Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All
Contribution to the Annual Report 2017 of the MMI Network

The strain of the growers. Senekela Sisibere

The strain of the growers. Senekela Sisibere

Life is not easy for widows in Africa where a very traditional society puts too strong a pressure on them. Sometimes, a woman that becomes a widow soon becomes the wife of her brother-in-law, if there is one. But most of the times, when their husbands pass away, women lose all their rights, properties and source of income. “Senekela Sisibere” which means “The strain of the growers” in Bambara, a language spoken by 80% of the population of Mali as a first or second language, is a development project in the field of international health cooperation focused on widows.

Medicus Mundi´s mission is promoting Universal Health Coverage in the sense of universal, equitable and affordable access to quality health services for all people; as this is essential to the improvement of health, fighting diseases and reducing poverty.

Economic independence for women is an imperative to achieve true equality, and to improve their and their families´socio-economic condition. That´s why Senekela Sisibere is supporting women from diverse communities to create cooperatives in various fields (farming, sewing and so on) to enable them to increase their chances of securing an income in the future. The project aims to improve their skills in retail and leadership; but it gives them much more than just work experience.

Close to the Niger River, in Koulikoro, there is now a group of fourteen widows between 65 and 85 years of age that are being supported in the management of their vegetable gardens and are also being trained in bookkeeping, administration and farming. All throughout 2017 their quality of life and their physical and nutritional condition were improved quite considerably thanks to the purchase of new seeds and farming tools. They were trained in civic participation, leadership, and networking; in addition, they received the advice of a group of agronomists that helped to increase productivity by means of a change in the gardens design.

Significant achievements were made, such as farm diversification; garden redesigning and adaptation to efficacy and efficiency standards; increased productivity of the gardens, with lettuce, green beans, celery, African aubergine, peppers and onions planted. For the first time in their lives, the widows have obtained a volume of production enough for self-supply, but there is also a surplus that allows them to contribute to the cooperative, sell the garden products and keep some cash for themselves.

In 2017, Medicus Mundi was awarded the Luis Noé Fernández Prize. The award honours “the extraordinary work of the organisation in Koulikoro, Mali, empowering local communities, particularly the most vulnerable ones, to defeat poverty and hunger”. Senekela Sisibere has had a great social and economical impact by generating real changes in the cultural values of the area, and has contributed to expand the initiative to nearby villages.

Hardly realising it, this group of widows has become an example to follow for other women across the region, proving that it is never too late to start a life project and, thanks to their effort and sacrifice, change the destiny that seemed written for them.


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