Trees in Senegal
In Senegal, a man has created an organization with a pledge to plant 5 million trees in Senegal in the next five years to combat deforestation and return his country’s forests to their former glory. Adama Diémé, 48 years old, has used more than $5,000 of his own money to help fund the project and return the country to its former brilliance. The project, named “Ununukolaal,” translates in his native language to “Our Trees” and has been making consistent progress since its founding three years ago.

How Ununukolaal Operates

Casamance, the region of Senegal where Ununukolaal has been mainly operating, suffers from the vast effects of deforestation in order to clear up space for new buildings and structures, BBC reports. While planting 5 million trees can be a daunting challenge, Diémé has made the goal regardless, working with partner Yolanda Pereñiguez to reach the objective and spending more than $5,000 in his own money in order to keep Ununukolaal moving towards its goal. Pereñiguez has also been raising efforts to raise funds for Ununukolaal. Having a job as a tailor, Pereñiguez has designed and created a shirt that sells internationally for $15. With each shirt sale, 15 tree seedlings can go towards the mission of planting 5 million.

Ununukolaal’s Fight Against Poverty

Diémé’s project has also led to the creation of a multitude of jobs for workers who otherwise would not have a job. Ununukolaal has employed dozens of female workers in pursuit of its mission, allowing them to simultaneously become farmers in their own rights and sell the foods that their farms produce. This has led to those workers becoming more secure in terms of both finance and food, allowing families to slowly get up on their feet and women to become more self-sufficient.

More than 39% of people in Senegal are currently living below the poverty line, with 75% of families suffering from poverty. With a stark amount of poverty-stricken families found in the rural parts of Senegal, such as Casamance, an opportunity for agricultural growth is a large help towards alleviating poverty for Senegalese people. What further highlights this is the fact that these rural areas depend on agriculture for a large portion of their funding and have been recently suffering due to a lack of quality fertilizers, seeds and other farming materials. The good that Diémé and Pereñiguez are doing with Ununukolaal is beginning to uplift communities and save the local environment.

The Trees that Ununukolaal Planted in Senegal

Ununukolaal is planting more than 12 different types of trees in Casamance, all dependent on what type of produce specific villages in Casamance may need or what type of tree would work best on differing types of soil. It has already planted more than 100,000 seedlings. One type of tree sapling in particular, the baobab tree, is being planted along the shorelines of villages to prevent the water from rising and destroying homes and livelihoods in rural Senegal, BBC reports. One can use these baobab trees for a multitude of other things, such as food, building materials and fuel and timber.

However, the planting of other seedlings has benefits as well. Some fruit trees, such as tamarind and lemon, produce fruit that is healthy and one can sell it to many different markets. They can also reduce the effects of stormwater runoff and potentially prevent flooding.

Ununukolaal is a long way from achieving its goal of planting 5 million trees in Senegal, however, it is making steady progress and is helping to simultaneously prevent poverty and save the environment as a result.

– Kenndall Wallace
Photo: Flickr

Forced Child Begging in SenegalMaison de la Gare is a non-governmental organization that aims to tackle forced child begging in Senegal by reintegrating talibé children into Senegalese society. Talibés are young boys and girls who study the Quran at unregulated “daaras” (residential Quranic schools) supported by their teachers, known as marabouts. Most often, the conditions that these children live and study in are deplorable and teachers often subject students to acts of abuse. Within daaras in remote rural areas, children lack proper shelter, water, sanitation and even food. Some teachers, force children, sometimes as young as 5, into begging.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) considers forced child begging to be one of the “worst forms of child labor” as it is a violation of the basic human rights protections outlined in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Human Trafficking Search explains that forced child begging is “one of the most visible forms of human trafficking in existence: the exploited children are in plain sight, impossible to miss for any pedestrian walking by.”

A Closer Look at Forced Child Begging in Senegal

As the majority of daaras do not receive any support from the government and do not charge for food, education or accommodation, some Quranic teachers force their students to make up for it by begging for food or a few coins on the streets of Senegal. When failing to meet the specific quota for each day, these teachers subject talibés to severe abuse, Human Rights Watch reports.

The charity that children receive is passed on to their “teachers” and sometimes the leftovers they collect “may be the only food they have all day,” according to a 2021 piece by writer Fatoumata Ouedrago.

