Jeanne d’Arc Ballo is a Malian entrepreneur who lives in Bamako. She is the operational coordinator of the network projects “Women of the World: a network for the social, political and economic empowerment of women and girls in the commune of Dialakolodji”. She is also a facilitator of the NGO ORFED (Organisation pour la Réflexion, la Formation et l’Education à la Démocratie et au Développement), a member of RENAPESS (Réseau National pour la Promotion de l’Economie Sociale et Sociale) and affiliated to RAESS (Réseau Africaine pour l’Economie Sociale et Sociale).
Jeanne d’Arc, could you tell us about your organization?
The ORFED association, of which I am a member, works mainly on training and capacity building for women and girls in vulnerable situations in urban/peri-urban and rural working-class neighborhoods.
In order to accompany these women’s collectives, we have set up intervention logics based on the principles of SSE with an intersectional gender perspective.
In which zone do you intervene?
We intervene in the area of DIALAKORODJI / Commune I in the district of Bamako. This is a zone that shelters women in vulnerable situations, who are not in school. They are organized in associations (Sutura and Kotogontola) and we train them in income-generating activities (IGA) and social and solidarity economy. This technical training is complemented (thanks to the participation of the associations in the FDM network), by the integration of the gender perspective in the SSE tools that allow the initiatives of women in the collectives to be real vectors of transformation for the improvement of their quality of life.
Can you tell us more about how your work is organized?
We work mainly in three areas.
The first axis is the implementation of an economic and social activity to promote the empowerment of these women. This is the logical continuation of our actions, after the literacy training with a gender perspective and the granting of a credit fund. We therefore work in the processing of seasonal products and vegetables. Today, the two women’s associations of Dialakorodji have been initiated to the transformation of products such as tomatoes in sauce which can be conditioned for one year. In addition to tomato sauce production, they also produce peanut paste and liquid soap.
The second axis is the management of a credit fund. To help the program participants to sustain their economic activity, we have introduced them to credit management with the help of a national language facilitator. Since 2010, following a preliminary study in which they participated as part of the FDM network, we have adopted the economic model of social and solidarity economy to create not only solidarity between the women of two associations but also to create a climate of understanding and cohesion. This work of promoting SSE is also part of the broader project of RENAPESS and RAESS of which we are a member.
The third axis is literacy with a gender perspective. At this level we have undertaken the process of awareness-raising in SSE with intersectional gender perspective by initially focusing on literacy with a gender perspective, since about 75% of women from these localities are illiterate. The training modules used are approaches in their national language to enable them to better master tools such as cash flow, association management …). The tools mobilized for the literacy courses are taken from the pedagogical guide on literacy with a gender perspective produced within the “Women of the World” network. They are participatory tools from popular education that allow the learners, to understand the world around them and to position themselves as citizens.
Tell us a little about the tomato: what is the impact of your project on the financial and social situation of these women?
This activity was set up by a “Femmes du Monde” fund through financing from the Luxembourg embassy to support the empowerment of women.
The analysis of the results allows us to see that there has been an improvement in the economic situation of women, because the income from tomatoes has allowed us to diversify our activities. Women were also initiated in the processing of peanut paste and making liquid soap. However, it was planned to train the women in market gardening, focusing on tomato planting, harvesting, and processing to have a finished the finished product.
How have your activities been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has considerably affected the activities of our women’s associations, as the various meetings within the association were suspended to comply with the measures taken by the authorities. We therefore suffer from a lack of communication which makes our work difficult.
We are coming to the end of this interview, what is your last word for this project?
Women are the source of all development, and their fulfillment allows the well-being of the whole family. We always ask for technical support such as literacy training and techniques for processing local products as well as financial support to create economic and social activities that benefit women.