By Mien De Graeve
My name is Mien and I am Client Relationship Manager for Zidisha in Burkina Faso. We just had a few members in Burkina Faso when I arrived here last September. I am very proud to tell you that the number of loans financed in this country reached 100 last week!
One of these 100 entrepreneurs is Justine Ouedraogo. During her loan application I communicated with her through email. I got very curious though after a while, not only because it is quite particular to meet a writer in Burkina Faso, but also because she started to speak about Zidisha to the members of her association Amour Divin, some of these members have applied for Zidisha loans as well and all of them seem to meet exceptionally motivated people.
Yesterday afternoon I finally met this extraordinary woman!
When you have a look at the titles and covers of her book, you may think that she’s writing about religion. She is not! She is writing about spirituality and she asked me to stress the difference between those 2 concepts. Religion is about a set of rules, it’s a system trying to guide people to live according to important values. Religion is about attributing responsibility for what happens to you and your life to someone else. Spirituality is about the inner force that guides you to live according to the same values and about believing that you are capable of changing things, of achieving your goals yourself. “Au dedans de toi est la source de la vie” (“The source of life is inside of you”), that’s the most important message Justine wants to spread through her books, her songs and her lectures.
It was very interesting to hear how she became the promoter of this message. She used to be a very pious catholic, just like her first husband and father of 4 of her children. At a certain moment she decided to leave the catholic church and she converted to evangelism. She was then still fully convinced that a religion was the best answer to the spiritual questions we all have to deal with. Her conversion caused a lot of trouble in the relationship with her husband, to that extent that he started to ill-treat her and finally repudiated her.
First she found comfort and consolation in her religion and in praying but after a while she started to realize that it’s not your religious belief that is going to change your life and the world, it’s your acts and the way you interact with people. She then turned away from church and religion completely and started to work on her own ideas and concepts. She created the association ‘Amour Divin’, she started to write and to sing. It’s hard to survive with the revenues of sales of her books and records, but she’s very determined to continue. Actually ideas are a product as important as food or clothes, especially in a developing country as Burkina Faso. Many people are trained to rely on help from others or to belief that one day help will come as long as they continue praying. What Justine wants to make clear is that each and everyone has a personal responsibility to work towards the changes he would like to see in his or her life, and that guidance is to be found in each person’s heart. She said yesterday that if she would have understood spirituality a few years ago as she does now, the conflict with her first husband would never have occurred.
Although I am an atheist myself, I found it very inspiring to speak with Justine and it makes me happy to see how some people in Burkina Faso are so determined to invest in the mental, moral and spiritual development of the country. It also makes me very happy to see and feel how Justine really lives according to her values and principles and how she supports and inspires so many people in her community.
This was indeed very different from visiting a more traditional business such as a pig farm, a hair dresser or a hard ware store but it was a wonderful discovery! Check out Justine’s books on www.shopmybook.com (author name: Justine Marie Philippe OUEDRAOGO)