Estimates by Maison de la Gare place the number of forced child beggars in Senegal at around 15,000. “These boys are beaten into submission, punished for trying to run away and deprived of all basic human rights by their abusers.”

For families dealing with poverty, sometimes sending their children to daaras is a solution to some of their financial problems — it provides free education for their children but also makes sense logistically as often the selected school is close to their family home.

Hope for the Future

Organizations like Maison de la Gare are tackling forced child begging in Saint Louis, Senegal, by providing access to proper education in a nurturing environment and teaching skills that help children become well-equipped for their futures.

The organization started its work in 2007 and established a community center funded by international supporters. Its mission is challenging and arduous but not impossible. The main goal is to accommodate talibés into the “formal school system and prepare them to be productive members of Senegalese society.”

In order to achieve this, Maison de la Gare provides “literacy classes, hygiene instruction and nutritional support,” supplying vital medical care that talibés do not have access to and developing apprenticeship programs for older children.

Advocacy Efforts to End Child Begging in Senegal

Maison de la Gare lobbies for an end to the abuse and exploitation faced by talibés and “works to make this a central issue of political debate both within Senegal and internationally,” according to its website. To achieve these goals, Maison de la Gare strives to establish “collaborative relationships” with other NGOs, government authorities and, most importantly, “with the marabouts who are the key to realizing real change.”

As part of the “Hope for begging talibé children campaign,” the organization has managed to raise more than $190,000 to fund its efforts to support children through its welcome center, constructed in 2010.

According to its annual report, in 2021, Maison de la Gare accommodated 128 talibés, reintegrated 50 children and reunited 58 others with their families. Every month the organization provides medical treatment to 195 children and equips 102 daaras with hygiene kits.

Looking Ahead

Modern slavery occurs in almost every country in the world but is most prevalent in nations with high poverty rates. According to the World Bank’s estimates, 9.3% of Senegal’s population lived under the poverty line of $2.15 per person per day in 2018.

The most dominant form of slavery in Senegal takes the form of forced child begging and is a result of “government inaction, distorted traditions and desperate families,” Ouedrago highlights in her publication.

In addition to providing educational programs, Maison de la Gare believes that in order to significantly reduce the number of begging talibé children, the state should introduce modern regulated daaras and improve the enforcement of existing anti-forced begging legislation.

– Ralitsa Pashkuleva
Photo: Flickr

How Wrestling Can Be A Way Out of Poverty
Wrestling is a well-known and physically enduring sport. There are many different types of wrestling such as amateur wrestling and professional wrestling as well as freestyle wrestling. It generates a lot of money, especially in professional wrestling. Wrestling can be a way out of poverty for many individuals, especially those living in countries such as Senegal and Gambia. This sport can be a successful means of making it out of poverty.

Wrestling in Senegal

Senegal is one country where wrestling is a tradition. Senegalese wrestling is so popular that it is the country’s national sport. It has roots that trace back to the Serer people and it originally took place during harvest festival celebrations. Stadiums in Dakar sell out every time a match takes place which shows how popular Senegalese wrestling is.

In Senegal, 39% of the population lives in poverty. Thousands of men travel to Dakar in order to make it into wrestling school and train. These men are looking for a way out of poverty and unemployment through Senegalese wrestling because one can make up to $200,000 a fight if successful in the sport.

At least 8,000 boys suffering chronically from unemployment signed up for the CNG which is the main organization that oversees wrestling in Senegal. People see Senegalese wrestling as a promising hope for the future because the money it brings in would instantly change someone’s life for the better. Just in one night, a wrestler can earn “four times the average weekly salary of $20,” according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Mohamed “Tyson” Ndao is one wrestler that became very successful in Senegal because of wrestling. Mohamed often receives credit as the person that made Senegalese wrestling popular in the mainstream world. Mohammed, who grew up in Kaolack became a wrestler despite his father’s disapproval of his career choice.

In one fight, Mohamed made more than $4,000 which is an enormous amount of money in Senegal. Senegalese wrestling has become so entrenched with money and corporate sponsorships that Mohamed made it known that he fights only for large amounts of money.

Wrestling in The Gambia

Wrestling is also very traditional and popular in The Gambia, especially in rural areas such as Balangharr in the North Bank Region. It is becoming a huge sensation in Gambia again because it is allowing men, both young and old to make it out of poverty.

