Volunteer Mollie Rigby on placement in Burkina Faso

Mollie Rigby is a 24 year old Modern Languages graduate. Originally from Tunbridge Wells, she is currently volunteering in Burkina Faso with our partner Kabeela.

"It was Nelson Mandela who said that education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world. Here in Burkina Faso, there is still a lot of work to do to make sure that education is accessible for all. There has been significant progress over the last decade: enrollment in primary education is now at 85%. But only 36% of students continue into secondary education. Not surprisingly, it's mostly girls who drop out of school to continue working at home. This means they miss out on a solid educational background, personal development, and learning more about social issues.

Most of the work that my team are doing with the women of the Kabeela association is aimed at bringing sustainable change. To do this, we know we need to work with young people. Burkina's massive population growth means that young people make up a huge number of the population. This means that they're the most powerful tool for change.

This is all very well. But the gender gap in educational enrollment makes us question how this generation is going to bring about change.

If the education system is weighted toward men, when will students have the chance to debate and discuss the role of women in society?

Recently, we organised a debate in the English club at a local secondary school (Lycée Bassy) on gender equality. It's a sensitive subject that needed to be handled with care, but handled nonetheless. We discussed whether there is equality between men and women, equality at school and at home, and whether Burkina might one day have a female president.

Overall, the students actually agreed that men and women are equal. But when we started talking about equality in the home, it was clear that men were dominant, and that women were expected to do the majority of domestic tasks. This suggests that there's relative equality: equality at school, but inequality at home and in society.

For me, one girl really stood out. She was passionate and articulate, and argued that it's a deeply-embedded mentality that stops women achieving equality in Burkina. She said that it's the belief that there are 'men's roles' and 'women's roles' that hampers equality in the home.

After the session, we spoke to her about her thoughts. I was almost brought to tears by her telling me, with such conviction, that she doesn’t care if people think her ideas are strange or wrong.

She’s going to demonstrate that actions speak louder than words, and prove to herself and everyone around her that things have to change, and that it all starts with a new perspective.

We've come to realise over the last few weeks that making a difference doesn’t have to mean you’re implementing radical change: changing one person's perspective is a start. Educating young people is where it begins. There is nothing more powerful than a force of driven individuals working towards a common goal, and I believe that even though social change takes time, it’s coming."

You can support the work of volunteers like Mollie, without leaving the UK. Find out how you can take action against poverty.