on this International Women’s Day?

At Tigoung Nonma and ADFH, we are reflecting on how to increase the confidence of the women members, as a means to reduce their social and political marginalisation and their low representation in decision-making spheres. We are also reflecting on how to reduce their poverty in the context of national insecurity and fears of COVID-19.

At l’UNAFEHB, we are looking at the health of women and girls living with disability. In collaboration with the National Youth Council, UNAFEHB is organising free screening for cancer of the uterus from 6th to 8th March in Ouagadougou. UNAFEHB is in the process of mobilising its members to take the test.

Another area of reflection is how to have more accurate data on the numbers of women and girls living with disability in Burkina Faso.

What can LAFI Burkina and other organisations do to support disabled women to become leaders in their communities? 

In addition to supporting disabled girls and women to have equal access to education and employment opportunities, they can:

  • Actively support projects that strengthen women’s and girls’ leadership skills and facilitate their participation in politics and decision-making in their communities;
  • Ensure that disabled women are able to participate in women’s movements at the national and international level to ensure that their voices are heard;
  • Publicly recognise the achievements of disabled women leaders through an award in order to encourage other disabled women to get involved in leadership.

To learn more about International Women’s Day, please visit the United Nations International Women’s Day page.

URGENT APPEAL – Please support people with disabilities in Burkina Faso to protect themselves during the coronavirus pandemic

In Burkina Faso, a country already suffering from poverty, a weak healthcare system and attacks from armed groups that have resulted in the world’s fastest-growing displacement crisis, the UN refugee agency is warning that the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the country could be dire.

People with disabilities are amongst the most marginalised groups in Burkina Faso, often living in extreme poverty and neglected by society. Artisans with disabilities, who are members of our partner organisation Tigoung Nonma, are currently unable to work and struggling to buy food to feed themselves and their families. We are therefore asking you to please support them by making a donation through our Virgin Money Giving Campaign.

Your donation will allow Tigoung Nonma to distribute food parcels and hygiene kits to its members, to try to protect them and their families from the impact of this pandemic.

We would greatly appreciate any support you can give.

Thank you very much.

Crowdfunding for ODIS on International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Today, on International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPwD), we are launching a crowdfunding campaign to support our partner organisation ODIS.

ODIS is implementing a 1-year inclusive education and training project in Burkina Faso, and they would greatly appreciate your support.

Working with children with disabilities

Please visit our crowdfunding page to find out more about the project and to make a donation.

You can also read our special IDPwD newsletter here.

Thank you very much for your continued support.

Burkinabè Rising film screening, live music and buffet

Advance tickets are available HERE or can be purchased on the night.

Ticket price includes film screening, live music and buffet. Drinks will be available to purchase at the bar for the duration of the evening.

Film duration: 72 mins

Visit the Facebook event page to see the film trailer and to let us know if you’ll be attending.

‘BURKINABÈ RISING: the art of resistance in Burkina Faso’- directed by Iara Lee (Cultures of Resistance Films). A small landlocked country in West Africa, Burkina Faso is home to a vibrant community of artists, musicians, engaged citizens who carry on the revolutionary spirit of Thomas Sankara, killed in a coup d’état led by his best friend and advisor Blaise Compaoré, who then ruled the country as an autocrat for 27 years, til a massive popular insurrection led to his removal. Today, the spirit of resistance and political change is mightier than ever and it permeates every aspect of the Burkinabe life. It is an inspiration, not only to Africa, but to the rest of the world.’

Poster Competition

The ‘International Day of Persons with Disability’ is a United Nations international day that takes place annually on the 3rd December. The day works to raise awareness of the estimated 1billion people around the world that have some form of disability and yet, still do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others.

The theme for this year is: “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”. The international day also links into Rights Respecting Schools initiatives, and PSHE lessons. To commemorate the day on the 3rd December some people choose to wear purple, and children may like to include purple on their posters, including purple ribbons.

We would love schools to join us in raising awareness of this important day by encouraging students to take part in the poster competition.

Posters can be on either A4 or A3 paper, hand drawn or made electronically on a computer/tablet. The whole school, specific year groups or classes can take part.

Entries can be:

The winner of the competition will be announced via our website on 26th November. The winning poster will be published on our website, facebook page and twitter feed, and will be used by LAFI:Burkina to help publicise the International Day of Persons with Disability, for the week before the International Day, as well as on the 3rd December. We will not publish the winning child’s name just the “Winning entry is from a Year 4 pupil at NAME OF SCHOOL”.

Please email with any questions or to let us know you are taking part.

Thank you!

International Day of Persons with Disabilities


Today we are celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme this year is Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want, in reference to how the 17 Sustainable Development Goals can build a more inclusive and equitable world for people with disabilities.

This year additionally marks 10 years from the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which promotes and protects the rights of people with disabilities.

The CRPD was ratified in Burkina Faso in 2009, however, people with disabilities are yet to experience full inclusion in their country, and have difficulties integrating into their communities.

  • They are often victims of prejudice, rejection, abandonment and other forms of exclusion – sadly even within their own families.
  • They regularly encounter negative attitudes and discrimination, problems with accessibility, and a lack of implementation of disability-related laws.

All of this results in them being marginalised in society, with many finding themselves living in conditions of extreme poverty.

LAFI Burkina works with partner organisations in Burkina Faso to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities and to ensure that they are able to access education, healthcare and employment opportunities.

In 2016…

We worked with our partners to develop the following projects:

  • a centre for children with disabilities;
  • dialogue sessions with mothers of children with disabilities on issues that affect their children, as well as on how to better meet their children’s needs;
  • purchasing equipment for a catering service run by women with disabilities;
  • and an income generating grains trading activity run by a cooperative of disabled artisans.

We have been able to raise funds for these activities due to the generosity of our supporters. We would particularly like to thank:

  • Steve Gunn, who fundraised for us when he did the Tour de Flanders cycling race earlier this year;
  • Felix Tennison, who did a month-long Dryathlon to raise money for us;
  • and our trustees and volunteers who took part in the Parallel London disability-led run.

We are very grateful to everyone who donated to these fundraising campaigns, as well as to anyone who purchased crafts from us – you helped us raise over £2,000! A big thank you also to anyone who visited our stalls, or interacted with us on social media.

We appreciate your support as we continue to work towards an inclusive society in Burkina Faso where people with disabilities have equal rights and opportunities.

Thank you very much,
The LAFI Burkina Team

digitalbanner_728x90_lafi16_1480541729302£5 is a suggested donation amount, which can be changed to any value.