Work-Life Balance during a pandemic

3 minutes to read

The last year and a half have been intense to say the least. I always aspired to have a greater work-life balance and I thought working from home would enable that. I was wrong, point blank. My personal and professional lives have merged into one: in the boundaries of my room where I have my bed and my work desk. I go from my bed to my desk and back, each and every single day. It’s absolutely draining and redundant.

So, not the perkiest of intros but humor me. Do any of these statements resonate with you?

  • I feel like I don’t have enough time in the day to accomplish everything I need to.
  • I don’t feel fulfilled, no matter how much I get done.
  • I abandon my personal feelings/boundaries often to get things done at work.
  • By the time I finish work, I don’t have any more energy to do anything for myself.
  • I hate my job.
  • I have lost motivation/energy for things I used to enjoy doing.
  • I feel alone.
  • I want something different.

I could go on and on about how I have been feeling for the last year. I’m not deliberately trying to be a Debbie Downer but it truly feels never-ending. I know it’s partially due to just being in a very new place in my life but it’s also due to the pandemic. Being home more has not made me happier or “have more time.” It’s only blurred the lines between the different commitments I have.

Trying to “achieve” a better work-life balance is where we went wrong in the first place. The fact that we have gotten to a point where work has taken over so much of our lives that we have to try to fit life into it is problematic. It should be the other way around. This emphasis/correlation between work and success is threatening the personal happiness, mental health, and emotional fulfillment of many. And I wouldn’t say this is a problem that the pandemic brought along with it; it’s just that the pandemic (and working from home) has exacerbated these circumstances, making it harder and harder to peel away from the related anxiety and stress.

Recently, I read my dear friend’s article on her blog, Haniya Khalid (WFH Tips: Mental Health & Productivity – Haniya Khalid) and I must say, the tips helped. Because I was feeling confined to my room all day, the two that I found really helpful were making my bed every day and delineating between spaces for different tasks. I made my bed in the past but not intentionally. I would tidy up and call it a day. But actually taking the time to make my bed, position my pillows, turn on a candle or spray some room spray has tremendously helped me start my day. It’s a major accomplishment as soon as I wake up and I automatically feel more motivated. Subsequently, I don’t touch my bed again all day. I delineate spaces and utilize more of my apartment. I eat in my living room now, work only at my desk (unless I’m on a call while making breakfast/lunch, in which case I just use my phone), watch tv in the living room, etc. I highly recommend reading Haniya’s article (and her whole blog site) if you are feeling like you could use a refresher on setting boundaries!

I personally thought the pandemic and confinement living would end with 2020. But here we are in June 2021 and we’re still dealing with some of the same, prolonged issues. Things are slowly opening back up and that’s great but the feeling of exile doesn’t just go away. I still feel like there’s so much to do to get out of that funk so I’m going to keep trying and keep moving! I hope Haniya’s article and this one helps you step away for a second and reflect on how solitary living and dealing with working from home during a pandemic can take a toll on us – and what we can do about it!

Soda, my sister

**An open letter to my baby sister (who’s not much of a baby anymore)**

Hey girl,

I want to share some life lessons with you today. Not because I know it all. And certainly not because I have got this life figured out. But because I want to shed some light on a few things so you can have a few more things in your toolbox as you figure out what life is FOR YOU.

I’ll start there – FOR YOU. Everything I am saying in this letter is just s preface to what’s really out there. We’re barely scratching the surface girl because let me tell you, it’s hard and will only get harder the older you grow. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer or live a “hard” life. It just means you have to figure out how to live your life the way that works for you, without stepping on others’ toes or your own. I’m going to give you a few secrets I’ve learned along the way that have worked FOR ME. Reflect on them and see how they apply, or don’t apply, TO YOU.

  1. Be kind: That goes for others and for yourself. There’s a lot of ugly in this world and sometimes, we just have to stop, humble ourselves, and realize we don’t know the full story for anything! When faced with the option to be hard, be soft. This won’t always be easy – and sometimes, it actually may seem impossible. But try. Try to put yourself in the shoes of others and see if you can’t change your perspective. That goes for you too. Be kind and patient with yourself.
  2. Stand up for yourself: Life is full of bullies. People. Work. School. Family. Circumstances. Situations. Obstacles. There will always be something to make you pause and think “am I good enough”? But don’t let that deter you from going after what you want. Stand up and show up for yourself. Go after what you want!
  3. Have respect: for everyone.
  4. Be smart: If there is anything I’ve learned in this life, it’s that you are free to do what you want, but you are not free from the consequences of your actions. Every. single. thing you do has consequences. Take the time to analyze situations and weigh out the pros and cons. Make smart decisions and be ready to confront the outcomes they yield. Don’t be naive, and especially don’t forget to take accountability for your actions.
  5. No one owes you anything: This may be hard to accept or believe but it’s true. The good news is that most people are well-intended and aren’t set out to make your life miserable. But not everyone. Remember the bullies? Yeah, get comfortable with that and don’t take everything seriously. At the end of the day, you owe yourself the happiness, success, respect, and whatever else you desire, that you think you deserve.
  6. Have a plan: Life will throw many things at you. Have a plan. A plan that is structured and realistic but also responsive. Not everything will always go according to plan but a guide is always good. Follow your dreams.
  7. Family first: Ironic that I say family first yet it’s the last statement. It’s intentional. I am putting this at the bottom so it’s fresh in your memory as you finish off this letter. I am not sure about other families but the one you’ve got, yeah, it’s a good one. Not perfect but they love you and want the best for you. Even when the lesson may seem hard and the test may seem impossible, the final grade is always an A. Remember that.

I can ramble on and on about life lessons but the bottom line is…well, I’m your big sister so I can always send more via text message or over a phone call! And that’s exactly the point I want to drive home. Use me, and others who have been a positive addition to your life, as much or as little as you’d like as you figure out what you want your life to look like. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and be quick to recognize what isn’t going well and aim to fix it.

The truth is, none of us really know what’s going on. We’re figuring it out day by day. Don’t let the Internet fool you. There is no filter for life. No song you can really add to set the mood. And certainly not enough scrolling in the world to make bad things go away. But you can tag your loved ones to go on the journey with you, slide in the DMs of those who will give you sound advice to overcome anything, and best of all, pin the beautiful moments you’ll take into adulthood with you so you can reflect, and hopefully, be proud of the life you’ve built.

One of my favorite quotes is from a book called Reclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Mogahed. It goes: How do we become strong, without being hard, and remain soft, without being weak? While not easy, I try to make this my goal in life. I recommend the book, it’s available online 🙂

Xoxo,

Aissatou ❤

P.S. Don’t be afraid to cry.

KBF a dit … Un roi n’est pas loyal

Quand j’ai sondé mes amis des médias sociaux pour énumérer les caractéristiques d’un bon leader, j’ai obtenu les résultats comme ceci :

  • Qui sait écouter
  • Quelqu’un ayant de l’empathie
  • Quelqu’un qui est honnête, ouvert d’esprit et qui a du courage 
  • Quelqu’un qui sait motiver une équipe
  • Quelqu’un qui n’a pas toujours besoin d’être à la tête des personnes qu’il sert
  • Quelqu’un d’altruiste
  • Quelqu’un qui a le courage et le pouvoir de se battre pour les générations actuelles et futures 
  • Un mentor, un coach et un leader-serviteur
  • Quelqu’un de charismatique
  • Quelqu’un de loyal !

Ce dernier m’a marqué parce que ce post est consacré à l’expression “Buur du mbokk” de Kocc Barma ! Traduit approximativement, cela signifie qu’un roi n’est pas loyal !