The poverty rate in Gambia is 53.4%. Rural areas in The Gambia suffer the most from poverty with “seven out of every 10 rural dwellers” being very poor. Wrestling is very popular in rural areas because rural dwellers are poorer than urban dwellers. Rural dwellers turn to wrestling because it is a real and practical way to make it out of poverty.

In 2021, the unemployment rate in Gambia reached 15.5%. Wrestling is one outlet that could bring stability into the lives of many individuals and provide a way out of poverty.

Abdoulie Ndow is one success story when it comes to rising out of poverty through wrestling. People popularly know Abdoulie as Hoyantaan. Hoyantaan, who grew up in Balangharr showed interest in wrestling after his father and stepfather inspired him. As a rookie wrestler, he caught the attention of many people because he had great technical wrestling skills.

Hoyantaan became a famous wrestler in Gambia when he defeated huge names such as Mboran and Tass Sa-Yaram in matches. Hoyantaan became the King of the Gambian Arena when he defeated Leket Mu Barra. Due to his fame and great wrestling skills, Hoyantaan became one of the highest-paid wrestlers in The Gambia. In one fight, he received up to D120,000. Hoyantann also earned himself many endorsement deals from private companies, according to The Chronicle.

How Wrestling Can Be a Way Out of Poverty

Wrestling can decrease poverty in the lives of many people in Senegal and The Gambia. For many men in both countries, wrestling goes much deeper than just tackling and fighting each other. Wrestling is about surviving. It creates a way for men in Senegal and Gambia to have the life that they have always wanted and dreamed of. Wrestling is encouraging and it provides hope to many young men whose circumstances are telling them that they will never make it out of poverty. The financial benefits attached to wrestling are great enough to make almost every man take a leap of faith in order to escape poverty and have a better life.

– Yonina Anglin
Photo: Wikimedia

UNICEF’s work in Senegal
In countries where people heavily stigmatize menstruation, many girls and young women have to resort to excluding themselves from many activities—including their own education. This is the case for many girls and young women in the West African country of Senegal. As one young Senegalese woman, Nogaye, explained to UNICEF: “Without feminine hygiene products, many girls skip school while on their periods. That means they miss up to a week of school every month, so they start to fall behind and eventually drop out.” This is why UNICEF is currently teaming up with many of these young women and various Senegalese NGOs in an initiative that is working to address this problem. There are several things to know regarding this initiative and UNICEF’s work in Senegal.

The Stigma

Menstruation is a part of stigma and misunderstanding in Senegalese society. As U.N. Women stated, “Menstruation is a taboo subject in a Senegalese society strongly marked by beliefs, myths, religious and community prohibitions, which affects the management of menstrual hygiene.”

While Senegalese women have good general knowledge about menstruation, such as “the normal duration of menstruation, the length of the menstrual cycle and the consequences of poor menstrual hygiene on health,” support and understanding from society and consequently access to supplies, are quite sparse, U.N. Women reports. This is one major reason many girls and young women, at the start of their period, exclude themselves from any school or social-related activities.

UNICEF’s Work in Senegal

UNICEF, however, is currently teaming up with young women in Senegal to “[explore] new and creative ways to locally produce menstrual supply kits” so that girls do not have to miss out on their education.

One particularly promising route that UNICEF is taking so far is supporting the creation of reusable sanitary cloth pads for girls and women of underserved communities. By partnering with local NGOs, UNICEF is working to train young women, including young men, in how to create these safe and affordable pads as well as other menstrual hygiene products, as it reported on its website.

As one young Senegalese trainee, Ndela, explained to UNICEF, “The training included sessions on how to sew sanitary pads and hygienic sanitary materials in line with the approved and labeled standards, using locally sourced fabric, coupled with sessions on building entrepreneurial skills.” During the training, the women produced a total of 20,900 pads, which they will later distribute to the schools across the region.

Thus, this initiative is going beyond immediate support for the girls and women of Senegal. However, the creation of these products is also helping Senegalese youth to become more self-sufficient and secure in their future. “Supported by UNICEF, this initiative aims not only to provide schoolgirls with sanitary pads but also to empower the young beneficiaries of the training to sustain their activities,” UNICEF reported on its website.

Other impactful solutions by UNICEF include the creation and distribution of “dignity kits” which contain, among other supplies, these handmade, reusable pads. Additionally, ensuring access to clean water, latrines and other sanitary materials to manage menstruation more comfortably and safely is another major focus of UNICEF’s work in Senegal.

