In the market

“It takes a couple of hours to get from Dakar to my village. First, you take a sept places (a share taxi) to Thies, then a ndiaga ndiaye (minibus). When you arrive at the station, ask for my father. And do not forget to drop by the market, my mother has a grocery store right next to where the women sell fish, they are my sisters, you know, women with whom I have grown, although we are not from the same family as you say here in Spain.”


Maimouna came to Spain a few years ago as seosonal worker to pick strawberries in Huelva. Like most women (90%) who came as seosonal workers between 2006 and 2008, she decided to stay when her contract finished. She became an immigrant “without papers” (without a stay permit) and today, more than two years later, she is surviving on aid from her countrymen.

In Senegal, Maimouna worked in the informal sector. Her village is located in one of the areas most affected by the droughts of the 70s and 80s, that rocked one of the key sectors of Senegalese economy: peanuts. Successive crises resulting from structural adjustment programs imposed by the IMF and the World Bank, along with a growing weakness in the agricultural sector, plunged the village of Maimouna and the entire country in a situation of poverty previously unknown.

Foto de Luna Vives.

Many villagers left to the big city, Dakar, causing an uncontrolled growth of the neighborhoods of the periphery: Guediawaye, Yembeul, Pikine, Thiaroye, Rufisque … In a country where 40% of the working population is unemployed and 60% of those who work are employed in the informal sector, these neighborhoods have the highest rates of unemployment and unregistered work. Those suffering the most from this situation are youth, women and those with a secondary education.

Unemployment rate in the countryside is lower than in cities, but that does not make life easier. Before emigrating, Maimouna worked with her mother and sisters in the village market selling foodstuffs. This is one of the few working sectors accessible to women, offering low but sufficient pay to supplement other incomes the family may have.

Like Maimouna, many women in Senegal buy agricultural products and resell them in markets, on the streets of towns and cities or on busy roads in the country. In other cases, women open small businesses for goods imported from nearby countries such as Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali and

Mauritania: mobile phones, textiles, fruits or soap, among other things, that can give a small profit .

These businesses often remain within the family. Since fishing is one of the major industries of the country, it is common for men to fish and women to process and sale the fish.

This is the case of the women in this picture portrayed in the market for Sedhiou (Casamance), a photograph that is part of the exhibition “Women and Borders.”

Javier Acebal

About the author: Javier Acebal

I'm a photographer based in Dakar (West Africa). I love to document cultures and people! (but also working for tourism industry).

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