In Senegal, Spurred by Tragedy to a Lifetime of Empowerment
THIAROYE-SUR-MER, Senegal — Typically when she’s alone and looking out on the sea, Yayi Bayam Diouf imagines the silhouette of her son passing over the waters offshore.
Not often the sentimental kind, she softens when requested in regards to the private tragedy that will spur her to problem her city’s conventional patriarchy and grow to be a path breaker for feminine empowerment.
“C’est la vie,” Ms. Diouf, 62, says softly, of the tragedy — “that’s life.”
It occurred within the spring of 2006, when her son, Alioune, a 26-year-old fisherman, went on a yearly journey to the usually wealthy fishing grounds off Mauritania with others from their city of Thiaroye-sur-Mer, an impoverished suburb of the Senegalese capital, Dakar. However the catch was lean, they usually had been reluctant to return house with little to point out for his or her efforts.
As an alternative, he and about 80 others crowded onto his fishing boat and headed to the Canary Islands on a route known as “Barsa wala Barsakh,” or “Barcelona or die” within the native language, Wolof. They vanished alongside the way in which, and their our bodies had been by no means discovered.
“I want I had at the very least seen his physique,” Ms. Diouf stated. “Typically I ponder if he actually died. Sooner or later, I used to be out within the sea fishing and I actually thought I noticed him go by. It hurts rather a lot. It’s very arduous to speak about him.”
That set her on a course that has led to a plethora of awards for neighborhood activism — a photograph in her home reveals her receiving a medal from Senegal’s president, Macky Sall. She has inspired dozens of ladies to arrange not simply fishing operations, but in addition hair and clothes retailers, in addition to companies making cleaning soap and make-up, all supported with microfinancing from authorities and nonprofit sources. In 2015, she used a grant from U.N. Ladies Senegal to construct a farm to develop mussels, offering work for about 100 girls.
However all that got here later. Ms. Diouf says that after Alioune’s demise she felt drawn to the ocean and commenced considering of leaving her workplace job to fish. But she confronted resistance within the type of a patriarchal tradition that anticipated girls to remain within the house and males to work outdoors.
When she approached a bunch of neighborhood leaders one evening after night prayers looking for permission to fish, she was instructed that “the water doesn’t want girls.” Furthermore, they stated, one of many traditions among the many Lebu ethnic group frequent within the space was that girls couldn’t contact the fish in the event that they had been menstruating.
“I instructed them, ‘That’s high-quality — I already went by way of menopause,’” stated Ms. Diouf, who’s herself Lebu. “I’m now feeling so self-confident, and I wish to transmit that to different girls.”
Ms. Diouf had one different card to play. For years, hundreds of males had left Thiaroye-sur-Mer in pursuit of higher lives overseas, or died making an attempt — 374 fatalities from 2003 to 2019, a neighborhood group estimates. There merely weren’t sufficient males left, she stated, warning that the city’s financial survival trusted incorporating girls into the work power. At size, they relented.
“I needed to win them over,” she stated. “It takes energy of character and dedication to do that.”
Her first title, “Yayi,” means “mom” in Wolof, and she or he thinks it’s becoming, as a result of she wasn’t happy with simply successful the appropriate to fish for herself. She was decided to increase the appropriate to work to each lady.
However first she needed to get began fishing. She procured a license — the primary lady ever to get one — then borrowed somewhat over $100, sufficient to lease a ship and pay for the gasoline. The fishing half got here naturally, she says. “I used to be born by the water,” she stated. “I swim higher than a fish.”
Ms. Diouf says she was additionally pushed by a way of the injustice girls that confronted in conventional Senegalese society.
“I grew up watching my mom carry 30 or 40 kilos of fish,” she stated, a backbreaking 65 to 90 kilos. “It all the time damage me that girls’s labor wasn’t acknowledged,” she added. “For years, I noticed girls working arduous processing the fish caught by their sons or husbands, promoting it on the market, they usually didn’t revenue from it.”
To treatment that, Ms. Diouf established a middle to coach girls to fish, to deal with their catch in higher sanitary situations and to deal with fish shares as an vital useful resource reasonably than one thing to be plundered.
Across the similar time, she additionally created the Ladies’s Collective for the Combat In opposition to Unlawful Immigration to influence younger males to withstand the harmful temptation to take to the excessive seas and as an alternative make a life at house.
Not surprisingly, she is consistently on the transfer. When she will not be busy on the coaching heart, she is pushing girls to start out small enterprises, discovering funds for micro credit or wrestling with authorities officers to bolster the struggling financial system of Thiaroye-sur-Mer.
On a Wednesday morning in January, just a few girls arrange a small desk in entrance of the coaching heart to promote fish, juice and breakfast gadgets to the coming college students and the fishermen and girls after they return from the ocean, considered one of many such micro-businesses she has inspired.
That morning, Ms. Diouf didn’t have a lot time for pleasantries or small speak. Unexpectedly grabbing a plate from the ladies, she rushed into the coaching heart, which stands throughout the bay from the island of Gorée, a degree of departure for tens of millions of Africans after they had been bought into slavery.
Inside, the partitions of Ms. Diouf’s workplace are embellished with photographs of her in a pirogue and carrying an orange life jacket. She was scheduled to fulfill that day with a Fishing Ministry consultant to finish the paperwork for a donation of kit to enhance sanitary measures in fish processing.
She then turned into her work garments, went again outdoors to gather fish that had been cooking on the grill and set about getting ready a meal for journalists at a neighborhood tv station.
Ms. Diouf was born right into a fishing household in Thiaroye-sur-Mer. As was typical then, her father did the fishing and her mom helped with the processing. On this polygamous tradition, she says she isn’t positive what number of siblings she has, possibly 15.
She lives alone whereas her husband, a authorities employee she married when she was 17, lives along with his stay-at-home second spouse. Ms. Diouf says she’s proud of the association.
“I noticed that with the intention to be autonomous I wanted to purchase my very own roof,” she stated. “I don’t wish to depend upon my husband or on anybody.” She rents out rooms to households, and neighborhood kids usually pop into her lounge to observe academic movies on her pc.
One afternoon after work, she accompanied a younger fisherman to Dakar to hunt financing for his challenge to revive conventional and sustainable fishing within the face of commercial fishing enterprises that badly deplete fish shares.
Ms. Diouf additionally has one other calling past her neighborhood work.
Standing on the seashore, she says she recollects her final dialog together with her son, when she urged him to not do one thing so silly as to gamble along with his life as a migrant. Now, she usually walks the garbage-strewn seashore to talk to different younger males, to influence them by no means to aim the perilous crossing to the Canaries.
“I inform them that regardless of the hardships, by no means get on the pirogues,” she stated. “I inform them, ‘Would you like what occurred to me to occur to your mom?’ I’ve satisfied some to remain that method.”
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