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August 09, 2022

An ABA ROLI-trained Journalist launches a call for justice for SGBV victims in Burkina Faso

Article Summary: An ABA ROLI-trained journalist in the north of Burkina Faso wrote an online article about a SGBV case that initiated a broader mobilization that prompted the prosecution and conviction of the perpetrator. In expressing his satisfaction with the outcome, the author of the article, NACANABO Idrissa, stated: “Through my commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, I try to play my part by informing my community and raising awareness. Information is at the service of development; and without justice, there is no development.”

Since the beginning of Burkina Faso’s security crisis, the Nord region has received a significant percentage of Burkina Faso’s internally displaced people [1], a group substantially comprised of women and girls. Destitute and vulnerable, these women and girls are exposed to all kinds of violence and abuse, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). The prevalence of SGBV in Burkina Faso, which typically affects young women and girls, is increasingly concerning. [2] Combatting SGBV is difficult because most victims and their relatives fear reprisals from perpetrators or lack knowledge about available justice resources, which leads to an underreporting of offenses. In the context of Burkina Faso’s Nord Region, ABA ROLI’s Human Rights and Access to Justice (HRAJ) program seeks to change this dynamic through a targeted engagement of local program partners. 

Idrissa NACANABO, at an ABA ROLI-led training session for CSO representatives in Ouagadougou from July 30-31, 2022.

Idrissa NACANABO, at an ABA ROLI-led training session for CSO representatives in Ouagadougou from July 30-31, 2022.

The session focused on the techniques for documenting serious HRVs in security crisis situations and accompanying victims in their quest for justice.

One such partner is NACANABO Idrissa, a trained educator, journalist and director of an online news site called EDUCMEDIAS, which focuses on education. He is based in Ouahigouya, the capital of the Nord region, in Burkina Faso. In March 2022, Idrissa participated in a training workshop that ABA ROLI delivered with support from USAID. The training workshop provided instructions about Burkina Faso’s criminal justice system. The training workshop was one part of a broader program initiative to educate and train representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs) and other key stakeholders, such as media organizations, about criminal justice systems in Burkina Faso. The trainings focused in particular on the Guide for Criminal Defendants (or Guide à l’usage du justiciable en matière pénale au Burkina Faso, in French), which was developed and updated by HRAJ’s partner organization CIFDHA. Through the training workshop, Idrissa acquired a knowledge of the criminal justice system that enabled him to raise awareness within his community about the services and organizations that are available to assist crime victims, and in particular about resources for victims of sexual abuse. 

In May 2022, in Ouahigouya, a displaced girl was raped by an unknown individual while she was returning from school. Soon after, Idrissa learned of the incident through his networks and went about confirming details of the incident. Idrissa met several sources, including the parents of the victim, who received him and discussed their experience and the broader problem of sexual abuse. After confirming the facts, Idrissa published an article on his online media called EDUCMEDIAS in which he denounced the incident and brought awareness to the increasing number of cases of sexual abuse in his community (Ouahigouya : Une élève déplacée interne de la terminale victime de viol | EDUCMEDIAS).

Idrissa’s article created awareness of the incident, which led other media outlets, including the State-owned Burkinabè Information Agency (AIB), to reference the incident and the increasing prevalence of SGBV crimes. The subsequent outcry over this rape incident motivated another victim of an attempted rape, with similarities to the incident that Idrissa reported, to come forward and bring her experience to the police. The details shared by the second victim led to the identification and arrest of the perpetrator, who was subsequently identified as the perpetrator in the rape case denounced by Idrissa. The perpetrator was arrested, tried and sentenced for the offense. Beyond this individual case, Idrissa’s reporting led to a broader call for improved handling of rape cases and for better care and treatment for rape victims. 

This legal outcome has encouraged Idrissa to continue promoting access to justice, particularly in favor of vulnerable individuals. Idrissa noted, “I have seen that my work of denunciation and information on human rights issues has paid off and this is thanks to the training on the Guide for the Criminal Defendant in Burkina Faso which gave me the courage to deal with a justice issue that has led to this result. I am also filled with a sense of satisfaction to have been the first media to deal with the issue and be a resource for others.

Idrissa NACANABO writing an article at the editorial office of EDUCMEDIAS in Ouahigouya in July 2022.

Idrissa NACANABO writing an article at the editorial office of EDUCMEDIAS in Ouahigouya in July 2022.

The training workshop, which provided basic knowledge about the functioning of criminal justice institutions, the procedure before the criminal courts, and the mechanisms for legal assistance to vulnerable people in the justice system, has made Idrissa more comfortable in writing about legal issues. As Idrissa explained: “Before the capacity building initiated by the [HRAJ] program on the judicial system, I was sometimes afraid to address certain subjects where I lacked understanding of certain cases: in particular on the qualification of abuses or violations, or the relevance of dealing some legal matters. But with this training, I now manage to make sense of things… Today, the knowledge acquired has improved my momentum, and my way of dealing with access to justice issues on our media.

ABA ROLI’s USAID-supported “Human Rights and Access to Justice (HRAJ) program in Burkina Faso” seeks to strengthen the State’s capacity to prevent and punish human rights violations and abuses, as well as to raise the populations’ awareness about avenues through which victims of such violations and abuses may seek redress. HRAJ recognizes that key civil society actors, such as CSOs and media organizations, have a key role to play in combatting SGBV. Thus, HRAJ has provided training on human rights and the criminal justice system to more than 170 CSO representatives, like Idrissa, who work in the Nord, Centre-Nord, Est and Sahel regions. ABA ROLI and Freedom House, principle implementors of the HRAJ program, believe the program will continue to deliver life-changing impact, such as the one described above, even after the conclusion of the program’s three-years of implementation.

[1] 11.7% of internally displaced people in Burkina Faso according to CONASUR data for the month of April 2022

[2] See generally UNFPA-BF, My body is my own ! Claiming the right to autonomy and self-determination, (Annual Report, 2021), <>

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