Looking Forward

With the most recent data from UNESCO showing the literacy rate for Senegalese females aged 15 years and older to be at 39.8%— compared to the male literacy rate for the same age group being 64.8%— there quickly becomes apparent the presence of barriers to education for females. The importance of making access to education easier for the girls and young women of Senegal, then, is critical.

By providing period education, supplies and support, the education and social lives of many girls and women of Senegal do not have to stop for up to one week per month. By making education accessible and comfortable, young girls and women could look toward a better future.

As Kelly Ann Naylor, the UNICEF Director of Water, Sanitation, Hygiene (WASH), does well to point out while discussing the lack of period support around the world, “Investment in menstrual hygiene management will benefit girls today, the women they will become tomorrow, and the next generation.”

UNICEF’s work in Senegal should become the norm if the girls and young women of the world’s developing nations are to pursue their education and social lives without impediment.

Riley Wooldridge
Photo: Flickr

MADIBA Vaccine FacilityThe true scope of vaccine inequality in Africa proved evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of 2021, more than 92% of Africa’s 1.2 billion residents had not received full vaccinations against COVID-19. Furthermore, in 2021, low-income and developing nations received less than 2% of COVID-19 vaccines created by Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech. Low vaccination rates have had far-reaching impacts, such as drops in school attendance. By May 2021, almost 750,000 children stopped attending school in South Africa alone. The establishment of the MADIBA vaccine facility in Senegal brings hope to Africa in terms of vaccine access.

As of 2020, 39% of Senegal’s population lives in poverty and 60% of the population is younger than 25 years old, according to the World Food Programme. Only 25% of families in Senegal do not suffer from chronic poverty. The MADIBA vaccine facility project offers a brighter future for Senegal’s younger generation and hope for those in need of vaccines throughout Africa.

MADIBA Vaccine Facility and Poverty

On June 2, 2022, the hope for higher vaccination rates in the future became a reality. The Institut Pasteur de Dakar is a “nonprofit association of public utility” in West Africa committed to improving public health and fighting deadly diseases. The Institut Pasteur de Dakar and the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced the close of a €75 million agreement to construct a vaccine manufacturing facility in Senegal.

The Manufacturing in Africa for Disease Immunisation and Building Autonomy project (MADIBA) aims to decentralize vaccine production and provide vaccines domestically to residents. With the production of vaccines in Africa, the Institut Pasteur de Dakar plans to distribute essential vaccines and improve public health in Senegal and other African countries in need.

Vaccine Production and Imports

Africa currently relies on imports for vital vaccines needed to combat endemic diseases. In fact, Africa imports 99% of its vaccines from other continents. Aspen, a South African vaccine manufacturer announced in May 2022 that it would pause its production of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines after producing 180 million doses. The MADIBA vaccine facility has the ability to produce 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines (or other vaccines) a year.

The MADIBA vaccine facility stands as the “first full-service vaccine production facility” in Africa. While Africa has vaccine plants in various countries, most are limited to packaging vaccines. Producing doses of vaccines in Africa would reduce the need for imports and create a new market for future generations.

Construction and Vaccine Production

On March 29, 2022, the creators of the vaccine manufacturing facility shipped it to Senegal. KeyPlants created and assembled the facility in Sweden, then disassembled it for shipment. The process took less than eight months. KeyPlants, a Swedish company, designs modular, “innovative life science facilities.” The facility is portable and can be scaled over time to meet the demand for production. The facility expects to begin the production of vaccines in Africa at the end of 2022.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the MADIBA vaccine facility will produce mRNA vaccines along with other life-saving vaccines, including yellow fever vaccines. Yellow fever is endemic in tropical locations of Africa and death rates range from 29,000 to 60,000 deaths each year in Africa. Along with standard vials of vaccines, the MADIBA vaccine facility will produce pouches of vaccines at the new facility. The facility can store each pouch, containing 200 doses each, in a refrigerator for about six days.

Looking Forward

The MADIBA vaccine facility project will continue to fight the imbalance of vaccines in Africa. To combat childhood deaths, the facility hopes to produce vaccines for polio, rubella and measles in the future. In sub-Saharan Africa, “pregnant women who were hospitalized with COVID-19 had double the risk of death compared to nonpregnant women with similarly severe cases” and five times the risk of expectant mothers without COVID-19.