Alors, pourquoi Kocc Barma a-t-il dit ça ? Un leader est techniquement un roi, sans le contexte royal. En fin de compte, ils sont tous les deux des leaders, alors comment devrions-nous penser à cela ? Comment puis-je concilier tous les attributs positifs de mes charmants amis énumérés ci-dessus avec cette affirmation audacieuse selon laquelle les dirigeants ne sont essentiellement pas loyaux ? Hmmm…

Je donnerai ci-dessous des exemples de bons et de mauvais dirigeants, ainsi que des opinions de recherche, et je verrai si je peux concilier tout cela dans ma tête. Restez avec moi.

Nelson Mandela –Ancien président Sud-Africain (1994 – 1999)

Je n’ai jamais entendu dire que cet homme n’est pas un grand leader. Je veux dire, allez ! C’est Nelson Mandela.

Militant des droits sociaux. 
Philanthrope.
Politician.
Nobel Prix de la Paix.

Il a travaillé dur pour démanteler le système de l’apartheid qui a tourmenté l’Afrique du Sud et a passé 27 ans en prison pour des « délits politiques ». Cela ressemble beaucoup à un leadership de service pour moi. Je ne peux dire assez de bonnes choses sur lui. Juste un Grand Merci.

Patrice Lumumba – Leader Indépendantiste et Homme Politique Congolais (1960)

La République du Congo a de nombreux remerciements à adresser à Lumumba. Il a joué un rôle important dans la transformation du Congo, qui est passé du statut de colonie de la Belgique à celui de république indépendante. Il a payé de sa vie ses efforts et ses accomplissements, brutalement assassiné avec d’autres révolutionnaires. À la fin, même ses ennemis l’ont reconnu comme un “héros national”.

Kwame Nkrumah – Leader de l’Indépendance et Ancien Président du Ghana (1957)

Nkrumah a été le premier «Premier ministre» et Président du Ghana. Il a conduit le Ghana à être le premier pays d’Afrique subsaharienne à obtenir son indépendance en 1957. La Gold Coast (Ghana) a eu la chance d’avoir un leader comme Nkrumah, qui était un visionnaire, un combattant, et un révolutionnaire. Il n’a pas gagné le nom Osagyefo (Rédempteur) sans raison.

Robert Mugabe – Ancien Président du Zimbabwe (1987 – 2017)

Faisons un peu de calcul. 2017 – 1987 = 30. 30 ans est une longue période pour être Président. Il est passé d’icône de l’indépendance à leader totalitaire…

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (alias Le Boss) –Président de la Guinée équatoriale (1979 – Aujourd’hui)

Il a été désigné comme le leader le plus cruel de la planète. On disait qu’un roi n’est pas loyal et cet homme l’a incarné. Il a renversé son propre oncle, Francisco Macías Nguema, en 1979 lors d’un coup d’État sanglant et a refusé de partir… pour toujours. Il a été accusé d’abus de pouvoir, de torture de ses adversaires, et voyez-vous, même de cannibalisme ! On dit qu’il mange la chair de ses opposants pour gagner du pouvoir. C’est tout simplement choquant et tout cela est si triste pour un petit pays producteur de pétrole comme la Guinée équatoriale. Je commence vraiment à penser que cette malédiction du pétrole est plus dangereuse qu’on ne le croit.

Macky Sall – Président du Sénégal (2012 – Aujourd’hui)

Sall a donc commencé comme premier ministre de l’ancien président Abdoulaye Wade et s’est séparé pour former son propre parti en 2008. Il n’y a rien de mal à cela, c’est cool. Il l’a défié aux élections de 2012 et a gagné (c’était une bonne chose que Wade ait été écarté du pouvoir et empêché d’avoir un troisième mandat). En attendant 2020, Sall essaie de faire la même chose (le palmarès) et oh aussi, juste un tas d’autres choses qui ne servent pas l’intérêt du peuple sénégalais. Il est devenu ce qu’il prétendait avoir combattu auparavant. Faites en sorte que cela ait un sens.

Donald Trump – Président des États-Unis d’Amérique (2017 – Aujourd’hui)

Je ne vais même pas descendre dans ce trou à rats. Je ne fais que prier.

———

Bon auditeur. Empathique. Savoir quand il faut suivre. Altruiste. Charismatique. Courageux. Servant-leader. Loyal.

Remarquez que tous ces dirigeants sont des hommes. Je l’ai fait exprès et je disséquerai cette dynamique un autre jour, mais maintenant, restons sur le sujet et disons simplement WOW ! Nous avons toutes sortes de “styles” de leadership ici et on peut dire sans risque de se tromper qu’il n’y a pas de recette magique pour bien faire les choses, mais je peux dire que ce n’est pas bien de les faire en opprimant vos électeurs ; ce n’est pas bien de les faire en outrepassant vos droits et votre pouvoir ; ce n’est pas bien de les faire en abusant de votre accueil. Un bon dirigeant, entre autres choses, sait quand il est temps de partir !

Notre “Diiné” (religion): Oustaz Pape Hane

**Qui est Pape Hane?**

Je m’appelle Macoumba Hane, mais on m’appelle Pape Hane. Je suis né à Thiès, au Sénégal. Je vais résumer mon enfance en disant que j’ai appris le Coran à un jeune âge – mon maitre coranique s’appelait Makhtar Cisse. J’ai terminé le Coran, puis j’ai déménagé à Kaolack pour apprendre le “xam-xam” ou la connaissance au-delà du Coran.

**Pouvez-vous nous parler un peu de votre parcours pour devenir un Oustaz?**

Quand j’avais 12 ans, je faisais partie d’un dahira (congrégation). J’étais le plus jeune dans le dahira et souvent joué avec des discours et écouté Ibou Sakho (Googlez le). J’ai donné des sermons à mes camarades et je leur ai enseigné ce que j’apprenais. C’était avant que je ne sois allé au daara (école coranique) pour apprendre le xam-xam. Donc dès mon plus jeune âge, j’ai eu l’envie et je l’ai juste poursuivie avec les apprentissages supplémentaires requis.

**En parlant d’apprentissages supplémentaires, qu’est-ce qu’il faut pour devenir un Oustaz?

On doit étudier différents livres après avoir appris le Coran, comme Fiqh. Une fois les nombreux livres étudiés, on doit alors apprendre à interpréter (firi en wolof) afin qu’on ne puisse relayer le message à quelqu’un qui ne parle pas arabe ou n’a pas appris ces livres. Le processus est difficile, mais Masha’Allah quand on a l’amour pour ça et l’amour pour le Prophète (PSL), ça devient facile.

**Dans la société d’aujourd’hui, nous entendons dire qu’il y a une « crise des valeurs » au Sénégal, en particulier chez les jeunes. Quel est votre position à ce sujet ?**

Oui, c’est une réalité grave et triste. La façon dont les gens éduquent leurs enfants n’est pas la même. Les valeurs ont changé et les gens se soucient de moins en moins du bien-être de toute la communauté, de sorte que tout le monde agisse juste en leur propre faveur. Personne ne semble s’inquiéter des prochaines générations à venir.

Kersa (mot Wolof qui signifie une certaine modestie) n’existe plus. Pas dans la façon dont les gens parlent, s’habillent ou se comportent. Autrefois, quand un homme dit à une femme qu’il l’aime, elle est timide ou peut sourire timidement pour dire “Je t’aime de retour” mais aujourd’hui, tout le monde est audacieux et regarde directement les yeux des autres et dit ce qu’ils ressentent. On pouvait compter le nombre de personnes qui boivent ou fument dans un quartier, mais aujourd’hui, c’est répandu. La liste des choses continue encore et encore.

Une autre chose est qu’il y a de la pression aujourd’hui avec le temps. Tout le monde se précipite et veut s’en sortir du jour au lendemain, il y a beaucoup de fraude en cours pour gagner de l’argent facile. Les gens avec des valeurs qui travaillent dur diminuent et le pire de tout ça, personne ne fait rien au nom d’Allah les autres, semble-t-il. Il y a toujours du bien, mais beaucoup de mauvais vraiment.

