In Burkina Faso, thanks to vocational training, women are building bigger businesses


Aide et Action’s Training in the Service of Feminine Leadership (FORSELF) project in Ouagadougou, West Africa, enables women previously deprived of education to train for a trade and develop better income-generating activities. Mariam and Adama are two project participants who can attest in the project’s power to transform lives.

In Burkina Faso, a number of obstacles prevent women from accessing entrepreneurship opportunities, excluding them from playing important  roles in society. With low levels of education and qualifications, a high rate of illiteracy, difficulties in accessing credit, and family or socio-cultural constraints, the odds are stacked against women in participating fully in the economy too.

Sustainably improving the living conditions of women

To address these issues, Aide et Action has set up a vocational training project specially dedicated to women in the country’s capital. Entitled “Training in the Service of Female Leadership” (FORSELF), the project aims to sustainably improve women’s living conditions by promoting income-generating activities and the development of female-led micro-enterprises. Among the project beneficiaries so far are Mariam and Adama who both illustrate the positive impact of training on the lives of Burkinabè.commitment.

40-year-old, mother-of-five Mariam dropped out of school when she was in the 5th grade due to poverty.. But Mariam refuses to let her lack of education hold her back in life and  wants to gain more independence. “I didn’t want to sell fritters like my mother”, I wanted to become a hairdresser”, she explains. Determined, she befriended a neighbor who works in this profession and learned alongside her. She worked with her until she married and then decided to set up on her own. But, she soon realized that her abilities were limited.

New opportunities

Around the same time, she heard about the FORSELF project and decided to participate. Mariam received training on hairdressing, makeup, nail applications, pedicures and manicures.In addition to these practical skills, the training also included a literacy component, which Mariam welcomed and described as very enriching.. After her apprenticeship, Mariam moved her workshop from her marital home to the Tabtenga market, located in a peri-urban area, and joined forces with another FORSELF project participant. Now, the shop is thriving..

Like Mariam, project participant Adama was also lacking the skills she needed to advance her business. After learning to sew on her own and doing this for several years, Adama knew she was missing something to become more successful.  After joining The FORSELF project, she received training in new cuts which has helped her grow her business.  “I was able to expand what I could offer my clientele and I finally opened my own workshop”, testifies the seamstress who now welcomes three young female apprentices in order to share her knowledge.

Literacy was also an important component in Adama’s training and has led her to improve her business skills. “Literacy was necessary for me. I enjoyed reading, writing and math. It helps me in my job. I easily read my measurements. I write better too. I am very satisfied”, she said.

The addition of digital tools has also helped her to reach more customers and transform her business During training, Adama received a digital tablet and learned how to use it. Now she can easily share her catalog of designs with her customers, without having to carry everything with her, making everything easier as well as more efficient.

The power of education

With the right support, Adama and Mariam have been able to build their business and  significantly improve their living conditions. A lack of literacy and basic business skills had kept them in low-income activities, but now they can now dream bigger. With the support of the project, they are rediscovering their professions and accessing new opportunities and new perspectives.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, we wish to highlight women like Adama and Mariam who inspire us and who demonstrate the transformative potential of education.