Ambassador Tulinabo Mushingi Remarks
USAID Suxali Jigeen launch
July 9th, 2018
Monsieur le Préfet du Département de Thiès,
Messieurs les Sous-préfets,
Monsieur le Représentant du Khalife Général de Thiénaba,
Messieurs les Maires et Haut Conseillers départementaux,
Messieurs les chefs de village,
It is a pleasure to be here with you today, and to learn more about what this amazing group of women – l’Association Rurale de Lutte Contre le Sida – has been able to accomplish.
I have been impressed by the passion that they have, and by their vision of making Senegalese society fairer, more equal, and more inclusive.
This was no easy task.
When they started, many people thought it was impossible. But I’m reminded of what Nelson Mandela said as he worked to reshape South Africa and make it more equal and more inclusive: It always seems impossible until it’s done.
From the start, the Association focused on supporting women to help make their lives better.
At first, it was helping women living with HIV returning to the community.
But soon they were addressing other issues facing women across the region. Things like access to land, credit, education, health care, and political representation.
They knew they needed to have a voice that could reach women in both towns and rural areas. So with the help of USAID, they started the first community radio station in Senegal staffed and managed by women.
The station was soon covering an array of topics, and advocating for positive change.
It now reaches more than 150,000 people and is an important source of information for both the women and men in Thiès and Diourbel. And it is having a real impact.
With information and insight from the station’s programs, women across the two regions are coming together to change things.
For example, in schools, they have created their own “Mother-Teacher Associations” to complement more traditional, male-dominated parent-teacher groups.
Women are also finding the information, confidence, and experience they need to run for office. And people in the community are able to make informed choices. As a result, more and more women are being elected, some of whom are with us here today.
The station also has been changing men’s attitudes. Men are now more likely to accompany their wives to health districts and to be part of family planning.
But along with access to information, the Association knew that the other key to empowerment was financial independence.
To support this, the group began offering small, micro-credit loans for women to use in the way they determined to be the best. It meant they could invest in things like producing more poultry, mangoes, millet, salt or couscous. Or they could use the money for school fees or health insurance. The point is that it was their choice. They decided. They were empowered to map their own future.
Thanks to the work of the Association, women in Thiès and Diourbel now have more access to land, health care, increased money, and political systems.
But there is still a lot of work to do. Today we are here to celebrate the launch of Suxali Jigeen (SOAK-hah-lee JEE-gen), which will build on these successes and continue to address barriers to women’s leadership.
Suxali Jigeen will significantly scale-up loan amounts, making more money available for women to invest. Boosting investment will continue to empower women and bolster the economy. It will help the region grow and make a fairer, more equal, and more inclusive society.
The goal is to replicate this model across Senegal. And that is already happening. USAID is supporting the Santa Yalla Regional Union in Zinguichor, which has a network of community-based radio stations promoting peace and development in the Casamance. And more and more women’s groups are coming to Thiènaba to learn from the Association.
A few years ago, some might have thought this was impossible. But it’s not. And the women of l’Association Rurale de Lutte Contre le Sida will be the first ones to show them how it’s done.
I wish them every success in this next phase of their work and look forward to seeing all that they accomplish.