** Comment inverser cette tendance négative alors ?**

Nous devons revenir à l’essentiel. Le Coran et la Sunna (enseignements du Prophète (PSL)) nous ont été donnés en tant que guide et nous devons nous rappeler qu’Allah ne se soucie pas de la façon dont vous commencez, il se soucie de la façon dont vous finissez. Donc, nettoyons les cœurs et aimons-nous les uns les autres.

** Oustaz, je dois vous demander parce que les gens continuent d’en parler. Qu’est-ce que c’est que Akhirou Zamane (fin du monde) ?**

Le prophète a dit: Je ne serai pas couche 2000 ans dans le sol.
1 441 ans depuis son décès.

Fais le calcul.

Maintenant, au-delà de l’aspect chronométrage de celle-ci, il y a beaucoup de signes de « Akhirou Zamane ». La diminution des valeurs que j’ai mentionnées précédemment est un signe, les catastrophes naturelles en sont une autre, beaucoup de divergences en sont une autre aussi, et la liste continue. C’est essentiellement une époque où les choses seront très complexes et désordonnées et cela nous mènera à la fin du monde telle que nous la connaissons. Ce n’est pas un processus de dix ans – ce sont des siècles et des siècles de signes qui culminent tous à ce jour fatidique où nous sortirons de nos tombes et répondrons à notre Créateur.

Aissatou s’exprimant principalement par urgence LOL : Je suppose que cela signifie n’importe quel jour maintenant peut être la fin du monde. Qu’Allah (Dieu) nous guide tous de retour vers lui !

**Ok, donc maintenant, je dois vous poser quelques questions brûlantes sur le sujet très controversé de la polygamie qui fait l’objet de discussions intenses. Que dit le Coran ? **

Tout d’abord, le Coran dit que vous devez être en mesure de le faire. Cela signifie financièrement et être assez responsable pour garder votre ménage dans l’ordre. Vous devez yamale (garder les choses égales). Si vous ne pouvez pas garder les choses égales, alors l’Islam vous a libéré du fardeau d’avoir plusieurs épouses.

Il y a un moyen de le faire et chaque situation est différente de sorte qu’il soit important de chercher des connaissances et des conseils de ceux qui ont appris ce que les livres disent. L’ignorance de toute orientation n’est pas une excuse.

** Que devons-nous faire pour maintenir notre « diiné » (religion) tout en vivant à l’étranger? **

Travailler dur. Et pas seulement dans le sens professionnel, mais investir du temps dans votre diiné (foi) pour en apprendre davantage et vivre les choses que vous apprenez. C’est votre responsabilité ultime et vous serez interrogé le Jour du Jugement.

———

Un MERCI très spécial à Oustaz Pape Hane pour cette interview rafraîchissante. Je suis honorée et profondément motivée chaque fois que je vous entends parler de la belle religion qu’est l’Islam et votre amour profond pour notre prophète Mahomet (SAW). Yallah na sa jam yagg Oustaz. Jërëjëf !

Maguette, on behalf of all the women holding it together during Ramadan

Reading time: ~4 mins

File:Alarm Clock Vector.svg - Wikimedia Commons
4:45 AM

I feel like I just laid my head down no more than an hour ago! I swear that alarm clock races with my sanity sometimes.

It was time to get up and prepare a meal before sunrise. Ramadan had begun and it was going to be a long month of waking up early and preparing the household for extended days of not eating, not drinking, and not jumping down each other’s throats. In order for this to happen, the suhoor has to be hefty! I go into the bathroom first to make wudu (ablution) before going into the kitchen to prepare today’s meal.

Mix dried fruits (date palm fruits, prunes, dried apricots, raisins) and nuts, and traditional arabic tea. ramadan (ramazan) food. Premium Photo
4:55 AM

My kids (including my husband, yes he’s my child too) love vermicelle so I thought why not start this blessed month off with one of their favorite meals! I steamed a batch just before bed so all I would have to do is cook the onion sauce it goes with and warm up the chicken. I’m not the biggest fan of reheating food but during Ramadan, when you’re rushing against time, you have no choice! I’d need to wake up at 2AM to prepare a meal for 5AM and that’s just not realistic considering we go to bed around 1AM. Oh, and did I mention the challenge that is waking up my family for suhoor? Just wait for it.

With the chicken warming up in the oven, I chop up a few onions and quickly marinate it before setting it on the stove to simmer. It’s 5:05 at this point. I move to set the table. I lay everything out, including my favorite part, the dates. I set out utensils, fruits that I prepared the night before, and plenty of water. As the onions simmered away, I began the journey to waking up my children.

5:15 AM (actual size of the stairs at my house)

The first round of running up the stairs to grab my baby boy, who inevitably wakes up from the noise, and daughter is usually successful. There’s one defeat as my older son says he hears me but wasn’t actually listening in the first place. I finish that round by stopping in my own bedroom to wake my husband up. He sits up, looks me in the eyes, and says “I’ll be right there” ever single time. It’s incredulous because it feels like a zombie talking to you. The second he’s done speaking, he rolls over and goes right back to sleep. I just roll my eyes and head back into the kitchen to check on whatever I was warming up and prepare for round 2.

5:25 AM

My daughter wakes up to eat even though she doesn’t fast all day. Since she’s not 18 yet, she will fast half days in solidarity with everyone else. It’s also good practice as she gets older to get used to the fasting rhythms. My younger son is just there for company. The two men of the house are different stories. I send my daughter back upstairs to wake her brother up while I go get her father.

I use different tactics to wake him up, and since today I am in a good mood, I head straight for the bathroom in our bedroom and start making a lot of noise. When he wakes up, I tell him suhoor is over and everybody has gone back to bed. I’m just preparing to do the same. He jumps out of bed so fast, I couldn’t help but laugh. “Nieuwal kheud balaa heure bi diol, mo guen si yaw.”

Ramadan Islamic Art Muslim - Free vector graphic on Pixabay
5:35 AM

As we sit down to eat, as a family, I can’t help but smile. It’s not easy waking up to prepare the meals when sleep is the only thing on my mind. Running up and down the stairs is not fun either. But I know Allah will repay all of us who take on these tasks for his sake. I know the blessings available to Muslims in the month of Ramadan far surpass the seemingly annoying things we go through. The hunger, the thirst, the lack of sleep, the migraines, etc…. nothing compares to the beauty that is Ramadan. It is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar – it’s also the month that the Quran was revealed to our beloved prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Every country observes this with a twist but the premise is the same: abstain from food, drink, sex, smoking, and all other forbidden acts from dawn to sunset (forbidden acts are still forbidden beyond the dawn to sunset limits). It’s a time for families to reconnect. It’s also a time to get closer to our creator and do some self-reflection. For many Muslims, it’s their favorite time of the year.

We’re going to finish eating here and prepare for the morning prayer. I’d like to wish you and your families RAMADAN MUBARAK. May Allah grant us a healthy, blessed month and may Allah grant us the honor to die as Muslims.

NitDoffKillah – Défis au développement au Sénégal

AG: Parlez-nous un peu de vous.

NDK: Mon vrai nom est Mor Talla Gueye. J’ai grandi à Louga au Sénégal, et j’y ai passé toute mon enfance et mon adolescence. Je suis entré dans le hip hop à l’adolescence et j’avais l’habitude de faire du ‘‘break dance’’ avec un groupe d’amis. Notre groupe s’appelait BMG (Bokk Mboloo di Gestu). C’est à ce moment que RapGalsen  commençait à prendre de l’ampleur et la plupart des break-dancers ont commencé à rapper, moi y compris. Nous avions l’habitude de participer à des compétitions nationales et nous en avons même remporté deux. Au fil du temps, nous nous sommes dispersés et en 1999, je me suis rendu en France pour rejoindre mon père (mon père et mes frères étaient quasiment tous à l’étranger).

