She didn’t know her age, because she couldn’t read her birth certificate

“I have papers with my age, but I can’t read them.”

Barkissou, a young woman in Taga Village, Burkina Faso, doesn’t know how old she is. Although she has a birth certificate, she and those around her are unable to read it. She can only estimate that she is 18 years old.

Education was never an option for Barkissou. “My father wouldn’t allow me to go to school. Just when a school was being built in my own village a man came and brought me here to be married… I wanted to become a teacher.”

At the time of the ground break of the first buildOn school in Burkina Faso, Barkissou was eight months pregnant with her third child, and one of two wives to her husband. Lack of education had severely diminished Barkissou’s power to control her own life.

Ranked as the fifth economically poorest country, Burkina Faso has the lowest literacy rate in the world, with only 28.7% of the population able to read and write. Global illiteracy drives extreme poverty and undermines democracy. No country has ever achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without first having at least 40% of its adults able to read and write. buildOn expanded to Burkina Faso as its seventh project country because the level of illiteracy and poverty was great- but the motivation of the community to break the cycle was even greater.

As the buildOn team and Taga Village broke ground on the new school, more and more volunteers came to the worksite. Among those volunteers, was Barkissou. Although pregnant, she contributed where she could, knowing that having a primary school for her children to attend would give them more power over their futures. “Knowledge is on the pages of books, and with knowledge comes the power to dream… Through education my children can realize their dreams.”