Woman Goes Above and Beyond to Improve Local Literacy and Women's Rights

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Member of the group “Takku liggey” of the village of Braylène, Ms. Ndéye Loum learned of The Hunger Project (THP)-Senegal during the general assembly to launch the savings and credit group of Coki Epicenter, in 2011.

Ndéye Loum is coordinator of the literacy class in her village, which has 36 women learners. Ms. Loum also goes above and beyond by organizing follow-up literacy classes beyond the official duration of the program that have greatly improved the current literacy of the women in her village, who now know how to read and write in the local language of Wolof. This group has served as a platform for Ms. Loum to raise awareness about the challenges that women face in other aspects of their lives. As a result, projects undertaken by women in the village have surged, with a net increase in individual requests to join Coki Epicenter’s GEC, or savings and credit group. This is an amazing turnaround, given that Coki’s GEC went through a period of low activity following the recent death of the president of the Braylène women’s group. Coki’s GEC serves as a gathering place to bring together women’s groups from about 30 villages around the epicenter under the leadership of Madame Coumba Ndiaye.

In 2011, Ms. Loum saw her potential impact on the community increase substantially after she participated in a THP training to become a Trainer of Trainers (TOT) for women’s rights. “This training,” she said, “served me a lot because, beyond the acquired knowledge, it gave me more confidence and arguments to convince women to work to change the conditions they are facing.” Ms. Loum has since carried out at least 30 sessions focused on training community members to reduce violence against women and early marriages in all the villages of Coki Epicenter. She surpassed standing attendance records with 101 women in Boffel, the most remote village of the epicenter which had never before been a training site. Her secret resides in the invitation of local political and tribal leaders to animation sessions, as well as her inclusion of surrounding villages who may not otherwise directly benefit from the epicenters resources.

In response to her hard work on behalf of partners and her leadership in training sessions for the technical and managerial capacity-building of women, Ms. Loum celebrated the inauguration of a soap and bleach processing unit on June 20, 2011. This processing unit can provide products to all of the households in the village and surrounding areas. With the advent of this unit, not only are the partner populations less beholden to merchants, they also have quality soap made of natural products to contribute to community hygiene. For example, products made from the Neem tree can be used as a salve against allergies that cause blisters in children. To accompany such an initiative, the Microfinance Program at Coki Epicenter approved financing of up to 500,000 CFAF (US $1,000) to provide technical support to women’s groups.

Ms. Loum is described by her close relations and companions as an ever-present, tireless and committed individual dedicated to the development of her village and its surroundings. Since partnering with THP-Senegal, Ms. Loum's income has enabled her to furnish her family's home. In terms of personal development, she is now highly capable of carrying out a wide range of women’s advocacy initiatives such as literacy classes, access to credit, access to health, and decision-making powers — all programs that aim to ensure that a woman in a local community is enjoying the full spectrum of her rights.

The leaders of the epicenter are confident about Ms. Loum's role in the leadership transitions at Coki Epicenter and believe that Ms. Loum, just 31 years old, would be an excellent fit as the epicenter looks to include more and more young people in its various committees.

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