J’ai passé 14 ans à Paris. Il y a eu un certain temps où j’ai voyagé de Paris au Sénégal, mais en 2007, j’ai officiellement décidé de lancer ma carrière de rap avec mon premier album. J’ai continué sur ma lancée en sortant mon deuxième album en 2009 et j’ai commencé Show of the Year, qui est un événement annuel pour tous les hip-hoppers au Sénégal. J’ai sorti un troisième album en 2013 et un double album en 2017 (appelez-le mon quatrième et cinquième). 

Je me suis lancé à l’international en Europe et je cherche toujours des moyens de produire une nouvelle musique, d’augmenter ma base de fans et de faire plus pour la communauté. Avec la situation actuelle, beaucoup de choses sont au point mort, mais nous travaillons continuellement sur d’autres projets. J’ai créé un label et je produis aussi d’autres rappeurs.

En dehors de ma carrière musicale, j’utilise ma voix dans le domaine politique et dans les conversations panafricaines pour partager mon humble point de vue.

AG: Si vous devez résumer les défis au développement au Sénégal, que diriez-vous ?

NDK: À mon avis, nous avons connu un terrible début d’indépendance. Quand nous avons “obtenu l’indépendance”, ce n’était qu’une “indépendance de drapeau”, mais nous n’avons pas obtenu une indépendance économique. On a eu un “faux départ”. Lorsque les Français sont partis, ils ont laissé derrière eux du personnel pro-colonial qui était censé essentiellement poursuivre l’ordre du jour Français. Ensuite, il y avait des gens comme Mamadou Dia et Ousmane Blondin Diop qui ont été discrédités, emprisonnés, mortellement réduits au silence parce qu’ils se sont prononcés contre ce comportement. 

Les premiers présidents (Senghor et Diouf) n’étaient pas ce que nous appelons corrompus aujourd’hui, mais ils n’avaient pas la vision, le patriotisme, la mentalité panafricaine, et les moyens d’enlever les taches coloniales et de mettre en œuvre leurs propres agendas sénégalais qui pouvaient profiter le peuple sénégalais. Nous avons perdu une vingtaine d’années où nous ne faisions que plaire aux Français, cela se reflétait dans nos contrats et nos engagements économiques à tous les niveaux. 

Leurs remplaçants et leurs entourages respectifs étaient encore pires. Menteurs. Voleurs. Détournement de fonds. Rien ne nous a fait avancer. Ce ne sont même pas des acteurs politiques qui ont les connaissances et l’expertise. Certains étaient d’anciens enseignants qui venaient de recevoir des postes de titulaires.

Nous avons raté la marque dès le début. Il n’y a pas eu d’investissement dans la recherche et le développement, attisant les jeunes à se préparer à un avenir radieux et à être autonomes, à investir dans les ingénieurs afin qu’ils soient les producteurs internes de notre pays ! L’Université Cheikh Anta Diop était une grande université, mais il n’y avait pas assez d’investissements pour maintenir cette excellence afin de permettre aux étudiants diplômés de ne pas avoir d’emplois à montrer. Il n’y a pas de soutien de notre peuple pour que nous puissions nous tenir seuls et ne pas dépendre des autres. 

Nous avons eu un leadership terrible. Nous sommes un petit pays avec beaucoup de richesse, mais nous n’avons pas investi et profité de cela. 60% de la population est jeune ! Des coupures d’eau. Pannes d’électricité. Nous aurions dû dépasser cela, mais le leadership nous a fait défaut. Le Sénégal est aujourd’hui victime de tout cela réuni.

AG: Donnez-moi une suggestion d’une solution réaliste qui pourrait être mise en œuvre au Sénégal pour nous rapprocher un peu plus d’un État plus développé.

NDK: C’est un bon leadership. Nous avons besoin d’un vrai leader avec de la morale, de l’éthique, de bonnes idées, des caractéristiques craignant Dieu, et de la conviction. Nous n’avons pas de leaders intègres. Nous devons nous débarrasser de la corruption, des dirigeants qui détournent des fonds, de jeter des choses sous le tapis. Nous pouvons reconquérir 50 ans de perte avec un solide, bon, leader exemplaire / mandat présidentiel. La population est facile à guider – nous avons des chefs religieux qui ont une voix et peuvent influencer le peuple. Mais pour que les bons messages passent, nous avons besoin de ce leader. Quelqu’un qui n’a pas peur de dire non aux forces extérieures qui essaient de profiter de nous. Quelqu’un qui prend l’éducation et l’agriculture au sérieux! Nous pouvons tirer parti de nos ressources naturelles pour nous bénéficier, une fois pour toutes, avant d’ouvrir nos portes au reste du monde.

AG: Quelques observations sur la situation du COVID-19 ?

NDK: C’est inquiétant. Il y a de la peur. Non seulement à cause de la situation actuelle, mais aussi à cause de ce qu’elle pourrait devenir. Jusqu’à ce que nous trouvions une solution (guérison, vaccin, méthode durable de prévention de la propagation, etc.), ce sera comme si nous étions assis sur des œufs.

Si une autre guerre mondiale devait se produire, ce serait économique. Il y a différentes spéculations, mais il y a beaucoup de choses qui sortent et nous n’avons pas toutes les réponses. Le monde est sûrement surpeuplé et à chaque crise qui se présente, nous nous retrouvons avec deux choix: (1) l’approche naïve où l’on dit juste que c’est un événement naturel ou (2) l’approche la plus curieuse de demander “ce qui est vraiment en jeu ici?”

Au Sénégal, les gens sont toujours dehors pendant la journée. Donner de l’aide est une bonne initiative, mais ce n’est pas suffisant pour tout combattre. Pendant la journée, les gens sont dehors comme si rien ne se passait. Nous n’avons pas de masques, gel antiseptique, etc. donc c’est effrayant.

Je salue nos médecins, notre ministre de la Santé et tous ceux qui travaillent dur pour lutter contre ce virus. Personnellement, j’ai peur qu’il se propage encore plus et nous, en tant que nation, ne pouvons pas gérer cela. Nous n’avons pas l’infrastructure, mais je prie pour que nous n’en arrivions même pas cela.

AG: Responsabilité des rappeurs / influenceurs / chanteurs / personnalités publiques dans l’information du public ?

NDK: C’est donné par Dieu et il est important de comprendre cela et d’être humble à ce sujet. Dieu vous demandera comment vous avez utilisé votre voix et votre don. Vous l’avez utilisé pour faire du bien ? Éduquer les autres. Pour guider d’autres personnes qui vous écoutent et vous suivent?

Mon opinion est qu’avec un don et une plate-forme, notre mission est de servir Dieu et de servir le peuple. Et être conscient de l’impact que nous avons afin que nous puissions utiliser notre voix / cadeau pour faire du bien dans le monde.

Certaines personnes l’utilisent d’une mauvaise façon pour juste obtenir de l’argent. Peu importe le coût ou le sacrifice. Prendre des positions auxquelles ils ne croient pas. Agir au nom d’autres personnes qui ne sont pas assez courageuses pour le faire eux-mêmes.

La façon dont nous utilisons nos pouvoirs compte beaucoup.

AG: L’Influence du Hip-Hop dans notre société ?

NDK: RapGalsen est connu pour les messages que nous avons diffusés là-bas. Nous sommes connus pour être “trop Hip Hop, pas commercial” et c’est une fierté pour nous. Nous nous efforçons d’envoyer de bons messages qui sont pertinents pour notre peuple. épidémie de sida. Lutter contre la corruption. Les relations familiales. Nous parlons de l’actualité et éduquons les gens.

Les élèves qui écoutent la réminiscence du Hip Hop se souviennent de la façon dont cela les a aidés à réussir l’école en les redynamisant. Les responsabilisant! C’est formidable.

Nous ne parlons pas de drogues, d’alcool, médisances ou dévêtir femmes dans nos vidéos. Nous sommes fiers d’élever et de ne pas démolir. C’est l’âme de RapGalsen.

