US Congress & Policy Leaders Confronted with Human Rights Challenges in Africa, Plight of Women & Girls

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Burkina Faso’s Minister of Human Rights & Civic Promotion visits Washington, DC to call for greater support to protect rights, promote safety, & greater security across the continent

In the wake of the tragic abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by extremist group Boko Haram, Burkina Faso’s Minister of Human Rights travelled to Washington, DC to meet with members of Congress, NGOs and other policy makers to highlight the challenges that African countries face to protect human rights and underscore the importance of increased international cooperation and partnerships.

“All across Africa, so many citizens are being deprived of the most basic human rights, particularly women and young girls, and this is unacceptable,” said Minister Julie Prudence Nigna/Somda to Congressional staff representatives upon her arrival in Washington, DC. “In Burkina Faso, we have made a commitment to protect and promote human rights and I am here in the United States to seek greater partnerships with our allies and friends to overcome this challenge together.”

Burkina Faso, a nation of 17 million situated in a region of the African continent plagued with human rights violations, has undertaken an ambitious action plan to reverse this increasingly disturbing trend. In 2012, as part of a wide-reaching National Policy through 2022 and 2013-2015 action plan to implement the policy, the Ministry of Human Rights and Civic Promotion was created by the Government of Burkina Faso – one of the few countries in Africa to do so – whose objective is to implement reforms, educate all sectors of society about their rights and responsibilities, and ensure that national legislation and initiatives conform to regional and international human rights treaties and commitments.

“Promoting human rights in Burkina Faso and its neighboring countries also protects US interests in the region as it is the most effective weapon against extremists and terrorist groups who prey on the young, poor and marginalized,” stressed the Minister during a policymaker roundtable at the Atlantic Council, an influential Washington, DC think tank, and with Members of Congress. On Capitol Hill, Minister Nigna/Somda met with Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Africa Subcommittee) and the offices of Senator Bob Corker (R-TN, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee), Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee) and Representative Karen Bass (D-CA, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Africa Subcommittee) who all echoed the need for greater security and humanitarian cooperation and democratic development in Africa. As evidence of Burkina Faso’s commitment to greater regional stability and cooperation, the Minister highlighted the importance of the leadership of Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaoré, who has successfully mediated conflicts in the region, such as in Mali and Côte d'Ivoire.

In July 2008, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signed a five-year, $480.9 million compact with the Government of Burkina Faso aimed at reducing poverty and stimulating economic growth through initiating programs to promote food security, agriculture and infrastructure development, which have met or exceeded established goals. A second compact, currently under evaluation by the MCC, would help ensure the continuation of these successful initiatives to improve the lives of millions in Burkina Faso.

During briefings with the Vital Voices Global Partnership and USAID, Minister Nigna/Somda explained that a major challenge in Burkina Faso is enrolling and keeping kids in school by providing economic incentives to counter the lure of work in gold mines that often recruit young children. Over the last several years, Burkina Faso has increased the primary school enrollment rate to 83.1%, doubling the number for both boys and girls, but more funding and technical assistance is necessary to maintain this progress.

Minister Nigna/Somda also appeared on Voice of America’s political talk show, “Le Magazine au Féminin,” [ and engaged in a vigorous debate on the plight of women across the world and the challenges of ending child marriage and female genital mutilation and cutting. While there is still much progress to be made, the Minister pointed out that the Government of Burkina Faso has implemented several reforms and awareness campaigns on these critical issues, including training mediators for family and community conflicts, increasing opportunities and protection for people with disabilities, fostering interfaith dialogue and cooperation and providing shelters and reintegration programs for victims of domestic violence.

“Burkina Faso is ready and willing to be an increasingly vocal and active partner with the international community, particularly the U.S., to instill a permanent and effective human rights framework and culture all over the world, starting at home,” wrote Minister Nigna/Somda in an editorial published in The Hill [ . “I assure you that just as trouble is and will continue to spread across our region if not contained, our successes have the potential to know no boundaries and its effects will spill over our borders and beyond.”

This information is distributed by CD Global Strategies Group on behalf of the Government of Burkina Faso. More information is available at the US Justice Department in Washington, DC.

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Calvin Dark
CD Global Strategies Group LLC
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