Burkina Faso: Women are changing their daily routines because of additional burdens during COVID-19

| June 22, 2020

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It’s mid-day in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, and the streets are uncharacteristically quiet. This is the new reality since the self-isolation and restrictions enacted by the government to slow the spread of COVID-19. But inside homes, women are busier than ever with more tasks and new routines. Gny Coulibaly Zabsonré says her chores have doubled now that schools are closed and her children are home all day. In addition, she has to take special precautions each time she leaves home and returns from work. She says that when her husband is home, the workload becomes even more intense as he also demands her attention.

It’s 12:35 and the city of Bobo-Dioulasso is quiet and the road clear. On a typical day, this would be rush hour. The difference is self-isolation.

Gny Coulibaly Zabsonré has an easy trip home from her job at the regional hospital in Bobo. She is a midwife in the pregnancy pathology service in Bobo, the second largest city in Burkina Faso and the second most heavily impacted by the new coronavirus.

She explains her daily routine since the discovery of confirmed cases in this city: “Each day when I leave work, after having observed the restrictions enacted at the [medical] service, I must, in an effort to protect my family, take a shower [and] wash all my clothes in bleach outside before going into the house.”

This is a heavy responsibility for a wife and mother who wants to keep her community and her family healthy.

Like the city of Bobo-Dioulasso, activity in Koudougou is moving at a new rhythm due to restrictions enacted to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This is case even though the city has not registered a single coronavirus infection.

Eugenie Gansonré Ouédraogo is the regional coordinator of women’s organizations in the Centre Ouest region and lives in Koudougou. People are being vigilant here, following precautionary measures as much as possible. And the stress is visible.

She explains what she is doing to protect her family: “When the house maid goes to the market, she always wears a mask, and on her return from the market with the food, she washes her hands with soap, we unpack everything to wash it with bleach, and bags are thrown in the garbage immediately, all before starting to cook.”

COVID-19 has increased women’s workload. In Bobo-Dioulasso, Mrs. Zabsonré says that household chores have doubled now that her children are at home. She explains, “Their care means a lot of attention. They need to eat in the morning, at 10, at noon, and in the evening so there is a lot of preparation.”

In addition to the children, Mrs. Zabsonré says that husbands are spending more time at home because of the lockdown and curfew. This means more attention from women. She says, “She must take care of him. My husband works in a city 300 km away. If he comes home on weekends, the workload becomes more intense.”

Many women in Burkina Faso feel that domestic work has increased since COVID-19, particularly with lockdown and quarantine. The only help they have at the moment is the support of working-age children who help from time to time.

The new daily routines have increased the burden on women. Mrs. Gansonré Ouédraogo is a mother and says that her children are now at home 24/7, which means more work for parents. She explains: “The children want to play with their friends, so we need to watch so that they don’t go out—or at least keep watch as much as possible. The hygiene routine, hand washing, each one their own glass, plate, are new requirements to be scrupulously respected, and it is important to sensitize the family, particularly the children—and who is better than the woman to do this?”

In addition, she says her husband, who is a teacher, has been home almost since the schools closed, which means paying more attention to him.

So while schools and some businesses have closed during COVID-19 lockdowns and curfews, the pandemic has significantly increased the workload for many women. Which means, for them, no time to rest.

This article was produced with the support of the Government of Canada through the project “Promoting health, sexual and reproductive rights, and nutrition among adolescents in Burkina Faso (ADOSANTE).” The ADOSANTE project is led by a consortium including Helen Keller International, Marie Stopes-Burkina Faso (MS/BF), Farm Radio International, the Centre d’information de Conseils et de Documentation sur le Sida et la Tuberculeuse (CICDoc), and the Réseau Afrique Jeunesse Santé et Développement (RAJS).