Nous sommes connus pour être des êtres honnêtes. Même si elle est sous-évaluée ici au Sénégal, RapGalsen  s’est avéré multidimensionnel. Les rappeurs ont généralement beaucoup voyagé et très instruits et utilisent leur voix pour parler sur des questions qui comptent.

Je respecte l’industrie. Les mouvements que nous avons créés. L’éducation que nous avons partagée avec la population. Les changements positifs que nous avons donnés.

AG: Qui est votre modèle?

NDK: Il y en a beaucoup que je pourrais énumérer. Je regarde des gens comme Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral et Malcolm X.

Mais mon modèle ultime est mon père. Il m’a le plus influencé dans la vie. Avant qu’il ne décède et jusqu’à aujourd’hui, il est sur mon économiseur d’écran ! Il m’a beaucoup appris et m’a aidé à savoir qui et comment je devrais être. Il a toujours été mon point de référence, ma superstar, et mon modèle. Je sais que je ne peux pas être comme lui, mais c’est quelqu’un que je m’efforce d’être. Nous avions une relation puissante. Travailleur, familial, discret, s’est oublié pour le bien de sa famille, modeste, honnête, n’a pas laissé ses enfants faire du n’importe quoi, il nous a élevés avec intégrité. C’est un homme respecté. Il n’a jamais eu de vie parce qu’il était si concentré sur nous donner une belle vie.

Quand j’ai grandi et que je suis allé en France avec lui, j’ai vu comment il vivait juste pour s’assurer que nous avions une vie confortable au Sénégal, cela renforçait mon amour et mon respect en lui. Je savais alors que c’est comme ça qu’un homme est censé être. Si vous voulez être respecté, vous devez être cette personne intègre!

Bien que je puisse énumérer beaucoup de gens aujourd’hui, je dirai avec fierté que mon père est l’unique. C’est mon tout.

NitDoffKillah – Challenges to Development in Senegal

AG: Tell us a little bit about you.

NDK: My real name is Mor Talla Gueye. I grew up in Louga, Senegal and spent my entire childhood and adolescent years there. I got into Hip Hop as an adolescent and used to break dance with a group of friends. We went by the name BMG (Bokk Mboloo di Gestu). That was the time RapGalsen was starting to gain momentum and most breakdancers started rapping, myself included. We used to participate in national competitions and even won a couple of them. Over time, we dispersed and in 1999, I traveled to France to join my father (my father and brothers were all pretty much abroad).

I spent 14 years in Paris. There was a period of time I traveled back and forth from Paris to Senegal but officially decided to launch my rap career with my first album in 2007. I kept up the momentum and released by second album in 2009 and started Show of the Year, which is an annual event for all hip-hoppers in Senegal. I released by third album in 2013 and a double album (call it my fourth and fifth) in 2017. I went international in Europe and can always looking for ways to produce new music, increase my fan base, and do more for the community. With the current situation, a lot of things are stalled but we’re continuously working on additional projects. I stared a record label and am producing other rappers as well.

Outside of my music career, I use my voice in the political realm and in Pan-African conversations to share my humble point of view.

AG: If you had to summarize the challenges to development in Senegal, what would you say?

NDK: My opinion is we had a terrible start at independence. When we “got independence,” it was just a “flag independence” but we didn’t gain economic independence. We had a “faux depart.” When the French left, they left behind pro-colonial personnel who were supposed to basically continue the French agenda. Then you had folks like Mamadou Dia and Ousmane Blondin Diop who were discredited, imprisoned, fatally silenced because they spoke out against this behavior.

The first presidents (Senghor and Diouf) weren’t what we would call corrupt today but they didn’t have the vision, patriotism, Pan-African mentality, and wherewithal to remove colonial stains and implement their own, Senegalese agendas that benefited the Senegalese people. We lost about 20 years where we were just pleasing the French still – it showed in our contracts and economic engagements at every level.

Their replacements and their respective entourages were even worst. Liars. Thieves. Misappropriation of funds. Nothing moved us forward. They aren’t even political actors who have the knowledge and expertise. Some were former teachers who were just given posts by incumbents.

We missed the mark early on. There was no investment in research and development, fueling the youth to be prepared for a bright future and be autonomous, investing in engineers so they are the in-house producers in our country! Universite Cheikh Anta Diop was a great university but there wasn’t enough investment to maintain that excellence so that leads to students with diplomas not having jobs to show for it. There is no support of our people so that we can stand on our own and not depend on others.

We’ve had terrible leadership. We are a small country with a lot of richness but we didn’t invest and take advantage of that. 60% of the population is young! Water outages. Power outages. We should have been past this but leadership has failed us. Senegal today is a victim of all of that lumped together.

AG: Give one suggestion of a realistic solution that could be implemented in Senegal to get us one step closer to a more developed state.

NDK: It’s good leadership. We need a real leader with morals, ethics, good ideas, God-fearing characteristics, and conviction. We don’t have leaders with integrity. We need to get rid of corruption, of leaders who misappropriate funds, of throwing things under the rug. We can win back 50 years of loss with one solid, good, exemplary leader/presidential term. The population is easy to guide – we have religious leaders who have a voice and can influence the people. But for the right messages to go through, we need that leader. Someone who isn’t’ afraid to say no to external forces who try to take advantage of us. Someone who takes education and agriculture seriously! We can leverage our natural resources to benefit us, once and for all, before opening our doors to the rest of the world.

AG: Some observations about the COVID-19 situation?

NDK: It’s worrisome. There is fear. Not only because of the current situation but because of what it could grow into. Until we find a solution (cure, vaccine, sustainable method of preventing further spread, etc.), it’s going to be like we’re sitting on eggshells.

If another World War was to happen, it would be economic. There are different speculations but there are a lot of things going out and we don’t have all the answers. The world is surely overpopulated and with every crisis that comes up, we are left with two choices: (1) the naive approach where we just say this is a natural occurrence or (2) the more curious approach of asking “what’s really at play here?”

In Senegal, people are still out and about during the day. Giving out aid is a good initiative but it’s not enough to combat everything. During the day, people are out as if nothing is going on. We don’t have masks, antiseptic gel, etc. so it’s scary.

I salute our doctors, Minister of Health, and everybody working hard to fight this virus. Personally, I am scared it will spread even more and we as a nation cannot handle that. We don’t have the infrastructure but I pray we don’t even get to that.

AG: Responsibility of rappers/influencers/singers/public figures in informing the public?

NDK: That is God-given and it’s important to understand that and be humble about it. God will ask you how you used your voice and gift. Did you use it to do good? To educate others. To guide others who listen to you and are following you?

My opinion is that with a gift and a platform, our mission is to serve God and serve the people. And be aware of the impact we have so we can use our voice/gift to do good in the world.

Some people use it in a bad way to just get money. No matter the cost or sacrifice. Taking positions that they don’t believe in. Acting on behalf of others who aren’t courageous enough to do it themselves.

How we use our powers matter.

AG: Influence of Hip-Hop in our society?

NDK: Hip Hop Galsen is known for the messages we put out there. We are known to be “too Hip Hop, not commercial” and that’s a point of pride for us. We strive to send good messages out there that are relevant to our people. AIDS epidemic. Fighting corruption. Family relations. We talk about current events and educate people.

Students listening to Hip Hop reminiscence about how it helped them get through school by re-energizing them. Empowering them! That’s amazing.

We don’t talk about drugs, alcohol, trash talking or disrobing women in our videos. We pride ourselves on uplifting and not tearing down. It’s the soul of RapGalsen.

We are known for being honest beings. Even if it’s undervalued here in Senegal, RapGalsen has proven to be multi-dimensional. Rappers are generally well-traveled and very educated and use their voice to talk about issues that matter.

I respect the industry. The movements we have created. The education we’ve shared with the population. The positive changes we have imparted.

AG: Who is your role model?

NDK: There are many I could list. I look up to people like Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral, and Malcolm X.

