Models of women

Despite the obstacles set by tradition between Senegalese women and the labor market, new models of femininity arise. Along with the traditional woman (young wife, mother of a large number of children and housewife) more and more professional women are to be seen. Young people with aspirations beyond their family house and with the support of their family.

LUNA VIVES / PATRICIA GARCÍA

Women education is a big challenge in the country: according to the United Nations Development Programme, in 2007 more than half the men (52.3%) could read, while only one third of women (33 %) was in the same situation.

The situation is particularly serious in rural areas of Senegal. In the cities, school enrollment rates of girls and young women are higher, and a small but growing number of them decides to continue in secondary education. That, of course, if the family supports this decision and can afford an education, because scholarships are scarce and do not often reach the beneficiaries, resulting in strikes and disruptions of classes that can last months.

The most ambitious young people want a scholarship to go abroad. Khady, daughter of a Senegalese immigrant who lives in Spain, is the first of her class in the High School JF Kennedy. Recently, her bright marks have made her won a scholarship to continue studying in Paris. The French government (which until 1959 was the colonial power) is the most generous so far with this type of program.

Khady, 18, wants to be a journalist. She says that when she finishes school, she plans to return to Senegal to work in this profession and expose government abuses of power. “We need people to go, study and come back to change this country.”

Other countries like Canada, USA and Spain also offer programs and scholarships for the brightest students. The Government of the Canary Islands, for example, has greatly improved this type of projects.

Sokhna, a journalist and mother of two children, living now in Madrid, received a scholarship from the AECID (Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation) for a specialization course. Her experience, she says, was good, although she met, even in college, a lot of prejudice against Africa and Africans. “My teacher always insisted, each day in class before the rest of the students, that I was very lucky to be in Spain, in a prestigious university with a government scholarship. And he was right, but one day I got tired and said, ‘You know what? That is true, but you are also very lucky to have me here, because without me you would have a different perspective, a perspective from Africa without the filter of the mainstream media, who handle everything that comes from the continent.’ And the trutht is that here in Spain people know nothing about Africa and usually have no interest.”

These are the words, and experiences of a new type of Senegalese women: ambitious, hardworking and critical with the models of femininity that tradition dictates in their country.

In the picture, Senegalese rapper Lil Rawan poses with two of his sisters. One of them, in the background, ready to cook thieboudienne, a typical female task that takes hours. Next to Rawan, the other sister is doing her high school homework, showing another alternative more and more wanted by women: professional women who work outside their house.

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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