Isabelle’s Chronicles- The First Weeks at ApiAfrique
Thank you all for accompanying me on this journey- my children for accepting me, my friends for being so understanding, and my family for encouraging me. Thank you for giving me this energy and love. I take you with me.
ApiAfrique was created 4 years ago by Marina (who is French) and Abdoulaye, her Senegalese husband. The idea came from France, and it was obvious that the concept could be implemented in Senegal, where everything would make sense. This solidarity company manufactures and markets washable diapers and feminine products. Yes I know… It’s not very glamorous, but the products are! They are colored, organic, and all in all very nice. A little look in the store ?
First of all, the goal is to create jobs, especially for women, declared and paid, the first step towards an economic independence which is clearly lacking. Then, the objective is ecological, as the disposable versions of these products produce 1 to 2 tons of non-recyclable waste (50 chemical products that take about 450 years to degrade). And finally, last but not least, ApiAfrique also conducts training and informational programs for women on subjects that affect them closely.
The company has grown rapidly, from 5 seamstresses to 25 in only 3 years. So from a craft structure, it became an actual business. The type of management necessary for a craft business could no longer be applied and the shift was difficult, particularly in terms of purchasing and stock management…which is why I’m here.
Compared to my previous trip to Senegal, everything is different. Most notably, the climate. I arrived at the end of the Hivernage, which is the rainy season. And indeed, big torrential rains fall on the country quite regularly. I had never seen rain like that in Senegal, nor all this greenery, luscious trees, these lianas and flowers…. I am spoiled! But the heat! This heat wave is very difficult to bear. 32° with 95% humidity is a feeling of about 38°! Strangely, however, there are less mosquitos here than in Chanas! My accommodation too… A real room with a real bed and even air conditioning! Hallelujah! A real bathroom and toilets with running water too…. unfortunately there is no hot water, but that doesn’t matter (for the moment). A kitchen with a fridge, gas stove, and microwave! Lucky me! During the weekdays, I share the other rooms (living room, offices) with the administrative staff of ApiAfrique. But in the evening and on weekends, I am at home in a large, well-equipped and well-located apartment (500 m from the ocean). I even have a beautiful 100 m2 covered terrace.
The young women (they are between 19 and 30 years old – the last picture) with whom I work are truly beautiful and genuinely dedicated to Marina and ApiAfrique. When Marina returned from her trip, they celebrated in their own way, singing and dancing! A real show in the middle of the day. They are so spontaneous and always laughing, so much so that sometimes just tapping a rhythm on a table with 2 pens makes them jump out of their seats to dance. I must admit that I love it….
I’ve been working here for 3 weeks now, and even in that short time, a special bond has formed with the young women I train (there are 3 or 4 of them)… They know, I think, that I will answer almost all their questions, so they speak about any and all subjects in their life… One of the most common? Contraception! The second? Mothers-in-law! On this occasion, I capture bits of personal stories and dramas too…. Most of them are married and have children, and if you dig a little, you learn that they are the only ones to financially support their whole family.
Some voluntarily decide to be the 2nd wife because it is less constraining. They are not obliged to participate in all the ceremonies, to take care of their in-laws and thus to be under the control of their mother-in-law (yes, here she comes again!). Others still cannot find a Senegalese husband who will renounce polygamy and accept that they work, so they prefer to remain single.
I move around on weekends whenever I can. First, I travelled to Toubab Diallow where I met up with Paco, whom I had met during my first trip. He has a big house on the heights, with a view of the sea and glowing sunsets.
What a joy to see him again! We spent the evening in a bar at the edge of the beach with our feet in the water, and in the evening, the tide rises and the waves submerge the terrace. My chair sinks 20 cm brutally in the sand but I stay, my buttocks and honor dry!
The next weekend I decided to visit La Somone, an interlacing of canals which gave life to a whole natural park made of brackish water and mangroves.
On this occasion, I got to know Mamadou, a cab driver who also served as my guide.
The visit was magnificent. We saw flights of White Pelicans, egrets, terns, and gulls, as well as great blue herons who would take their flight softly and so closely that we could almost touch them… they weren’t shy at all.
The place where I live, above ApiAfrique’s workshop, is located in Ngaparou, a small and quiet fishermen’s town, at the crossroads of Somone, Mbour, and Saly. This last resort is very touristic and is the den of expats, but Covid has struck here too and there are far fewer of them. But in the evening, in the trendy bars or clubs, there is always the same scene of young and beautiful women, very made up and very short dressed, surrounding wrinkled, bald and paunchy Westerners.
My « girls » seem to me more courageous and determined than ever. For the moment, outside the company, they naturally take me under their wings. For example, they took me to see an exorcism in the center of the village. It is an incredible gathering on the main square. And in the center, the family and friends, in festive costumes, to the sound of the heady drum of a group led by a shaman, go dancing, one after the other or all together, surrounding their son or grandson, their brother or nephew, to help the one who is possessed. Stronger and stronger, faster and faster…. It lasts 3 days and nights!
Love to you. Take care of yourself.