Luc Zio is a Principal Data Scientist based in our Global Technology and Innovation Center (GTIC) in Oldsmar, Fla. He also started Ouaganet, a grassroots non-profit that helps empower the local villagers in rural areas of Burkina Faso, a poor country in West Africa.
I went to primary school in a remote village of Burkina Faso, a poor French-speaking country in West Africa. The living conditions in this area are very difficult. Women had to walk miles away to fetch water in shallow creeks or open wells. They also had to collect wood in the bushes for cooking purposes.
As a young school boy, I was very much influenced by the impact that extreme poverty has on people, particularly women. While in high school, I was given my first opportunity to make a difference for on the lives of women in the rural areas of Burkina Faso through a program that allows students to volunteer in community projects in both Burkina Faso and France. My first project was to built a maternity ward in the community so that women could have babies in sanitary conditions. The project took 30 days of non-stop work, except for Sundays. That was some time ago, but the maternity ward still exists today as the only one in the community and is staffed by three nurses.
My continuous interest and involvement in these projects since moving to the U.S. inspired me to create Ouaganet, a 501 c-3 non-profit organization that helps fight extreme poverty in Burkina Faso. Ouaganet’s “Goats to Empower Women” program, which I also helped drive, empowers women living in extreme poverty in the villages by giving them a goat to raise. Once we give them a goat, we allow them to decide when to sell them and their offspring as well as how to use the proceeds. In this part of the world, raising and selling these goats can help women start their own small business in their local market, or give them the funds to buy clothing, medicine and school supplies for their children.
In order to achieve our goals, I assembled a team that explained the program to community leaders in an effort to get their approbation. Once the leaders agreed to move forward, we developed a process that details how and when the women are given goats. We also established guidelines to account for each goat’s offspring. When a goat has offspring, one will be given to another woman waiting for a goat. All other offspring stay with the current goat’s owner. As a result, since we started the program, some women have increased their goat ownership from one to more than 10. Some sell their goat offspring during hard times, like medical emergencies, or when they are in need of more food and clothing.
Nielsen Cares, Nielsen’s Sustaining Active Black Leadership and Empowerment (SABLE) Employee Resource Group and my fellow colleagues have provided great support, encouragement and recognition to my charitable activities in Burkina Faso. Thanks to the help of my colleagues, I am able to collect and ship boxes of clothing and school supplies at a reduced cost. My Nielsen colleagues also run fundraisers to help collect funds to buy goats and to help grow Moringa Oleifera trees. The leaves of these trees are rich in vitamins and nutrients and help fight hunger and malnutrition in the villages. In 2011, I was awarded a certificate by Nielsen Cares leaders that recognizes my charitable activities in Burkina Faso, namely in the areas of fighting hunger and women empowerment. It’s truly rewarding to be working for a company that supports my non-profit, as well as other community initiatives around the world. I am really excited to continue working with my Nielsen colleagues to make a continued difference in Burkina Faso.