Literacy, education and peace for women and girls not attending school

Country Profile: Burkina Faso


16,935,000 (2013)

Poverty (Population living on less than US$2 per day, 2009)

73 %

Adult literacy rate (15+ years, 2015, UIS estimation)

Female: 29.32%
Male: 43.03%
Both sexes: 36.02%

Youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years, 2015, UIS estimation)

Female: 43.24%
Male: 47.56%
Both sexes: 45.43%

Official languages

French (recognised regional languages: Mòoré, Dioula, Fula, Bambara, Dogon, Dagaare, Nanerige, Sucite, Karaboro)

Statistical sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleAlphabétisation, formation et paix au profit des femmes et jeunes filles déscolarisées (Literacy, education and peace for women and girls not attending school)
Implementing OrganizationAssociation Koom pour l’autopromotion des femmes au Burkina Faso (AKAFEM / BF)
Language of InstructionMooré and simplified French
FundingFONAENF (Fonds pour l'alphabétisation et l'éducation non formelle), the government, Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland
Annual Programme CostsFCFA 29 million (US $ 64,444)
Annual Programme Cost per Learner: FCFA 28,166 (US $ 58)
Date of Inception1999

Context and background

Burkina Faso in West Africa has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, at 29 percent overall and 22 percent for women. It is also one of the world’s poorest countries, ranking 183rd out of 186 on the UNDP’s Human Development Index. In 2002, in an attempt to improve these figures, it implemented a ten-year basic education strategy that sought to achieve a literacy rate of 40 percent by 2010. Despite the combined efforts of the government and literacy and development organisations, this target was not achieved. The country therefore implemented a national accelerated literacy programme with goals of 60 percent overall literacy, and 40 percent for women, by 2015.

About the programme

The community-based “Alphabétisation, Formation et Paix” programme has had a major impact on women in rural areas. The Association Koom pour l’Autopromotion des Femmes du Burkina Faso was established in 1999 with just fifteen members, but now has 6,000, belonging to ninety-five women’s groups in six provinces. It was registered as an NGO in 2006 and operates a wide range of activities which are listed under Objectives below. To take part in these, women must be card-carrying members of the association, which costs a symbolic FCFA 500, the equivalent of one US dollar. It works mainly with women and girls in rural areas, who receive introductory training in Burkina Faso’s national languages, followed by literacy teaching in one of these languages, Mooré, and additional sessions in simplified French.

The programme’s main priority is to provide specific practical training in conflict resolution, social issues, and income-generating activities. So far, 7,950 people – 7,346 women and 604 men – have taken part at literacy centres in the northern provinces of Yatenga, Lorum, and Zondoma; at Kourwéogo on the central plateau; and in the capital, Ouagadougou.

The programme teaches the following:

Each member is also appointed as a ‘peace ambassador’ in their area.


Programme implementation

Teaching approach and methods

The main educational approach is based on the REFLECT (Regenerated Freirean Literacy through Empowering Community Techniques) method. Participants resolve problems and make commitments to action under the guidance of a group leader or other individual. The most common questions they seek to answer include the following:

These and many other issues form the basis of the literacy and education programme. The curriculum is not fixed, so each community can concentrate on specific problems that it wishes to deal with, and the programme has been specially designed to provide this element of flexibility.

Using this approach, women also learn to read and write in Mooré, and are encouraged to find additional work to offset the loss of income caused by attending the literacy sessions. Signposts to villages, sacred places and government offices are written in French and Mooré to create a more literate environment, and participants are encouraged to write newspaper articles and other documents on such subjects as peace and tolerance, agriculture, business management, income generation, protecting the environment, health and hygiene, gender issues, and children’s and women’s rights.

The curriculum

The peace modules of this programme are translated into the national language spoken in the community, and taught in rural literacy and education centres so that students can become peace ambassadors inside and outside their villages. The centres remain open for three years, and offer five-month courses consisting of three hours’ teaching a day. Each centre has an average of forty participants, and each year 1,200 people acquire literacy and other educational skills.

