Story of Fati Gambo"
from our TurtleWill Mission, Niger
Fati Gambo had been waiting at the Tuareg village of Tamazalak, Niger for two days to meet me. She had a baby at her breast and another 3 year old running in circles around her feet.
Fati had completed her training in computer and secretarial skills, and having heard that I might be opening an office in Agadez for TurtleWill, she wanted desperately to work for me. She had just traveled two days on a donkey with her children to Tamazalak to wait for my arrival.
When I explained that I wouldnt be opening an office in Agadez because TurtleWill projects all took place in the bush, like the Womens Basketry Cooperative at Tamazalak that we were there to visit. Fati promptly announced that she had other skills as well. She could teach the women how to use a sewing machine, how to knit, even how to read and write!
The Director Alhousseini confirmed that these seemed like great opportunities. The women could make clothes for themselves as well as sell them to others. The knitting would also be really useful. A cold spell that winter had given all the children respiratory infections because they had nothing warm to wear. As for reading and writing classes, we should ask the women.
At camp that night we all agreed that they were excellent ideas, but the ultimate decisions would be up to the Tamazalak women whom we would see the next day.
The next morning we stopped first at the new local Dispensary which the government had just built for Tamazalak. The Nurse in charge told me that they needed a Midwife to help them with their female patients. Perhaps we could find one in the community?
here we went on to the schoolhouse. Waiting for us were the Director and
a few other important male members of the community. Fati Gambo and Ghayha
Abardak, the President of the Basketry Cooperative, soon arrived with
several other women. I proposed Fatis Sewing and Knitting Workshop
and they all loved it. I explained that TurtleWill would fund the machines
and the first round of materials, but after that they would have to purchase
all materials themselves. They agreed.
Next we discussed Fatis proposal to teach them to read and write. There was a hearty response including requests to bring their children to class who werent doing so well in school. Kawela Amoumoune announced that she should teach the reading and writing because she had previously done this at Tamazalak. Everyone confirmed. They also readily agreed to instruction on family and household hygiene, another one of Fatis offerings. Such wise women.
The last question was if there were anyone at Tamazalak to do the Midwife training program at the hospital in Agadez. Fatima Abardak was immediately elected.
As a final comment, I told them that I wanted them all to take a good look at Fati Gambo, because it was due to her courage and absolute insistence upon seeing me that all these projects were happening. Fati had come looking for a job for herself and had ended up benefiting a host of people. My point was not just that they should thank her, but that they should learn from her example, that anyone of them could accomplish what she had in mind, just like Fati Gambo. Ghayha responded saying that they had already gained a new sense of self and security thanks to the Basketry Cooperative and the money they were each able to make. With that they all stood up and prepared to walk out.
Do you see that!, Director Alhousseini said. According to our tradition if a
woman is seated among men, she is never allowed to stand up to leave if the men are still seated. She must wait, even all afternoon if necessary and even if the children are starving at home, until the men stand up and thus give her permission to leave. And now, right here, all our women have just stood up on their own without our permission and are leaving!
There was a mixture of both amusement and admiration as he said this. Clearly the Tamazalak women had reached a new level of empowerment.
Fati Gambo concluded by saying that she had come all that way desperately looking for a job for herself and now she was going to be helping a lot of other women. This meant so much to her, she didnt care if she didnt get paid at all.
The Sewing and Knitting Workshop was launched with 35 women enrolled in a 3 month program. The total cost of the Workshop including materials and salaries was $1600. The Midwife Training Program in Agadez for Fatima Abardak cost $185. Kawela Moumounanes 3-month adult education class cost $250.
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