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AP team explores local women fighting COVID in Burkina Faso

Mariama Sawadogo poses outside Zama Radio where she works as a radio host in Kaya, Burkina Faso, Oct. 25, 2021. Sawadogo’s voice has become a familiar sound for nearly a million people in Kaya and beyond. In the West African country of Burkina Faso, many feel the government has let them down during the pandemic. In a region where women are responsible for family work and community relationships, they’ve stepped up to fill gaps in COVID awareness and basic resources. (AP Photo / Sophie Garcia)

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This dedicated all-formats team developed a sensitive story around the lives of women struggling to raise awareness of the threat posed by COVID-19 in one of the world’s least developed nations, where the virus and its effects are hidden and often overlooked.

Tests, vaccines and public messaging around COVID-19 often miss many of Burkina Faso’s 20 million people, despite $200 million budgeted for virus response. In a region where women are responsible for family work and community relationships, they’ve stepped up to provide information and resources amid the public health crisis and economic hardship. With funding through a grant provided by the European Journalism Centre, the AP was able to identify the women who could best share their stories with AP’s audience.

But this positive story, simple in inception, was challenging to tell at first. Stringer reporter Sam Mednick writes: “… COVID hasn’t been front and center in Burkina Faso . … it was really hard to find people who could speak to it since there are so many other problems they have to contend with. Once we found the (subjects of the) story I think the challenge was gaining the women’s trust, bringing their stories to life in a way that did them justice as well as highlighted the situation in the country both COVID and non-COVID.”

The story achieved those goals, exploring the lives of two women in Kaya, a conflict area outside the capital. The package took readers deep into the lives of these women and their communities and explored how their individual efforts make them leaders in the global work against the coronavirus, as vital to their community as politicians and scientists.

Video by West Africa senior producer Yesica Fisch was used by key AP clients around the world,and along with photos by freelancer Sophie Garcia,complemented the text, elevating the presentation designed by digital storytelling producer Natalie Castañeda.

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