West AfricaERIKS Development Partner
ERIKS work in the region
ERIKS Development Partner works in three countries in West Africa: Burkina Faso, Mali and Benin. The work is carried out in collaboration with currently 11 local partner organisations. ERIKS’ has regional staff based in Bamako, Mali and in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The regional staff facilitates close monitoring of all projects, dialogue with and capacity building of ERIKS’ partners in the region.
The work of ERIKS and its partners in the region covers all of ERIKS’ focus areas: The right to quality education, to health, to protection, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster risk reduction. The right to education and to protection are the two dominating areas of work. Health-related work is mainly focusing on awareness raising on preventable illnesses and diseases, WASH (Water, Sanitation and Sanitation), malnutrition as well as sexual and reproductive health. Health issues are also often an integrated part of the work to strengthen the right to protection.
All areas where ERIKS implements its projects are part of the Sahel region, where climate change adds on to an already fragile environment with recurrent droughts as a main challenge. In response to this, ERIKS is increasingly working with projects aiming to reinforce the resilience of vulnerable groups to mainly climate related crises such as drought or flooding. Another common challenge in the region is insecurity, linked to armed groups and to a certain extern to international terrorism.
ERIKS’ work is mainly focused on rural areas but there is an ambition to increasingly address also the many challenges faced by children in the quickly growing urban centres in the region.
ERIKS’ work in Mali is mainly focused on the rights of the child to quality education, combined with actions to promote children’s right to health and to protection. There is a specific focus on fighting malnutrition and female genital mutilation (FGM), and a growing emphasis on resilience of communities exposed to drought and other effects of climate change.
In recent years, a breakthrough has been seen in ERIKS’ work against FGM in southern Mali. Local leaders of more than 15 villages signed local interdictions of FGM and no girls undergo FGM in this area today. However, a national legislation against FGM is still lacking. Widespread child marriage and harmful child labour are further obstacles to children’s rights to protection, health and education. The capacity of the State to provide basic social services, especially in rural areas, is weak. This is partly related to insecurity in the northern and central parts of the country. In certain cases, ERIKS’ partners are stepping in to fill gaps by providing classrooms or water- and sanitation facilities. In order to find more sustainable solutions to problems faced by children, ERIKS’ focus is to strengthen parents and leaders at different levels so that they take greater responsibility for children’s rights.
The promising results within FGM have been possible through strategic collaboration also with religious leaders. This demonstrates that it is possible to change deeply rooted practices that conflict with the rights of the child. Progress is also seen in the area of education, where thousands of children have a new chance to start school each year through so called speed schools. These schools provide a second chance for children between 8 and 12 years who never started school or dropped out early. ERIKS always combines speed schools with projects focusing on how to improve the ordinary school system in a long-term perspective, thereby reducing the number of children who are not in school. In order to strengthen the capacity of households to pay for education of their children, ERIKS is also supporting saving groups for women in different parts of Mali.
ERIKS works in the northern parts of Benin, in some of the poorest areas of the country, which have many similarities with Burkina Faso and Mali in terms of climate and culture. ERIKS’ main emphasis is on children’s right to education and protection through the creation of community-based child protection mechanisms and knowledge about sexual and reproductive health rights.
The recently adopted child protection law in Benin offers new opportunities to put pressure on duty bearers to fulfil their obligations. This is particularly important in the northern parts of the country, where too little resources have been allocated to basic social services including education. As a result, there are huge disparities between southern and northern Benin in terms of poverty, illiteracy and nearly all other socioeconomic parameters. The combination of extreme poverty, low levels of education and weak access to information underpins widespread violations of child rights in northern Benin, such as low quality of education, child labour and cross-border trafficking, FGM, child marriages and malnutrition. Many children also lack their birth certificates, which hinders them from enjoying their right to education.
In one of the poorest areas of northern Benin, ERIKS’ work has brought positive change of attitudes towards children’s right to formal education. Successful awareness raising combined with efforts to organise and mobilise the local communities have created commitment among parents and community leaders to promote the right to education, although most adults in this area are illiterate themselves. In response to the lack of qualified teachers in remote areas in the north, a scholarship programme has been initiated in collaboration with the municipality. It enables students from the north to study and work as a teacher in this part of the country. Child clubs and peer education are other successful methods to reinforce and protect the rights of the child in Benin.
ERIKS works mainly in some of the poorest rural areas of Burkina Faso, complemented by work among children living in the streets of the capital Ouagadougou. The rights of the child to health, protection and education are strengthened through for instance improved resilience of vulnerable communities and by combatting sexual violence, child marriages and FGM.
Through peaceful demonstrations, the popular uprising in Burkina 2014 and 2015 managed to put an end to almost 30 years of undemocratic rule. This paved the way for democratic elections, and the democratic governance has brought new hope for change in many areas. Progress is visible in national policy making within child protection and local child protection mechanisms like those developed by ERIKS’ partners have gained national recognition. At the same time, there are huge remaining challenges in ERIKS’ project areas, such as weak enrolment rates and high dropouts, sexual violence, child labour, early and forced marriages and undesired teenage pregnancies. Main reasons behind these problems are extreme poverty of households in rural areas, weak revenues of rural municipalities, low awareness about child rights and about sexual and reproductive health. ERIKS’ project areas are also increasingly exposed to climate change, degradation of soils and recurrent droughts.
ERIKS’ projects in Burkina Faso contribute to improved child protection, as a result of capacity building and collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders such as parents, local community leaders, civil society organisations, religious leaders, teachers and local councillors. Duty bearers play their roles in a better way today in promoting and protecting the rights of the child. Through child clubs or child councils, children learn about their rights and how to report if these rights are violated. Another key strategy is to promote income-generating activities to reinforce the resilience of vulnerable households and enable them to pay for schooling and health care of their children.
Regional Office in Faladie Sema II, Bamako, Mali
ERIKS Regional Office
Faladie Sema II, Rues no 839 & 927