This section describes our three projects of Dakar Education, Causerie, and Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration. Our activity in the villages of Mbousnakh and Ndem, and the Integrated Environmental Workshop description which includes the pilot testing of novel design solar cooker.
Dakar Education Girls, Families and Schools
Our most effective approach to combating poverty is to provide the opportunity of an education by getting disadvantaged girls in school and keeping them there until they finish their studies including university or a professional school. We started with one girl in 2005 and we currently have nearly 60. Two have graduated from professional schools and are working; one of whom has her own business and the other is working to save money to purchase a sewing machine to start her own business. Getting girls in school is one thing, but keeping them there, against high odds requires tenacious follow up and support work with the girls themselves, their families and teachers. At the end of each school year, most of the girls are at, or near, the top of their class.
Although we know the importance of getting even one girl in school - - we like the story of the Star Thrower - - we are remaining at the bottom of the pyramid but working on a larger scale to positively impact more girls and their families through the following projects.
Causerie The Comprehensive and Integrated Causerie Project will reach women and men of all ages but primarily target youth in slum areas who are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. Causerie is a French word that means informal discussions or “to chat.” Most people living in these slums are not accounted for because they were never registered at birth, might be refugees, have never gone to school, do not use health centers for pregnancy, birth or vaccinations, they are uneducated, illiterate and they do not have job skills. Children in these slum areas do not attend school. this causerie project has three goals:
1. Provide important life saving information to the entire community Topics include: human rights awareness and recognizing violation of these rights, preventing disease (Malaria, AIDS/HIV and Tuberculosis), importance of prenatal and early childhood care and vaccinations, recognizing exploitation, what can happen with early marriages, importance of school, teaching girls about menstruation and how their bodies work, teaching gender equality to men and boys.
2. Identify child-headed households and youth in general who are high-risk for exploitation by drug traffickers and pimps or girls destined for early marriages or who are victims of violence
3. Select 20 young girls, elementary school age, who are not in school and work with their families, and the local school (teachers and school directors) to get them in school and make sure they remain until they graduate..
This will be the first time an integrated project is designed to reach people in the Dakar slums on several different levels -- families, youth and children with essential information and support systems -- schools and health services. These people are often labeled “hard to reach” by organizations and governments which do not know how to reach them. But just ask them directly and they’ll say they’re not hard to reach. Women for Girls sees these people as a captivated audience dying for this important information. The causerie approach is the key.
Note:part of the comprehensive and integrated causerie project but not part of the fawco proposal is to get high-risk teenage girls who have been identified through these causerie sessions into a structured community based three year training program such as the Centre Socioculturel de Fass. It provides a three year diploma training in home economics, french and information technology. Women for Girls will keep a list of high-risk girls, whom with additional funding will attend the program.
The importance of the causerie approach:
This approach presents a positive and effective way to offer informal and non-formal education and information to out-of-school adolescents and illiterate adults, this method of education is effective because it is conversation-based, interest-related, flexible and learner-centered, recurrent, and practical. It also upholds African traditions of respectful consultation, dialogue, negotiation and mediation using such traditional techniques as, art, theater, sharing and personal experience. It is a safe social environment in which adolescents and others can voice their concerns and learn honest information. Women for Girls understands that the causerie approach is the most effective way illiterate people learn.
Recent developments in the drug trade to support the comprehensive and integrated causerie approach:
Sadly, in recent years Senegal, because of its location, has become a priority hub in drug trafficking. As the USA strengthens its boarders, drug traffickers are increasingly using the vastly accessible and unpatrolled west African countries as stopovers from central america to Europe. Assitou Thiam, an educator in Senegal’s ministry for Youth and Sport says, “strategies have not been thought of for youth. They need to come up with plans to tackle the issue of youth, who are turning to drugs because of poverty among other issues”. As youth turn to drugs and young uneducated women who are easy prey are used as mules or marry drug traffickers, the causerie messages are of prime importance..
(I read an article on the L’OBS newspaper in Senegal in February, 2010 but I can’t locate it now). It described how a Senegalese woman who was married to a white European, was caught at a European airport with a suitcase full of drugs. The woman was illiterate and like countless others whose situations are desperate, she thought that marrying a white European would be her road out of poverty. Lack of education and illiteracy make women like this easy prey for drug traffickers. The term used is "drug mule" and these women transport from 1 to 4 kilos of cocaine, sometimes unknowingly in suitcases, other times by swallowing a small bag and hoping it stays intact.
Aminata Kouta, our Women for Girls coordinator, meets daily with girls similar to the one in the article. Their parents are illiterate and these girls need a structured environment to keep them safe. They benefit from informal causerie discussions that provide important life saving information.
Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration, FMNR Mbousnakh Village
Mbousnakh, the native village of Women for Girls’ first girl, has long been considered our home in Senegal. Throughout the years Women for Girls has developed strong ties to its dynamic women and has organized a three-year comprehensive training in sustainable development and village-led social transformation led by Tostan, the Senegalese NGO known for guiding communities to abandon female genital mutilation. The desire for economic possibilities that can halt rural exodus comes from the villagers and not from Women for Girls or other outside organizations. Women for Girls and the community women’s group joined together to purchase a grain mill. The women thought that it could be the first step in creating economic opportunity that would in turn thwart rural exodus. After three years, the activity is growing strong and besides repaying Women for Girls, they have the funds to purchase a second machine.
Ndem Laura, our volunteer, was in Ndem for the 2012 – 2013 school year. She taught high school English and wrote interesting blogs which are available in the side bar Travel Diary.
The story of Ndem is particularly interesting and is an excellent model for sustainable development in Africa, or anywhere.
Babacar M’bow and his wife Aissa, together with followers and European partners have built, over 30 years, an organized association composed of 15 villages in the Djourbel Province. In 1985 it was abandoned except for a few mud huts and some strong women who welcomed Serigne Babacar M’bow and his wife Aissa Cissé back from Europe. Today Ndem is an example of sustainable development with organic gardens, schools, infirmaries, artisan laboratories, employment for the surrounding villages and a fair trade brand, Maam Samba.
The World Bank and UN often use Ndem to test appropriate technology and sustainable development projects.