The “Marietou House”, or Keur Marietou in Wolof language, is the multifunctional humanist center that Energia built in the outskirts of Dakar (Pikine Icotaf). It was designed to be specifically dedicated to the women and children of the neighborhood.
Energia has been promoting several women entrepreneurship micro-projects in Senegal, The Gambia, and India since 2005
In particular, in Senegal, the most significant experience is the “Humanist Women Network of Pikine” with which we have been collaborating since 2003. Between 2013 and 2016, we built together Keur Marietou’s large house for women’s and children’s rights.
Keur Marietou is the cornerstone of the initiatives implemented by Energia to promote equal rights, women’s empowerment and the right to health, childhood, education and play, against discrimination, gender-based violence and ignorance. Keur Marietou is meant to be a center that gives voice to all those Senegalese women who suffer from the lack of opportunities for human and professional development. They are often victims of abuse, sexual discrimination, and economic slavery, inside and outside their family.
The building was inaugurated on January 3, 2016. The event was attended by the 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 “Humanist Women Network of Pikine”, as well as the Mayor of Pikine and other civil and religious authorities.
The activities currently ongoing at Keur Marietou are:
- The nursery school
The nursery school welcomes more than 300 children. The importance of nursery schools is often underestimated, although it is essential for the socio-economic development of a country. It gets children used to going to school at an early age, increasing the rate of participation in following levels of education, and it promotes women’s empowerment.
- The school canteen
The school canteen opened in November 2015 and provides a full meal a day for children attending school, as well as providing jobs for some women in the neighborhood.
- Microcredit workshops
Thanks to microcredit workshops, women get the opportunity to increase family resources and become independent. The activities are: cereals processing and the retail sale of couscous; the dyeing of fabrics; the manufacture of handmade soap.
- School recovery courses
Students from the neighborhood hold courses for those facing learning difficulties. This activity led to the development of a fruitful collaboration between the volunteers of Energia and people from the Association de Jeunes Élèves de Pikine (AJEP). They helped us carry out some useful activities for the inhabitants of the neighborhood, such as the blood donation at Keur Marietou.
- The medical center
The volunteer doctors of Diritti al Cuore ONLUS (partner association of Energia), carry out one-off inspections at Keur Marietou to visit the inhabitants of the neighborhood, with the collaboration of the young medical students of the project Fatou studia con Energia (Fatou studies with Energia
- The library
The library is open every afternoon. The girls of Keur Marietou’s women network manage it. They are responsible for disseminating the project throughout the territory, in order to make it accessible to everyone.
The work-in-progress activities are:
- Literacy course in French
The course targets women, who often can only speak the local languages and are cut off from some of activities, especially commercial ones.
- Sewing course
This course provides women with an opportunity for training. At the same time, it gives the microcredit groups in charge of fabric dyeing the opportunity to produce clothing and mass-market products to sell on the market.
- Psychological support helpdesk for women victims of violence
We are working on the creation of a self-help group in Keur Marietou for women who are victims of violence. In a first stage, a psychologist will be asked to manage the project. Then, Keur Marietou women will progressively become autonomous through field training.
Access to microcredit enables women to participate responsibly in society. It is an opportunity to increase their income and counter exclusion and gender inequality. Despite Senegalese and Gambian women enjoy greater freedom compared to other African women, men keep the role of head of the family. Women are socially recognized only after getting married and giving birth to their first child. A greater authority is acquired once menopause is reached. In any case, women live in a subordinate and discriminated condition. They are very often forced to endure violence and difficulties in silence, without being able to express their feelings and wishes. We organize micro-credit projects through fabric dyeing, sewing, soap making and computer literacy courses. We aim at improving their living conditions. Such courses increase the chances of finding a job and get a small income from the sale of manufactured products. Our goal is to create a network of volunteers who will pass training on to other women after receiving it. Female microcredit projects are being carried out in Senegal as part of the Keur Marietou project, in The Gambia in the rural village of Ballanghar, and in India in Tamil Nadu.
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