Sunday, October 18, 2009

Roundtable on Girls' Education in Niger and Burkina Faso with Amina Mamadou Kaza and Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney

On October 14th, 2009, Dr. Shahla Haeri, Director of the Women's Studies Program (WSP), and Beth Goldsmith, Director of Academic Affairs, International Programs of BU, co-hosted roundtable talks on girl's education in Niger and Burkina Faso. The invited speakers were Amina Mamadou Kaza, faculty member of BU's Niger program, and Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney, Visiting Faculty at BU's WSP. Amina teaches a course on Nigerien culture and society with a focus on women; she had recently been named to the post of Director of Girl's Education in the Ministry of National Education in Niger. Brenda teaches a seminar on Gender and International Development (WS348) at BU, and had run UN development programs for nearly a decade in Burkina, with a special interest in workload-lightening technologies and female education.

Amina Mamadou Kaza speaking with the BU Women's Studies students and faculty

Amina, an activist in the field of girls’ education, who oversees educational reform at the primary level, helps the students to understand the complex position of women in Nigerien Islamic culture. She shared with a filled-to-capacity crowd her insights into the challenges facing Niger, and notably women and girls. She included a devastating indictment of the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. Niger figures last in the UN Development Programme's Human Development and Gender Development Indexes.

Prof. Brenda Gael McSweeney presenting on female education in Burkina.

Brenda spoke on challenges confronting women and girls in the neighboring sub-Saharan Africa country of Burkina Faso. She highlighted workloads, technology and empowerment, and an exchange of lessons with Niger. She put an accent on the enormous workloads of young girls - data revealed an average of seven hours of work a day from the ages of seven to fifteen (twice that of boys). Her work with the UN Development Programme and subsequent research over the decades has thus focused on lightening female workloads and boosting access to income generating and other opportunities. See also: Equality Burkina!

Students minoring in Women's Studies and others from across campus, including from International Relations and the Humphrey Fellows Program, jumped in on a lively exchange with Amina and Brenda, their hosts Shahla and Beth, and other participants.

For more pictures of the event, please visit our Flickr page.

Event poster by Carly Pack-Bailey. 
Photos by Shahla Haeri.