Burkina Faso: Life behind the numbers

Young people in Burkina Faso can and should accept responsibility and take the lead, says Ludovic Sawadogo.

Young people form the backbone of Burkina Faso. In fact, over 65% of the population of the country is younger than 25 years old. This is an incredible opportunity for young inspired people to take charge and improve the level of well-being in the country. However, in the absence of opportunities in education and employment, this proves to be a curse rather than a blessing. Millions of young people, burdened by economic restraints, political instability and lack of government accountability are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.

My name is Ludovic Sadogo, I am one of Restless Development’s Youth at Heart researchers amd I have used creative storytelling as a tool to express real concerns that real people face every single day in my home country of Burkina Faso. This story is fictional, but its implications – tangible and widespread. 

This could be me

“This could be me” Poko thought to herself while sitting on a bench and watching her friends walk to school. Everyday she dreamed of doing the same, of holding a bag on her back and walking to school with her siblings. But today, things are different. Today, they march on, and she doesn’t. 

She dreams of moving to the city and earning money, so that her brothers and sisters are not forced to live the way she had to.

Asking for opportunities

“Good morning Uncle!” She says, “Can you help me go to the city?”

“I wish I could, my niece, but I don’t have any money to give you.” 

She walks away, not dejected, but hopeful. Instead of giving up and turning back, she walks into the nearest restaurant, 

“Let me work for you,” she asks.

“We need a dishwasher, start tomorrow?” the owner replies. 

She wanted to work until she could realise her dreams of going to the city. The city would change everything. Little did she know that her dreams would shatter as soon as she got to the city. The city was nothing like her dreams. The city was heartless, and the people, even more so. She applied for job after job, but found nothing. 

“The bar I work at is hiring new employees, I think you’d be a good fit.” her friend said to her one day. 

She was. 

Finding a new job

The first day of her new job, she was relieved to stand on her own two feet, and excited to prove her value. But societal stigma followed her everywhere she went. She was called new names everyday, she was shamed for where she worked and how she looked. Some of her friends had started working as sex workers, but she didn’t want to, some of them didn’t want to either, but what other work was available to them?

Despite all the obstacles that had been put in her way, she remained firm and determined. She was in the city, and she was trying to make a difference, and that is all that mattered. 

Imagining a way out 

Soon after, COVID-19 happened. Bars shut down and she lost her job. 

She could have taken the easy way out and returned home, but she was in the city for a reason and she would not return without fulfilling it. So until bars reopened again, she collected rocks to sell at construction sites to earn enough to feed herself. No matter how harsh the sun or how tiring the work, she persevered. 

Sometimes, it’s the people you don’t expect anything of who end up changing your life forever. She wants to be that person for women in her community. Reading about Restless Development’s efforts in helping women like her, she grows even more inspired. It gives her the courage to say –

I will, one day, start my own business and help women all around me lead better lives. I will, one day, lead the way to change.”

It is for people like Poko that young people continue to research, advocate and fight for a better and more just future. It is for people like Poko that I became a part of the Youth at Heart Project and helped write the Youth Principles. 

Young people have the answers. Whether it be related to education and job opportunities, or the COVID-19 pandemic. we must continue to guide solutions to the problems that young people face, not only in Burkina Faso, but around the world. 


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Burkina Faso: Life behind the numbers

by Ludovic Sawadogo Reading time: 3 min