With the MADIBA vaccine facility, more pregnant women would have access to vaccines, reducing the risk of death for themselves and their children. With these protections, maternal and child mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa would lower.

The facility will also offer job opportunities to young Africans, which will lower unemployment rates in Senegal and lead to economic growth. With increased access to vaccines, combating deadly but preventable diseases in Africa can become a reality without the need for imports.

– Sara Sweitzer
Photo: WikiCommons

Women in Senegal
Despite making some considerable progress in areas of political representation and educational enrolment, women in Senegal still have many challenges to surmount. Women in Senegal make up the majority of the population — 51% in 2020 — yet about 33% of employed Senegalese females 15 and older live “below the international poverty line.” In comparison, this rate stands at about 27% for males in the same category, a 6% lower rate. The financial inclusion of women in Senegal increases the likelihood of them rising out of poverty.

Gender Issues Women in Senegal Face

In an interview with The Borgen Project, retired U.N. Women regional director (West Africa), Cecile Mukarubuga, says that “in addition to a lack of education, [women face] structural barriers [such as] negative social norms that claim that women can’t make decisions or own property or assets.” Outdated gender norms see little place for women in Senegal outside household duties. Although women’s participation in the workforce is increasing as the years’ pass, standing at 40% in 2019, most women’s employment does not extend beyond the informal sector. In addition, men in this sector earn “82.9% more than women.”

Gender violence, female genital mutilation, underage marriage and cultural perceptions serve as significant hindrances to women’s autonomy and development and also impact their overall well-being and standing in society. According to a 2018 UNICEF report, in Senegal, 1.6 million girls and women faced childhood marriages. While there are laws and policies in place that protect women from violence, cultural traditions that value men and see a specific place for women hold more societal weight.

An example of this is the practice of female genital mutilation, which can lead to severe health complications or even death among girls and women in Senegal. Even though Senegal declared the practice illegal as early as 1999, the practice continues as it is a deeply entrenched cultural tradition. According to UNICEF data, “one in four women” between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced female genital mutilation in Senegal.

Financial Inclusion of Women in Senegal

In a world of gender inequality, financial inclusion can enhance women’s economic agency by equipping them with financial services and products that may improve their economic standing. This includes ensuring women have greater control of economic assets as well as equal access to opportunities and financial resources, such as bank accounts, inheritance, insurance and credit programs.

These financial resources are essential in ensuring women in Senegal are able to break poverty cycles. “For the short term, the best strategy would be to advocate for financial institutions to design financial products and services that meet the needs and capacity of women,” Mukarubuga says. However, she also notes that, first, “there’s a need to transform mindsets and change mentalities.”

Whether these advantages materialize as expanding small businesses, managing cash flow or even increasing assets, financial inclusion and opportunities would activate the untapped economic potential of Senegalese women, even setting the stage for them to be a part of the economic decisions in the household. Financial inclusion means families can look beyond “survival mode” and properly plan for their futures. “Women need a security net because when they do get a loan, most use it to feed their children or meet basic needs, so there is a need to adjust the supporting strategy to the most vulnerable women,” notes Mukarubuga.

United Nations Capital Development Fund

The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) aims to address gender inequality in Senegal and increase the financial inclusion of women in Senegal. Primarily working with girls and women 10 years and older, the UNCDF looks to improve “awareness of, access to, use of and control over appropriate financial products and services.” Additionally, the organization works to address the socio-cultural environment in hopes of improving the agency of women and girls. In this way, the UNCDF strengthens female “economic empowerment and participation” in Senegal, which play an essential role in their ability to rise out of poverty.

The UNCDF runs various empowerment programs covering areas such as agriculture, digital finance and business management. In 2014, through a partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, UNCDF launched a Mobile Money for the Poor Programme(MM4p) that works to address the lack of digital financial inclusion in West Africa. The program was particularly successful in Senegal. From 2014 to 2020, the digital financial inclusion rate rose “from 13% to 29%.” In 2016 alone, women accounted for 10% of digital finance users in Senegal. The program also helped people set up digital wallets and connected local businesses to the digital payment service.

Looking Ahead

While the financial inclusion of women in Senegal is not an all-encompassing solution to dissolving the complex gender inequality issues within the nation, it serves as an empowerment tool to help women progress in society. The financial inclusion of women in Senegal stands as a potential pathway out of poverty for the nation’s female population.