But my ultimate role model is my father. He influenced me the most in my life. Before he passed and up until today, he’s on my screensaver! He taught me a lot and helped me to know who and how I should be. He’s always been my point-of-reference, my superstar, and my role model. I know I can’t be like him but he’s someone I strive to be like. We had a powerful relationship. Hard-working, family-oriented, discreet, forgot about himself for the sake of his family, modest, honest, didn’t let his kids do whatever, he raised us with integrity. He’s a respected man. He never had a life because he was so focused on giving us a good life.

When I grew up and went to France with him, I saw how he was living just to maek sure we had a comfortable life back in Senegal, it reinforced my love and respect in him. I knew then that that’s how a man is supposed to be. If you want to be respected, you have to be this person of integrity!

While I can list many people today, I will say with pride that my father is the one. He’s my everything.

Josephine, the hotel receptionist

Reading time: ~ 5 minutes

Standing in front of the mirror, Josephine buttoned up her shirt as she prepared for another day of work. She contemplated putting on makeup just so she wouldn’t stand out. She always seemed to attract attention whether she wanted to or not. If it wasn’t the doorman, it was a janitor. And if it wasn’t him, it was her own boss. Harassment seemed to be part of the job! She followed her usual routine – put on some makeup and grabbed her purse before stepping out for her morning shift. “Maybe today will be better” she thought to herself.

Doorman: Ms. Sane, welcome! Ravissante as always.

Josephine: [flatly] Good morning.

Doorman: Ooohh the cold shoulder again? Lighten up sweetheart!

Josephine quickly walked past him and went into the back office to grab a water before assuming her post. The hotel wasn’t the most well-known in Dakar but it wasn’t small either. They had quite the group of tourists come through on occasion and “premium guest service” was her boss’s slogan. Josephine picked up the “English for Everyone: Practice Book” her aunt living in the U.S. brought her as a gift the previous summer.

Tata Claudine: Keep your head down and work hard, Josephine. You have a bright future ahead of you. Don’t lose sight of that.

Josephine: Okay, Tata. I will do my best.

Tata Claudine: Now here, I brought you this book so you can keep practicing your English!

Josephine: Thank you! These days, that’s my biggest goal – to perfect my English. We have so many English speakers coming through the hotel and it’s frustrating when I can’t help them.

Tata Claudine: Well, the good news is English isn’t as hard as French to learn. It just takes a little practice to get the pronunciation right.

Josephine: Tell me about it! Sometimes I will say something and the guest will just giggle. It’s so embarrassing.

Tata Claudine: Just keep practicing.

Josephine flipped through her book as she waited for the first rush of guests to come down for breakfast or check-in. Suddenly, she felt someone leaning over here.

Mohamed: What do you have there?

Josephine: Just an English practice book.

Josephine answered her boss while sliding away from him. He always leaned in a bit too close.

Mohamed: Ah, you’ll have to let me borrow that sometime.

Josephine ignored him. He had seen her with the book a million times and still had to make small talk.

Mohamed: When will you accept my invitation to dinner, Josephine? How many times do I have to ask you?

Josephine: And how many times do I have to say “no”?

Mohamed: You act as if I am disgusting. I’m a handsome man.

Josephine: I’d like to maintain a professional relationship, Mohamed. Please don’t make me repeat myself.

Mohamed put his hands up, laughing as he stepped back.

Mohamed: Calm down, I am just doing what I know we both want. You’re frontin’ and I know it. You’ll come around.

Josephine rolled her eyes and went back to her reading.

Mohamed: Oh and can you actually do your job and get off that book?

“Retaliation” Josephine thought to herself. Every time she rejected him, he found a way to restrict her in some way. There was nobody around at the hotel and he found a problem with her reading.

Mohamed walked past Djibril and Mounasse, Josephine’s colleagues, on his way back to the main office.

Mohamed: Same old, same old. She won’t cave.

Djibril: She’s hard-headed. That girl has serious issues.

Mounasse: Mo, she’s playing hard to get. She acts like she doesn’t like the attention.

Mohamed: It’s just a matter of time but I will get her.

They laughed about the situation. This was a daily thing for them.

Bana: You should really do something about him.

Bana sat next to Josephine and witnessed the harassment every day.

Josephine: What can I do? I feel like a broken record telling him no and it still doesn’t work. He’s gonna do it again tomorrow.

Bana: I just feel like there has to be someone above him you can tell.

Josephine: Do you know his boss?

Bana: I mean, no.

Josephine: Exactly.

Bana: Tell him off. Something!

Josephine: And lose my job? Wakhal lenen [Tell me something else (sarcastically)].

Josephine felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. She needed a job to help her family out but she was getting increasingly frustrated with Mohamed’s advances. And all the other men around the hotel who didn’t know their place for that matter. She shrugged it off as a guest walked up to her.

Josephine: Bonjour, Monsieur. Bienvenue a La Terrasse. Comment puis-je vous aider?

Guest: Uh, I would like to check in. Do you speak English?

Josephine: Eh yes, Monsieur, I can help you. What is your name?

Josephine timidly helped the guest with her less-than-perfect English. She was getting better but there was still a long way to go. After helping him, she was relieved her next guest was a Wolof/French speaker.

Josephine: D’accord monsieur, votre chambre est la # 508. Tournez à droite dans ce couloir et prenez les ascenseurs. Utilisez la clé de votre chambre pour activer l’ascenseur. Si vous avez besoin de quelque chose, n’hésitez pas à composer le 0 sur le téléphone de votre chambre pour rejoindre la réception. Bon séjour et merci d’avoir choisi La Terrasse. [Okay Mister, your room is #508. Just take a right at this hallway and take the elevators. Use your room key to activate the elevator please. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to dial 0 on your room phone to reach reception. Have a nice stay and thank you for choosing La Terrasse.]

Josephine handed the guest his room key and nearly jumped when he grabbed her hand instead.

Guest: Quel numéro dois-je composer pour vous joindre? [What number do I dial to reach you?]

Josephine was in shock. She noticed his wedding band when he was filling out his guest intake form.

Josephine: Tegguil sa lokho (sternly) [Take your hand off of me].

Guest: Weuu yaw nii nguay wakhei ak clients yi? [Woah, is that how you treat your guests here]?

Josephine: Prochain client s’il vous plaît. Monsieur, excusez-moi. [Next guest please. Sir, excuse me].

The guest walked off, smiling and shaking his head. This wasn’t his first rodeo.

Josphine: Did you hear that, Bana?

Bana: I heard. I am just as shocked as you are.

Josephine was fed up. The rest of her shift left her infuriated as she thought about what she could do about the situation. She left the hotel that day feeling defeated. What was she going to do?

To be continued…

Articles/Resources about sexual harassment/violence against women in Senegal

Is Senegal Ready To Listen to Adolescent Girls?https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/10/25/senegal-ready-listen-adolescent-girls#

The Me Too movement was silent in Senegal. These women are trying to change thathttps://www.cnn.com/2018/12/19/africa/senegal-as-equals-intl/index.html

UN WOmen’s Global Database on Violence Against Women (Senegal report) https://evaw-global-database.unwomen.org/fr/countries/africa/senegal

Codou, the street vendor

Reading time: ~8 minutes

Every day, I wake up a 5 AM. I have to prep everything at home so I can be out with my husband. He’s a clando driver and drops me off on his way to picking up whoever his first client is that day. For me, it’s best when I catch the early commuters coming from – or to – Dakar so I can make the most sales. I sell mangoes. I have been doing it for almost 8 years and it is my “soutoura.” I don’t ask anybody for anything. I work and bring what I make to the house. My husband does the same and we live a modest, but honest life.

Fallou: Have a good day today, sweetheart.

Codou: You too, cherie!

People laugh at my husband and I for maintaining our youthful spirits! We rarely call each other by our names, pet names only, even when we’re arguing – that’s a rule! I met him when I was 23 (I’m 46 now) and we’ve been inseparable since. Our families didn’t particularly like each other but we didn’t care. We knew it was just a matter of time but they would eventually support our decision to get married. He’s 2 years older than me and my sister tried to convince me he wasn’t “old older enough” for me.