Research is also carried out in villages to identify problems which could lead to conflict, and these are then resolved at the literacy centres. Each community has a management committee consisting of two students and three local leaders, who meet regularly to discuss community matters, find solutions that promote public well-being, monitor students’ punctuality and attendance, and give advice.

Recruitment and training of trainers

Trainers are generally full-time workers with an average monthly salary of FCFA 60,000, the equivalent of US$120. They are recruited through competition and trained in teaching methods by staff of the provincial basic education and literacy directorate. Continuous training is also provided by specialist staff from the ministry of education and literacy in the provinces. An average of forty trainers are created each year, and these also serve as advisers who resolve disputes in their communities.

Evaluation of learning outcomes

The training modules are adapted to students’ needs with the assistance of group leaders. At the end of the learning period, they undergo a final evaluation and receive a certificate if they pass. The subjects covered by the evaluation are defined and updated by specialist staff of provincial government departments, who also assess the programme’s impact on their own and others’ daily lives in areas such as reading newspapers, expressing themselves effectively, registering to vote, managing their businesses more effectively, and living more harmoniously with their families and neighbours.

Monitoring and evaluation

The programme is closely monitored throughout, at least five times per term. This process involves several key players: centre supervisors, local government departments, providers of practical and financial support, the association’s coordinator, and centre management committees. Centre supervisors and local government departments help to monitor and evaluate the centres by attending sessions given by trainers and providing suggestions and encouragement.

The evaluation of students by government employees is also used in the monitoring process. When the results are known, a workshop is held to enable the association to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each centre, structure subsequent courses more efficiently and improve future results. Specialists in conflict resolution visit the centres once a month to discuss this subject with participants, evaluate trainers’ performance, and provide them with advice if necessary.

Programme impact and challenges

Effects and results

REFLECT literacy and training centres have been opened in thirty villages. The women are highly motivated and attend regularly because they are very interested in the subjects being taught, which include reading, writing and arithmetic, problem solving, and parenting skills. The programme creates strong bonds between participants, who regularly come together to carry out development projects.

As part of its role in promoting citizens’ rights, the association has discovered that many women and girls do not have birth certificates or identity cards. As a result, 1,845 birth certificates have been issued to members as part of a programme funded by a partner organisation; 90 percent of these have been for women and girls living in villages. A further 1,450 identity cards have been distributed with the help of another partner organisation. Participants’ quality of life has improved thanks to the implementation of ideas for income-generating activities such as shops, market gardening, agriculture, the latrine and kitchen construction, and environmental conservation. There has been increased interest in these activities, and particularly in community management. Behaviour patterns have changed, with more parents sending their daughters to school, female genital mutilation being eradicated, and women standing up for their civil and political rights. Villages have become much more peaceful thanks to the improvement in conflict resolution skills.

Challenges and lessons learned

Increasing national literacy rates is perhaps one of the biggest challenges that Burkina Faso faces. They are currently among the lowest in the world, at 29 percent overall, 22 percent for women and 37 percent for men. This means that around 6.7 million people have no basic skills, and 3.7 million of these are women. Attaining this objective is a major challenge, despite the fact that literacy and education are basic human rights. One of the biggest difficulties lies in ensuring that women are aware of these rights and can use conflict management to overcome social problems and maintain peace in their villages. There is still social unrest in Burkina Faso, and ending this and promoting peace and conflict management are a constant struggle.


The Alphabétisation, Formation et Paix programme is a good example of sustainable development. It is fully adapted to learners’ needs, and seeks to involve them and their communities in each stage of the process. By adopting a multidisciplinary, cause/effect approach with the emphasis on increasing awareness, the programme remains sustainable and operates within a long-term perspective. Trainers are recruited locally, and provide assistance to the peace ambassadors elected by local villagers. Thanks both to improved literacy and the implementation of this strategy, communities are living together in a spirit of peace and mutual understanding.


Contact details

National Coordinator
01 BP 5918 Ouagadougou 01
Telephone: 00 226 70 26 02 80 / 00 226 78 19 19 08
Email: associationkoom (at) (at)