“When women thrive, all of society benefits and succeeding generations get a better start in life.”
Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General 1997-2006
Burkina Faso is one of the world’s poorest countries and among those with the lowest literacy rate. Less than 6% of Burkina’s young people are enrolled in universities. Very few girls get the chance to study beyond secondary school.
BWEF is a small humanitarian organisation led by Frederic Eckhard, former spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Using a network built up in Burkina Faso from 2009, he has put together an in-country team of volunteers to select the beneficiaries and to tend to their many needs.
Candidates from impoverished backgrounds are selected during Fred’s annual trip to Burkina Faso, with help from our partners on the ground. We have currently 37 students enrolled in public and private universities and colleges in three Burkina cities: Ouagadougou, Bobo–Dioulasso and Koudougou. The average cost of a three-year degree course in Burkina Faso is about 1,000 euros a year and a Master’s up to 2,000 euros a year. In 2023 – 2024, we will spend over $45,000 on 38 girls, including ten new entrants.
As well as funding tuition fees we provide help with housing, transport, lunch money, hygiene and health care. We also have a donation of used computers from a school district in France, from the UN in Geneva and from a private firm in Geneva. In a country with too few books, a computer is essential.
All our efforts aim to build a network of young educated Burkina women so that they, in turn, can help other Burkina girls.
France, Geneva, USA and Burkina Faso
BWEF has gradually expanded over time as we came to understand that from modest beginnings, we are now helping to create a middle class in the impoverished sub-Saharan country through women’s education.
After BWEF was set up in France in 2011, Fred’s son Jan started a sister association in the US, called Chance for Change (www.chanceforchangecharity.com). Then in 2018, Fred founded a BWEF branch in Geneva, Switzerland (BWEF-G). All three organisations are registered as non-profit and tax-exempt charities in their home countries.
In 2023 our national association BWEF Faso was set up to help carry out our work in Burkina.
BWEF exists thanks to essential assistance from our local partners who propose candidates for consideration, manage the administration and maintain contacts with students and graduates. They also take care of the girls’ personal needs to help them succeed in their studies.
From 2023 our partners work with us through our Burkina association BWEF Faso.
“When I retired as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Spokesperson in 2005, my wife Kathryn and I moved to Brittany, in northwest France. We found a dream house with a view of the sea. I thought I was in paradise. But I developed this gnawing feeling that it was time to give something back.
“And, as is so often is the case, circumstance came into play. The woman we bought our house from, Gilberte Saint Cast, had started a humanitarian organization in 2000 to help girls in need in Burkina Faso to finish secondary school.
“I travelled with Gilberte and her husband to Burkina Faso in 2009 and 2010, each time for a couple of weeks. What struck me most was, yes, these were among the poorest people on earth, but they were brimming with optimism and ready to work hard.”
“I couldn’t help getting more involved. I worked alongside Gilberte, but I wanted to do more. Why not support girls at the university level, I thought?”
BWEF IS GOVERNED BY BOARDS IN FRANCE, SWITZERLAND AND USA.
Founder Frederic Eckhard and the French board