Codou: How much older should he be?

Mada: At least 5 years! Men are immature and he needs to be more established so he can provide for you.

Codou: Hmm, okay. I hear you.

Mada: I don’t need you to hear me. I need you to do what I’m telling you. Let this go before you get deeper in. He doesn’t even have a steady job… what’s he going to do for you?

Codou: Maybe you can get a boyfriend first and then tell me how to pick ’em. Haha! Guenal si souniou diguantei [stay out of our relationship].

My mom had her own concerns but she wasn’t as crude about it as my sister. My dad is my friend so he stepped in to defend me.

Yacine: Codou, have you really stopped to think about what you want to do? Garap boula soutoul doula may kerr [if a tree is not taller than you, it cannot provide you shade].

Codou: I know what you’re worried about but he is ambitious! As long as I’ve known him, he’s never been jobless. Okay, maybe he doesn’t have the most glamorous of jobs but we have time ahead of us! Don’t complicate this please.

Alhadji Modou: Yacine, you know she’s always been hard-headed but never stupid. Listen to the girl.

Codou: Thank you, Papa! I’m not a little girl anymore. Trust my judgment on this.

Yacine: Hmm, wakhou mak dafay goudei rek mais dou fanane alleu [It might be long time but you’ll eventually see what I’m telling you. An elder’s word might be late but never lost].

Alhadji Modou: Don’t say that, Yacine. Your prayers hit her directly so just pray for her.

I knew they all wanted what was best for me but at the end of the day, the happiness I feel when I’m with him is indescribable. So I didn’t care what anybody had to say around me. I had my mind made up. We got married.

The first couple of years in our marriage was tough – much like our dating experience. Just trying to make it work. We’ve tried all kinds of jobs – I’ve been a maid, a vendor at the local market, even a laundry woman for a few families. He’s always done odd jobs here and there on top of being a taxi driver to provide for us. About 5 years ago, he saved up enough to get a small car that he owns and has been driving clando ever since. This allowed him to have more freedom and make his own schedules instead of paying commission to any boss.

We have 3 beautiful children. Serigne Modou is 15, Sokhna is 11, and Anta is 10 (she was a surprise HA). They are children of love. We can’t provide them the material world and that will forever leave a gap in my heart. As a parent, you want to provide them every comfort of life. But, and this is a big BUT, we have provided them with a good education and a strong base. No matter where they end up in life, they will be successful. In today’s society, success has a narrow definition but there’s so much more to it. It’s important to remember that. Fallou and I have inculcated a strong moral code within each of them and that alone is priceless. My mom always has a little reservation left given that she was “right” about how he couldn’t provide me the material world either. I don’t see our relationship as a failure for a split second. He’s been the best husband and father anyone could pray for and that’s enough for me.

I could mushy on and on about my family and my background but I think when you see me in action, at work, you’ll get a clearer picture of who is Codou! Follow me!

Codou: Sokhna si, lo waxx si mango yi? [Sir, how about some mangoes?]

Buyer: They’re beautiful. Niata [How much]?

Codou: Dieuleul ma defal la prix bou baakh. [Take what you want and I’ll give you a good price].

Buyer: I’d like 4 of them.

Codou: Take 5! 4’s not a good number! That’s how many wives our husbands claim they can have, sis. Stay away from that number!

Her husband laughed at my comment and shook his head. They were a young couple. I laugh as I brush the sound of the word “four” off of my ears! It’s bad luck!

Buyer: Haha! You’re right deh! Wa okay, make it 5 then.

Codou. There you go. See, life isn’t so hard. Gimme 2.000 rek.

Buyer: Shiii sokhna si, that’s expensive deh!

Codou: I swear it’s a good price. They’re big mangoes and I guarantee you’ve never had a better mango!

Buyer: Hmm, that’s what you all say!

Codou: You have my word.

Buyer: And if they’re not good?

Codou: Like I said, you have nothing to worry about! Na ress ak diam [bon appetit]!

I kept this up with every customer I encountered throughout the day, just like every other day. 7 days a week, more than 12 hours a day. I keep a smile on my face and joke with every customer. In my 8 years of doing this, and even with previous jobs I had, I learned that there is reality and then there is fantasy. But when you learn to be grateful and gracious about the hand that you’ve been dealt, the two start to merge. No matter what I encounter in life, I accept it as part of Allah’s bigger plan for me and I haven’t been disappointed yet. Many look at me and feel sorry for me but I can’t tell you how many cars have pulled up next to me and I could just feel the tension between the husband that’s driving and the wife that’s picking out mangos. Something simple as picking out mangos becomes a point of conflict and I in turn feel sorry for them. This is why I joke and try to lighten the mood. I don’t know what battles my customers are facing but I try to be a reminder that there is a silver lining in every situation and life isn’t so serious.

Codou: Today was a good day baby!

Fallou: Oh yeah? Kone deh dangua mako walleu [You must have rubbed off on me then]!

Codou: Let’s check our progress.

Fallou: Before that, I have a surprise for you.

This wasn’t anything new coming from him. He always brought me little gifts and I still act surprised each time.

Fallou: Close your eyes hun.

I closed my eyes and smiled in anticipation of what the surprise would be. Just then, I felt Fallou’s hands hover over my head and a cold object touch my neck. He clasps it on and turns me around.

Fallou: Okay, open your eyes.

He held up a small mirror in front of me and I was greeted with a beautiful gold necklace around my neck.

Codou: Woah! What is this?

I couldn’t help but smile.

Fallou: Just a little something I picked up after work today.

As quickly as I was basking in my happiness, I remembered our plans to finish building a new, better house, and how we had been saving up for close to 2 years now for it.

Codou: GOLD!? Honey, I really appreciate this, I do, but you know we have other plans lined up. How can you afford this?

Fallou: Yaw do nopi? [You be quiet (jokingly)]. I have my ways.

Codou: Tell me.

Fallou: Listen, our plans are still intact and on track. And we’ve saved up enough to finish the house. All that’s left is furniture and we’ll get there. But you know we’ve both been working so hard, we need to enjoy a little.

Codou: Okay, you said WE. Not just ME!

Fallou: Cherie, I have been saving up for this for some time now. I didn’t take anything from the money we’ve been putting away. It’s my personal gift to you. l’Honneur ne se refuse pas!

Codou: Waw, lolou yepp deug la mais- [Yes, that’s true but-]

Fallou: Amoul mais. Damakay dello deh! [There’s no but. You want me to return it]?

I immediately shut up!

Codou: Haha, no! I just don’t want to add another burden to your already hectic work. You’re tired.

We both paused for a second and stared at each other. 23 years with this man and he still amazes me. He’s much more quiet than I am. So focused. So driven. And always keeps his word. I wasn’t as happy about the necklace as I was about my luck in having a life partner who could stop and enjoy life with me.

Fallou: Never tired.

Codou: Hmm, never tired huh?

I smiled slyly as I slowly walked towards him, licking my lips.

Codou: Door, fayou lasi kham 😉 [Now you know I believe in payback]!

Ahem, the rest of this, you’ll have to excuse us for. We’ll catch up another time… mais boulen fatei ni kou KOU KHEBOUL SA NOSS KENN DAKHOULA NOSS [If you don’t underestimate how blessed you are, nobody is more blessed than you].

The Brave Women fighting FGM

I remember in college I had a term-paper that I procrastinated on for weeks and weeks. The day before it was due, I started it… I know, bad decision-making. I knew what the topic would be and I met every deadline prior to the due date: topic submission, argument and main points, and even my sources to be used. I just didn’t do the actual essay until the night before and I ended up spilling out my passion about female genital mutilation (FGM). It’s a daunting topic and I was filled with rage when I read through my sources and did online research – the more I learned, the more upset I became. It’s a topic near and dear to me, even though I never experienced it or came face-to-face with it. To accompany my research and opinions, I wanted to interview someone who was a little more familiar with it. Keep on reading to hear about Bintou and her experience with FGM.

