Ste Bernadette Centre, located 2 kilometers from Kongoussi, Burkina Faso and 110 kilometers North of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, opened its doors to young teenage girls fleeing forced polygamous marriages in 2005. The runaways who depend on ROAD are Muslims or practice Tribal Religions. Both the Centre and the School go by the name Ste Bernadette.
ROAD is a non-denominational charity that contributes towards the costs associated with tuition, library, food, medication and clothes for the runaways.
Now in its ninth year of operation, the Centre houses 140 runaways who have the privilege of attending school thanks to ROAD. Ste Bernadette School offers grades 7 to 13 inclusively. Teaching is done in French, the official language of the country. July 2014 was an incredibly special one, with ROAD celebrating the first graduating class. In some instances, girls are proceeding on to university or becoming active members within the community.
For their protection, the residents of Ste Bernadette live in a gated compound. Guard dogs wander the compound and a guard keeps watch at the front gate. There have been instances when clan members have come to the Centre to retrieve a runaway and threaten the Coordinator. These are terrifying and devastating incidents for the teenage girls. Security precautions are therefore necessary to protect the residents against these and other intruders.
The Coordinator in Burkina Faso regularly reminds ROAD Directors that in Africa and certainly in Burkina Faso to “educate a girl is to educate a nation.” The Directors of ROAD feel strongly that education is the key to changing the mentality in Burkina Faso. They believe that the teenagers educated at Ste Bernadette will vigorously fight the scourge of forced polygamous marriages in their families, in their clans and in the country. ROAD hopes to assist tens of thousands of teenagers achieve independence, freedom and choice.