– Owen Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

AkoinYoung entrepreneurs in Africa face unique obstacles when starting their own businesses, which prolongs Africa’s development. Akon, the multi-platinum-selling singer and recording artist, is originally from Senegal in Africa. Therefore, he has a deep understanding of the economic strife facing Africa due to inflation and financial instability. On top of this, about 350 million adults in sub-Saharan Africa remain unbanked, equivalent to 17% of the world’s total unbanked. Akon aims to change this by introducing the Akoin cryptocurrency.

Why Akoin?

Akon is using blockchain technology to help African entrepreneurs. He seeks to provide them with the tools necessary to overcome the difficulty of working between more than 40 currencies across 54 African countries by uniting currencies. With the Akoin cryptocurrency, seamless transfers within and across borders could be possible.

In the early months of 2021, the youth of Senegal took to the streets to protest the economic instability and unemployment facing their generation, highlighting the need for a new economic recovery plan. Although the economy in Senegal has grown in recent years, the growth has not always meant growth in jobs for young adults.

Akon is aggressively seeking to reach his goal of implementing Akoin in Africa because “[i]t brings the power back to the people and brings the security back into the currency system.” The singer-turned-social rights advocate seeks to implement Akoin as a form of payment to provide users access to a suite of business tools. Additionally, the construction of Akon City has been approved by the Senegalese government. Construction will take an estimated 10 years with the cost of this futuristic city being an estimated $6 billion, supported by Akon and other investors.

How it Works

Akoin, the African cryptocurrency token, is part of a decentralized exchange ecosystem that allows users to trade tokens and other cryptocurrencies between each other or major exchanges. After making this technology accessible to emerging entrepreneurs and helping them with the extensive paperwork required by banks when starting a new business, Akon could strengthen the African economy with a stronger infrastructure for startups.

Unlike other cryptocurrencies, Akoin is specific to Africa and seeks to provide optimal support as a transaction medium in otherwise hard-to-reach areas. One major obstacle to the African adoption of cryptocurrency as tender is government uneasiness. Signs show that the wariness of another legal tender remains, potentially due to a lack of public knowledge and the possible insecurity that comes with blockchain technology’s anonymity.

Looking Foward

With Africa awaiting a crypto boom, Akon makes the clarification that Akoin does not necessarily need to be deemed legal tender, only an “alternative financial solutio[n].” According to Chainalysis, a blockchain analytics firm, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are ranked among world leaders in peer-to-peer crypto transactions. Mwale Technological and Medical City have beta-tested the transaction platform. More than 2,000 merchants utilized the technology as the “sole currency and payment processor.

Hope remains for the Senegalese government’s adoption of Akoin. Leaders of the African cryptocurrency scene are hopeful for more African countries to adopt and primarily benefit from the plethora of crypto applications.

– Melanie Goldsmith
Photo: Flickr

solar panels in SenegalIn Senegal, close to a quarter of the total population lacks access to electricity, with rural communities enduring the least access. In May 2021, two new photovoltaic solar plants opened in Kael and Kahone, two towns located in Western Senegal. The plants will provide electricity for 540,000 citizens at a low cost. The addition of the solar power plants form part of the World Bank Group’s Scaling Solar program and are funded by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), European Investment Bank and Proparco. The project estimates that more than 400 jobs in the towns benefit from the existence of the new solar power plants in Senegal. Because Senegal mainly relies on imported oil for electricity, solar power plants offer a more reliable and sustainable green energy source that costs less. Access to electricity is critical for the economy and businesses, improving people’s daily lives in several ways.

Poverty in Senegal

With roughly half of the total population living above the poverty line, significant improvements are needed to lift more people out of poverty. Roughly 75% of the Senegalese population depends on agriculture as their income source. Another primary industry in Senegal is mining. Senegal’s economy rises and falls, following global trends of prices. When export prices fall, farmers suffer the adverse effects since their incomes decrease. Many Senegalese people lack access to education, healthcare and other essential services. As a result of economic hardships, many people migrate from Senegal in hopes of finding better work.

Electricity in Senegal

Access to electricity plays an important role in the economy and contributes to reducing poverty. Senegal relies heavily on oil imports for fuel. Roughly 80% of Senegal’s energy is “oil-based.” The prices of imported oil fluctuate, and recently, prices have been high. The combination of no access to electricity, power cuts and limited electricity infrastructure takes a toll on the economy, especially businesses. Individuals also face hardships in their homes with a lack of lighting and energy to power appliances.

