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Stories of transformation and empowerment...

Senior Advisor and Founder
Joanna ILBOUDO, tells about the beginning of ACTS. Read about ACTS formation...
Then, read Joanna's vision for the poor...


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Model for positive change
The manuscript, written by Joanna Ilboudo, complements ACTS human rights program for children and women. The story is about the experiences an older sister who pleads for a younger sister not to be circumcised. In Burkina Faso, a country not known for being gender neutral, this common practice is ignored by the general population. ACTS Executive Director Joanna Ilboudo believes this issue must be addressed to free women from chains of ignorance. It has been determined by the UN and WHO that women must first be made aware of the dangers of the practice of circumcision and then be given an acceptable way to voice their rights within their own culture.


Female Genital Mutilation (FGM - removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons) is a traditional and cultural procedure especially in rural areas of Burkina Faso. It has been estimated that more than 70% of women have undergone FGM sometime from an infant to the age of marriage. Within the continent of Africa, it is estimated that more than 92 million girls have undergone FGM.

It is the women of the village who perform FGM to protect the girls of the village from being sexually active. FGM is considered by its practitioners to be an essential part of raising a girl properly. Common thought is that FGM ensures pre-marital virginity and inhibits extra-marital sex, and reduces women's libido. Women fear the pain of re-opening the vagina, and are afraid of being discovered if it is opened illicitly.

Besides the initial pain and trauma, FGM can lead to infections, infertility, difficulties in childbirth and death. FGM is a subject that is not publically addressed. This causes unnecessary additional suffering and death in the underdeveloped country of Burkina Faso (population of 13.8 million) where there are as few as 10 physicians, 41 nurses and 13 midwives per 100,000 people. Medical assistance is not available for the rural community.

Goals for the manuscript
It is not easy for a woman to survive in the Burkinabé context. The culture does not favor women. Traditions and ignorance drive the practice of FGM. Therefore our goal is to encourage and give young women a voice so they can take positive steps to alleviate FGM. The book will show women how to avoid some of the cultural obstacles. Joanna’s desire is that women receive courage to stand against the practice in their own family and community.

ACTS has been fighting against the ignorance of the general population on the subject of FGM. ACTS’ staff talks with village chiefs about the dangers of the practice. After receiving the chief’s permission, village leaders and women are called to a meeting to discuss the dangers of FGM and the rights of women. When the entire community comes to an understanding of the dangers of FGM, the practice begins to disappear.

Joanna says, “In Burkina Faso, women, especially poor village women, have little opportunity to rise above poverty and ignorance. This program brings knowledge and an understanding to those who have not been informed.”

The book, Mercy for My Sister, will give a voice to those who have unwillingly or unknowingly submitted to FGM. It will provide encouragement to those who are considering the dangers of FGM. It will also bring an awareness of the problem to the population in general. The book will be published in French and English. Producing the book in these two languages will bring the subject of FGM to indivituals with influence in the country. Later, a video drama script is planned.

English and French versions will facilitate marketability throughout Africa where FGM is a cultural issue.

ACTS works among women who are the most vulnerable ones in society. Even in the church women do not receive respect or value in the sight of men. Women need to find culturally appropriate ways to prove their leadership abilities. We felt the book project described in this proposal was an acceptable advocacy vehicle for Editions Contact.

The book will encourage, challenge and stimulate young women to live out their potential as leaders in the Church and community. This book and subsequent video/drama provides a vehicle to give women a voice on current issues that affect their lives. Although not recognized as leaders, women are one of the greatest agents of change for Burkinabé society. The majority (52%) of church membership in Burkina Faso is female.  The book encourages women to reach beyond endemic cultural barriers and poverty to achieve their potential.

There are too many cultural taboos that have taken away women’s sense of value. Women are afraid of taking initiative to speak against harmful traditional practices.  

We believe that knowledge breaks the chains of fear, so that women will be able to take action. The book will be able to change the mindset of women and men as well. We consider this book as a great opportunity for women’s rights advocacy.

Because of our work among women, the Minister of Women’s Promotion in the country of Burkina Faso awarded ACTS Ministry a medal of recognition. With this national award, ACTS has greater exposure to the population.

The book will be published through Editions Contact, the publishing department of ACTS Ministry. Through our publications and programs we have established contacts among women in all segments of society. Wives, mothers and widows in both rural and urban areas have been exposed to ACTS literature.

New book integrates with ACTS women’s program
ACTS cooperative women’s program (CADI) works among young girls (age 9 and above) and women already involved in ACTS cooperative projects. During the last year more than 5,500 women and children were involved in our projects. Later video production will promote women’s rights and encourage advocacy.

Young girls (nine years and above) who have not been attending school or have dropped out of school are qualified for CADI studies.

  1. The book we are proposing will be a tool for those attending our women’s cooperative and literacy classes.
  2. As president of the association for NGOs in Burkina Faso, Joanna will be able to offer the book for a wider distribution
  3. Through churches involved in our literature program, other Christian leaders will hear how the book can be used to promote community awareness
  4. ACTS’ Ellel Medical Center will be able to distribute material to individuals who seek medical consultations and public health training from surrounding villages

Mercy for My Sister will give women in the rural setting knowledge and confidence to undertake positive roles in building human rights for women within their own communities. It will promote women’s advocacy among church, mission and governmental leaders.

Women can make a difference in the governance of the country. The first step is to use their skills in their own communities. As Esther in the Bible, it is time for women in Burkina and elsewhere to step into their leadership roles to bring positive change to society.

Click here to read about programs for women.

Click here to read about programs for children.
















ACTS Center in Saonré is dedicated to giving a hand up and not a handout to the forgotten ones of Burkina Faso...widows and orphans.

"Seeking a Way Out" and other videos can be viewed. Click to see a list of films about ACTS and the people we serve....

We would be pleased to hear comments or receive questions from you. Click for contact information... Merci


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