First Person Blog

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Women build a new market in eastern Senegal

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Saving for Change group meeting in Bandafassi, Senegal. Photo by Rebecca Blackwell/Oxfam America.
Saving for Change group meeting in Bandafassi, Senegal. Photo by Rebecca Blackwell/Oxfam America.

 

Just getting some interesting (and encouraging) news out of Bandafassi, in eastern Senegal: My colleagues in Senegal are reporting that after a new program of business training for the three Saving for Change groups in Bandafassi the women group members have established a weekly market in the village.

I’ve been to the community of Bandafassi several times over the last few years, it is a medium-sized village just outside the larger town of Kedougou near the border with Guinea in eastern Senegal. Paul Ahouissoussi, who coordinates Oxfam’s Saving for Change program in West Africa, went to the opening of the new market and sent a few photos. These weekly markets are really the nerve center for small-scale traders in places like Bandafassi, so having even the modest infrastructure visible in Ahouissoussi’s  photos represents a significant opportunity for the women there.

Saving for Change group members in Bandafassi pooled their resources to build a new market. Photo by Paul Ahouissoussi/Oxfam America.
Saving for Change group members in Bandafassi at the grand opening of their new market. Photo by Paul Ahouissoussi/Oxfam America.

Ahouissouissi reports that an animator (trainer) named Batou Sow working for our partner La Lumière in Kedougou collaborated with the women in Bandafassi to establish the market while he was involved in the business training project in Bandafassi. The women had to meet with the local authorities, including the village chief and the mayor, to seek permission, and identify a suitable public space. Then they raised money from the members of the Saving for Change groups to build the structures you can see in the photos. Each of the 69 group members in Bandafassi contributed 250 francs, which is about 50 cents, to construct the first set of shops.

The new market provides a venue for the women to apply the business training they have undertaken with La Lumière and Oxfam. It’s a place where newly trained business women can have the opportunity to trade and prosper.

Ahouissoussi says the business training project in Bandafassi is part of a larger effort to train more than 2,000 women in more than 60 groups in eastern Senegal. “We’ve always thought that with good business training, women will open up their eyes and see a new vision of the world, and their place in it,” Ahouissoussi told me recently over a Skype call from Benin. “The training is really about how to diversify their small commercial enterprises, but it’s also about finding the courage to try new things.”

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