The Solar Power Plants

The solar power plants are located in Kael and Kahone, two small towns that rely on agriculture and have high poverty rates. Lack of electricity access is higher in rural areas similar to Kael and Kahone in comparison to urban areas. The new solar plants in Senegal bring opportunities for employment, improved conditions in workspaces and homes and affordable electricity costs.

Solar power plants in Senegal form part of the strategy for increasing access to electricity, focusing on regenerative sources. Senegal’s government wants to become an emerging economy by 2035 and the energy sector is one of the major components of Senegal’s growth. Rural areas remain the most challenging areas to install power grids. However, with low incomes, rural people struggle to afford the high costs of electricity. Solar energy from the new plants costs less than four euro cents per kilowatt-hour, making the energy more affordable than oil-based electricity and more accessible to rural areas with high poverty rates.

Attracting Investment and Igniting Economic Growth

These renewable energy projects attract potential investors to Senegal, giving the country even more opportunities to increase sustainable energy, including hydro, wind, thermal and off-shore natural gas. Senegal is also home to “the largest solar farm in West Africa,” with many private home-installed solar power systems. More micro-financing options and interest in infrastructure improves economic growth and increases access to electricity for those in low-income areas.

Although poverty rates are high in much of rural Senegal, one solution is growing the energy sector, which will improve the economy. The inability to access electricity puts a major constraint on economic growth. Solar power plants in Senegal bring people much-needed electricity at a low cost. Renewable energy sources are critical as the world is depleting its oil reserves. Bringing sustainable energy solutions to people living in poverty positively affects development indicators such as “health, education, food security, gender equality, livelihoods and poverty reduction.” Senegal is on its way to success as more and more countries switch to earth-friendly energy.

– Madeleine Proffer
Photo: Unsplash

Female Genital Mutilation in Senegal
Female genital mutilation in Senegal is still happening. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an internationally acknowledged human rights violation. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as any procedure involving the partial or total removal or other injury to the female genital organs without proper medical cause.

Estimates have determined that internationally, there are 200 million women alive today who have undergone the procedure. FGM, while incredibly detrimental to long-term health, has been devastatingly popular for so long because of its cultural significance. Female genital mutilation in Senegal, in addition to Africa, the Middle East and Asia, has the purpose of controlling sexual behavior. This is to prepare young girls for marriage and keep girls ‘clean’ and ‘feminine.’

The Costs of Female Genital Mutilation

The practice leads to incredibly painful lifelong complications like horrific problems with childbirth, urination, menstruation and safe sex. Moreover, WHO estimated that the international monetary costs of treating health complications from FGM were $1.4 billion in 2018. Unfortunately, this figure could almost double by 2037.

Despite this prediction, Senegal has presented a fascinating case that defies international trends. Grassroots organizations and leadership from women in Senegal have demonstrated the resilience and power of localized movements and communities in effectively denouncing this practice. Because of this, the rates of female genital mutilation in Senegal have decreased in contrast to its persistent presence globally.

Senegal’s Progress in the Fight Against Female Mutilation

The action that some have taken against female genital mutilation in Senegal is especially promising given its past prominence in the national culture. In 2017, the Senegal Demographic and Health Survey found that almost 25% of 15 to 49-year-old women had undergone the procedure, as well as 14% of girls ages 0-14.

Since 2017, Senegal has made impressive strides to lower these numbers. The nation is now on track to become the first African country to fully make genital cutting a thing of the past.

Tostan is an NGO that has been working within communities in Senegal to put a stop to human rights violations like female genital mutilation and cutting. Tostan works with villages to increase literacy rates and bolster education initiatives including topics like proper healthcare, feminine hygiene, child welfare and human rights. Along with this advocacy work, Tostan encourages mothers, typically those who have undergone FGM, to speak out against the practice. Encouraged to not cut their daughters, these mothers now condemn it at community gatherings. Tostan’s work has helped 5,300 villages put a complete stop to the execution of this practice.

Tostan’s methods became replicated throughout Senegal and have led to surges of mothers speaking out for the cause. Following Tostan’s work, artists, rappers and other members of communities creatively engage in initiatives to spread awareness and promote discussion about the ramifications of FGM.

Looking Ahead

The progress in the fight against female genital mutilation in Senegal stands to teach international leaders and governments a lot. While regulation and legislation are important to stop this human rights violation, Senegal is showing how attitude and cultural shifts are the keys to real change.

