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An artisans' co-operative

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Africa, Disability, Economic Development, International Citizen Service

Our orientation week in Ouagadougou allowed us to acclimatise to our new surroundings: five days were dedicated to French and Moore (the local dialect) lessons; meeting members of other NGOs based here in Ouagadougou; and learning more about the history and culture in Burkina Faso. We also found out more about Tigoung Nonma, the co-operative that we will be working with over the next three months.

The Tigoung Nonma office - our work place for the next three months

On Wednesday we visited the Tigoung Nonma 'headquarters'. After turning off the main road into a dusty street scattered with stalls, shops, old cars and many staring faces, we were greeted by a fabulously dressed woman. Zenabou, the General Secretary of Tigoung Nonma was dressed in a deep yellow and green two-piece skirt and top, with a matching head turban.

She led us into a tiny room where the majority of space was occupied by a large desk full of papers and on top of which was what appeared to be the first computer ever invented. Crafts were stacked up in all corners of the room. We used every inch of space to fit the eight of us in, along with five members of Tigoung Nonma. Two members of the team participated in the meeting through the doorway.

Leonie and Zenabou in the Tigoung Nonma office

We discovered that Tigoung Nonma was created by artisans with disabilities, as an offshoot of 'Handicap solidaire Burkina Faso' (French website) - an advocacy group for people with disabilities.

The co-operative works with 64 artisans in order to respond to their needs, promote their work and, crucially, create selling opportunities - all while raising awareness of the benefits of fair trade in the national and international market. Whenever they have the time and the funds, each artisan brings his or her products to Tigoung Nonma in the centre of Ouagadougou. The co-operative believes that the artisans should receive a fair price for their intricate and skilled work; therefore each member receives 80% of the sale price of their goods.

A local man speeds home - Ouagadougou

Following on from our visit, four of the key board members from Tigoung Nonma met with us again a few days later to discuss our objectives and work over the next three months.  As we finished early we spent about an hour chatting. I was sitting next to the fantastically named vice president, Evariste.

At first I felt a little restricted by the language barrier, but I have taken the stance that I should embrace the embarrassment that will follow my 'French'. I started chatting with Evariste and by the end of the hour I felt that he and I had really bonded. He taught me many new, exciting words and phrases in Moore, including, "Wend na ko sid songa" which means, "God willing one day I'll get a good man".

Like the rest of the members of Tigoung Nonma, Evariste is physically disabled: he has no legs. Due to lack of education and the stigma associated with physical and mental disability in Burkina Faso, living with a disability like Evariste's makes it near impossible to find work. It's why organisations such as Tigoung Nonma are so crucial for the country.

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  1. Comment by Harriet Macdonald-Walker posted on

    Tigoung Nonma encourage and promote the work of artisans with disabilities. They aim to provide their members with a sustainable income, as well as opportunities to develop. If you would like to support the co operative in achieving their misson then please donate here (100% of your donation will go directly to Tigoung Nonma).
    Tigoung Nonma now have a brand new facebook page. All 'likes' will be greatly appreciated!

  2. Comment by Emma Hawkins posted on

    The blogs are incredible haz! Keep up the good work. lots of love xxxx

  3. Comment by clive young posted on

    really interesting and a lovely insight your experiences. Keep embarrassing yourself with the French and you will end up fluent.

    Looking forward to the next instalment.


  4. Comment by Katherin Mancini posted on

    You are doing great work Harry Wish I could see you there.Ninni now has chicken Pox and is covered in" little stars".What is the medical situation like there?Aunty Kay

  5. Comment by Mike Green posted on

    Fascinating. Broadband or dial-up? Good luck with your marketing.
    Mike G.

  6. Comment by Rachael Gomery posted on

    It sounds like your involved with a really good organisation here Harriet. Keep up the good work my sweet. I can't believe that you will soon be trilingual! x

  7. Comment by Harriet Macdonald-Walker posted on

    Hi Everyone,
    I just wanted to say thank you so much for all the kind messages. Its so nice to get some feedback and to know that people are reading my blog!
    Emma- Thank you very much :). I hope your getting excited about India now!
    Uncle clive- you know me. I dont know the meaning of embaressment.
    Aunty Kay-we are well looked after and have insurance at the french hospital here. Even if we feel abit ill the organisation will make us go and get checked ou.
    Mike we have 'broadband' . Apparently in the UK the broadband is about 15000kps, here it is often 4...
    Rach I am trying my best to become trilingual (and learn some of the local language Moore, which I love!). I hope to chat to you when I return ' Ou se trouve la banque' (remember that?)
    Please keep commenting, if you keep reading....X

  8. Comment by jane mycock posted on

    hope that you are enjoying a really interesting opportunity Harry and that the fundraising enables you to leave something useful for the craftspeople.We think of you often with a little envy!

  9. Comment by Sabrin Kassam posted on

    Love the blog Harriet!! Keep moving mountains 🙂 x