Keur Marietou, the house of women’s and children’s rights
The house of Marietou
The “Marietou House”, or “Keur Marietou” in the Wolof language, is the multifunctional humanist centre that Energia has been building in the great outskirts of Dakar (Pikine Icotaf). It was designed to be specifically dedicated to the women and the children of the neighbourhood.
From 2005 to 2018, Energia has promoted several women entrepreneurship micro-projects in Senegal, Gambia and India.
In particular, in Senegal the most meaningful experience is the “Network of Humanist Women of Pikine “, who we have been cooperating with since 2003. Between 2013 and 2016, as a result of our cooperation, we built the large house of women’s and children’s rights in Keur Marietou.
Multifunctional centre/nursery school Keur Marietou.
Keur Marietou is the cornerstone of the initiatives, implemented by Energia, to promote equal rights, women’s empowerment and the right to health, to a childhood, to play and to education. Against discrimination, gender violence and ignorance. Keur Marietou is meant to be a centre that gives voice to all those Senegalese women who suffer from the lack of opportunities for human and professional development. Women who are often victims of abuse, sexual discrimination and economic slavery, outside and inside the family they live in.
The building was inaugurated on January 3, 2016. The event was attended by volunteers of the 3 Italian associations promoting the project (i.e. Energia per i Diritti Umani ONLUS, Diritti al Cuore ONLUS and One Love ONLUS) and the Network of Humanist Women of Pikine, as well as the Mayor of Pikine and other civil and religious authorities.
The ongoing activities in Keur Marietou are:
- The nursery school
The nursery school accommodates approximatively 120 children divided into three classes. The importance of nursery schools is often underestimated, although it is essential for the socio-economic development of a country. On the one hand, it accustoms children to going to school from the earliest years of life, increasing the rate of participation in subsequent levels of education. On the other hand, the attendance of girls promotes female emancipation.
- The school canteen
The school canteen was opened in November 2015 and provides a full meal a day for children attending school, as well as providing work for some women in the neighbourhood.
The microcredit workshops are run by women who, in this way, have the opportunity to increase family resources and become independent. The activities developed are: cereals processing and the retail sale of couscous; the dyeing of fabrics; the manufacture of handmade soap.
- School recovery courses
The courses are aimed at those who have difficulty studying and are held by students from the neighbourhood. This activity has led to the development of a productive collaboration between the volunteers of Energia and children of the “Associacion de Jeunes Élèves de Pikine” (AJEP), who have helped us implementing some useful activities for the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, such as the blood donation organized at the House of Marietou this summer.
- The medical surgery
The volunteer doctors of Diritti al Cuore ONLUS (a partner association of Energia), in cooperation with the young medical students of the project Fatou studia con Energia, carry out one-off visits to Keur Marietou to examine its inhabitants.
Meeting of the Network of Humanist Women of Pikine
- The library
The library is open every afternoon and was inaugurated this year. It is managed by the girls of the women’s network of Keur Marietou, who are responsible for disseminating the project on the territory, with the aim of making it accessible to everyone.
The work-in-progress activities are:
- Literacy course in French
The course is aimed at women, who often speak only the local languages and are cut off from a whole series of exchanges, especially commercial related.
- Sewing course
This course would give women an opportunity for training, and the microcredit group in charge of dyeing fabrics the opportunity to produce clothing and fast-moving consumer products to sell on the market.
- Psychological support helpdesk for women who are victims of violence
In 2018/2019, a self-help group for women who are victims of violence will be created in the Marietou House. In the first phase, a psychologist will be asked to manage the project; then the women of Keur Marietou will be made independent through a training in the field.
The access to microcredit enables women beneficiaries to participate responsibly in society; it is an opportunity to increase their income, but it also affects components such as exclusion and gender inequality.
Despite the greater freedom enjoyed by Senegalese and Gambian women compared to other African women, the role of head of the family remains a male prerogative.
Women are only socially recognised when they give birth to their first child, only if they are married. A greater authority is acquired once menopause is reached. In any case, women live in a subordinate and discriminated condition, and are very often forced to endure violence and difficulties in silence, without being able to express what they feel and what they want.
We organize microcredit projects with fabric dyeing, sewing, soap creation and computer literacy courses, with the aim of improving their living conditions. These courses increase their chances of finding a job and provide them with a small income thanks to the manufactured products sales. Our goal is to create a network of volunteers who, after receiving the training, will pass it on to other women.
Female microcredit projects are being carried out in Senegal as part of the Marietou House project, in Gambia at the rural village of Ballanghar, and in India in Tamil Nadu.
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