Female genital mutilation in Senegal became illegal in 1999. However, this strong symbolic gesture only stopped medical professionals from administering the procedures. Determined parents were still able to cut their daughters, just without properly sanitized tools or medical care.

It is all the more important to educate communities of the very real and life-long ramifications of female genital mutilation, as well as empower women’s voices and grassroots movements to truly end this practice. Since many in Senegal still consider FGM to be a part of their cultural identity, the voices of women within communities, rather than external influence and legislation, are incredibly important to create change.

Jaya Patten
Photo: Flickr

Improving education in SenegalSeveral countries in sub-Saharan Africa have 50% or more of their populations concentrated in rural areas. With a high density of people in scattered rural areas, improved education in these areas is a priority. Gaps in enrollment and educational attainment are present throughout these sub-Saharan countries. Due to educational gaps, a group of architects formed an organization called Let’s Build My School (LBMS). LBMS focuses on improving education in Senegal.

Education in Senegal

According to the World Bank, in 2020, 52% of Senegal’s population lived in rural areas. In 2017, the country’s literacy rate was almost 52% for those 15 and older. Since primary school is compulsory and free, the net primary school enrollment rate hovers between 70% and 75%. However, this amount decreases significantly for those living in rural areas because of regional inequalities. The percentage of children in Senegal who are not attending school is about 38%. Rates of out-of-school children include 49% of students in rural areas compared to 21% of students in urban areas.

In addition to the regional inequality gap, there is also a significant gender gap in education in Senegal. Patterns of enrollment for males versus females vary by region. Some areas, such as Matam, have more females attending primary school than males with a little more than a 20% difference. On the other hand, a more typical trend shows males having anywhere from 1% to 40% higher enrollment rates in upper secondary school than females.  Due to these trends in regional and gender-based gaps in education, LBMS chose to focus on Senegal as the first area of its focus.

Let’s Build My School

LBMS is a U.K.-registered charity group of architects advocating for education as a universal right. The charity supports access to education in underprivileged areas around the world. It especially focuses on rural African areas and began its first project in Senegal.

LBMS builds schools in disadvantaged areas and remote villages using locally sourced and sustainable construction materials. It employs building techniques that are cost-effective and easy to implement without the need for advanced construction skills. In this way, the local community can be involved in the building projects. In the future, this will allow locals to replicate these efforts as needed.

Keur Racine

So far, LBMS has completed two projects in Senegal. One of these projects is Keur Racine in the Thiès region. The project was completed between May and July of 2017, mainly using clay and tires. LBMS added on to an existing school with two classrooms and an office. This addition increased the school’s capacity to 62 more students.

The foundation was constructed with tires “filled with compacted clay and sand.” The classroom walls were constructed from “sandbags filled with locally sourced material” to allow for natural insulation. The roof was built in a way that allows for ventilation and natural lighting. The sustainable construction of these schools benefits the Earth and the people living on the land by limiting waste and providing access to schooling for rural students.

Importance of Education

A lack of education and poverty typically go hand-in-hand. This is because those in impoverished areas do not have sufficient access to educational resources or opportunities. Education is essential for improving living conditions and eradicating poverty. Quality education creates an aware, knowledgeable and skilled population able to make a better life. According to UNESCO, about 60 million people could break out of poverty if all adults had two additional years of schooling. Furthermore, 420 million people could escape poverty if all adults completed education through the secondary level. For this reason, improving education in Senegal is imperative.

USAID is Improving Education in Senegal

Prompted by the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, USAID worked “with the Government of Senegal in 2007 through a Fixed Amount Reimbursement program to construct middle schools.” The government constructs school buildings using its own funds and resources. After completion, USAID reimburses the government after confirming that the school structure meets certain specifications.

The goal of the project was to build “46 middle schools and 30 water points” by the close of 2016. In partnership with the local NGO, Femmes Plus, USAID looks to improve learning outcomes through the Our Sisters Read program. The program looks to improve the basic literacy of rural children, especially girls.

With the help of organizations such as LBMS and USAID, education in Senegal and other impoverished regions can improve and lift millions out of extreme poverty. Access to quality education is a proven global solution to ending the cycle of poverty. LBMS is an example of a smaller-scale relief effort that is contributing greatly to the overall fight against global poverty.

Kylie Lally
Photo: Flickr