**Hey girl! Can you give us a little intro… who is Bintou?**

I am recently married, living in Cincinnati, OH. My dad is from Mali and my mom is from Ivory Coast. I was born in the Bronx, NY, raised in Cincinnati. I’ve been to Mali once in 2014 (I’ll talk a little bit more about that experience later on). I am the oldest of 7, with another on the way (welcome to African households haha). Currently, I am going to school for International Relations and running own lip care brand.

A little bit about my family’s background, specifically my mom. She was the youngest and none of the girls in her family went to school because they were told being educated is not good. When she could actually go to school, she was 11 in the midst of a lot of little kids so she just stopped going. That kind of dynamic, not just restricted to my mother but Africans overall, contributes to a lot of the beliefs they grow up with.

**What was your first introduction to FGM?**

The topic first came in 2014 when I went to Mali with my mom. One of oldest cousins asked my mom if she had circumcised her girls. She tried to convince her that she could do it but my mom refused (logical reasons as we were too old, check ups with doctors when we’re back in the US, etc.). This made me upset because I was 15 – imagine someone cutting your clitoris off at 15! The sad thing is a lot my fiends that grew up in Africa underwent this procedure and they tell me about how terrible it is and it was against their will. It was nothing new to me but I put it in the back of my mind. It’s just a reality – like my friends tell me about their experiences and how they can’t feel pleasure during intercourse.

**What do you think some of the negative impacts of this practice are?**

This practice is generally against your will (violation of human rights). There is psychological trauma associated; a friend of mine was cut at age 10 even though she was born here and when she came back from Mali, it just impacted her negatively, she was having trouble using the bathroom and other hygienic issues. Overall, the consequences of FGM are life-long and far-reaching. It’s a practice imposed on young girls and the decision of someone else is what they have to live with for the rest of their lives.

**What can we do to educate folks and eradicate this transition?**

A lot of the women back home are not properly educated – they’re not going out to look for their own information – even religion, they were just taught and it usually came from men – the narrative is like "you do this or you go to hell." – they don’t know their rights or their worth. There is a lack of education.

FGM is a practice that’s still very prevalent back home. There are groups trying to eradicate, mainly feminists and non-profit organizations fighting for regulations around it are making it stricter – but it’s definitely still happening in the villages – women in villages only really go to hospital during childbirth so it’s hard to know what they’re up to.

I think the First Ladies of our countries should take a stance as women are primarily the victims. The problem is that the policies are not there for the people, they only serve the interest of the people in positions of power. In my opinion, one way to reach people could be through commercials; they are a good way to get information to people. What’s needed is education and awareness. This might seem trivial but Whatsapp is huge and a great tool we could leverage. A lot of our African parents use this application and the same way people stopped using Maggi/Jumbo spices due to alerts and warnings, we can do the same for FGM.

————-

I want to thank Bintou for her time and for sharing her experience with us! FGM is not an easy subject to talk about and there’s always another story to be heard, unfortunately. Below, are the stories of women fighting against FGM as well as some facts about FGM. Happy Reading!

Their Stories

Mariama Djarama Jo: Senegal

Mariama is a community social worker and activist. She comes from a family of circumcisers, and is a victim of FGM herself. She has decided to not cut her daughters and is convincing others in her community to do the same. FGM is banned in Senegal but is still practiced in Senegal, particularly in the South (Up to 85 percent of women and girls have undergone FGM).

Purity Soinato Oiyie,”The First of Her Kind”: Kenya

Purity was set to be circumcised at the age of 10/11, a decision made by her father. She was also set to become a fifth wive to a 70 year old man. After informing her teacher, who informed the policy, Purity was taken away just hours before her ceremony. She was the first girl in her village to say no to this dangerous practice. During her 8 year stay at a rescue center in Narok Town, Kenya, her mother suffered abuse at the hands of her father, who blamed her for the escape of their daughter. She has since set up a foundation called Silan, aimed at educating young girls, and boys, about the dangers of FGM and empowering everyone to say “NO!” Purity says that women “do not have to beg for women’s rights. Being women, we deserve this right. It’s ours.”

Jaha Dukureh: The Gambia

Renowned activist, UN Women Ambassador for Africa, a mother and a survivor of FGM. Jaha traveled to NYC at the age of 15 to marry a man she had never met before. She went through Type 3 FGM (see the types in the facts section). Jaha has had a long journey of speaking out against FGM, taking a stance to not cut her daughters, and even contributing to the legislation passed by her birth country to ban FGM practices.

Elizabeth Thomas Mniko, Safe in Serengeti: Tanzania

“After the December rains on even numbered years, traditional leaders and village elders gather to consult traditional circumcisers called Ngaribas and their gods on the best date to do the cuts.” At the tender age of 17, Elizabeth takes extra classes and serves as the Head Girl at the safe house in Serengeti, Tanzania, where she fled to escape FGM. She wishes to become a lawyer one day so she can speak on behalf of all victims of FGM and prevent new cases. She recognizes the immense strength and bravery it takes to “leave your entire world behind” and that is what fuels her every day to make a difference in the lives of young girls just like her.

Go Elizabeth!!

———

Facts about FGM

Prevalence:

  • More than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM.
  • An estimated 3 million girls are still at risk, every single year.
  • The majority of girls are cut before they turn 15 years old.

Types:

The type of procedure performed also varies, mainly with ethnicity. Current estimates (from surveys of women older than 15 years old) indicate that around 90% of female genital mutilation cases include either

  • Types I: mainly clitoridectomy (surgical removal, reduction, or partial removal of the clitoris)
  • Type II: Excision
  • Type III: Infibulation (makes up about 10% or 8 million women). This is the most severe form of FGM and is mostly practiced in the north-eastern region of Africa.
  • Type IV: Nicking without flesh removed

Repercussions:

No health benefits, only harm!!!

It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.

Immediate complications can include: 

  • severe pain
  • excessive bleeding (haemorrhage)
  • genital tissue swelling
  • fever
  • infections e.g., tetanus
  • urinary problems
  • wound healing problems
  • injury to surrounding genital tissue
  • shock
  • death.

Long-term consequences can include:

  • urinary problems (painful urination, urinary tract infections);
  • vaginal problems (discharge, itching, bacterial vaginosis and other infections);
  • menstrual problems (painful menstruations, difficulty in passing menstrual blood, etc.);
  • scar tissue and keloid;
  • sexual problems (pain during intercourse, decreased satisfaction, etc.);
  • increased risk of childbirth complications (difficult delivery, excessive bleeding, caesarean section, need to resuscitate the baby, etc.) and newborn deaths; 
  • need for later surgeries: for example, the FGM procedure that seals or narrows a vaginal opening (type 3) needs to be cut open later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth (deinfibulation). Sometimes genital tissue is stitched again several times, including after childbirth, hence the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures, further increasing both immediate and long-term risks;
  • psychological problems (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, etc.);
  • health complications of female genital mutilation.

Cultural and social factors for performing FGM

The reasons why female genital mutilations are performed vary from one region to another as well as over time, and include a mix of sociocultural factors within families and communities. The most commonly cited reasons are:

  • The fear of not conforming – these are cases where FGM is considered the social norm. In these communities, FGM is almost universally performed and unquestioned. 
  • FGM being considered one of the paths to womanhood and preparation for marriage.
  • Ensuring premarital virginity and marital fidelity. Reduce libido!
  • Increases marriageability.
  • FGM associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are clean and beautiful after removal of body parts that are considered unclean, unfeminine or male. 
  • Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support. 

Sources

World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/prevalence/en/

Survivors speak: Women leading the movement to end FGM https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2019/2/compilation-women-leading-the-movement-to-end-female-genital-mutilation