Rochdale volunteer helping Burkina Faso women

Date published: 08 March 2018

Nabihah Begum, from Rochdale, is 4,000 miles from home helping improve the lives of women and girls in Ziniaré, Burkina Faso.

To coincide with International Women’s Day on Thursday 8 March, Nabihah is speaking out about her experience and encouraging other young Brits to get involved.

Nabihah, a former student at Manchester Metropolitan Universtiy, has been working as part of a team of young British and Burkinabé volunteers on a project to increase women’s economic empowerment, enabling them to run profitable and sustainable businesses.

47% of Burkina’s population live below the poverty line and the average life expectancy for women is just 60, more than 20 years below the UK. Women and girls make up more than half the world’s population but are often more deeply affected by poverty than their male counterparts.

In rural Burkina Faso, many women have no means of earning an independent income, which makes them more vulnerable to poverty, and stops them reaching their full potential.

Nabihah and her team mates have been working with rights-based development charity, International Service, and its partner organisation Kabeela. Kabeela supports women to increase their literacy, their financial independence and their awareness of their rights.

Nabihah and her team have been working with Kabeela members to produce and market their shea butter products to increase their income. They have also been delivering awareness raising sessions on HIV and on dengue fever to the wider community.

Nabihah travelled to Burkina Faso through the International Citizen Service (ICS) programme, funded by UK Aid.

“Kabeela is a local NGO founded in 1997 that supports women in creating income generating activities, they have an integral role in developing their community in a sustainable and positive way.

"Recently, I worked alongside my enthusiastic team in planning and completing a big sanitation day which involved an active clean-up of Guilongou with the help of over 100 people, followed by an environmental awareness session and a celebratory feast (dancing with the kabeela women and children) to end the day. So far the challenges I have faced here include the lack of coffee and ice cream!”

"ICS volunteers work alongside young local volunteers in some of the poorest communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America on issues like sexual health, education and economic empowerment. You don’t need cash, skills or qualifications to take part – just the ambition to make a difference.

"I have a strong passion for women’s rights and strongly encourage women that are lucky enough to grow up in a society where women can work and achieve an education. I think it’s our responsibility to fight so that all women can have that right.

"I applied for ICS in order to develop myself on a personal and professional level. I wanted to explore potential career paths, so I applied to ICS to find out more about my own ambitions.

"At the same time, my ICS placement has allowed me to develop myself on a personal and professional level. I wanted to explore potential career paths, so ICS has allowed me to explore my own ambitions, as well as do something I’m passionate about."

As well as making a difference in some of the world’s poorest communities, ICS volunteers gain valuable skills and experience.

When Nabihah gets back to the UK on 23 March, she will take on an ‘Action at Home’ project, to make sure that her new skills also benefit people in the UK.

Felicity Morgan, Director of ICS at VSO, said: “ICS volunteers like Nabihah are doing amazing work around the world, every day. Our volunteers have helped promote children’s rights in Nigeria, campaign against child marriage in Bangladesh and bring safe drinking water to communities in Nepal.  

“We’re incredibly proud that UK Aid is supporting young Brits bring about positive change in some of the world’s poorest communities, enabling them to develop their skills and confidence, and then also applying their time and effort in projects in their local communities in the UK, and we’d love more young people from Rochdale, Greater Manchester to take that first step and apply.”

For more information about ICS and how to apply, visit

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