THE 99 WOMEN PROJECT in SENEGAL: a project that makes vulnerable women entrepreneurs visible

THE 99 WOMEN PROJECT in SENEGAL: a project that makes vulnerable women entrepreneurs visible

28 July 2023

The play tour of the 99 FEMMES SENEGAL project in Casamance has just come to an end!

It provided a unique and ambitious opportunity for the rural women entrepreneurs supported there by Entrepreneurs du Monde to express and showcase their successes, their participation in the economy and their desire to bring about vital changes in society.

This collaborative project between the 99 Project and Entrepreneurs du Monde took place in 4 stages between July 2022 and June 2023.

Stage 1: gathering oral testimonies

Between 20 July and 2 August 2022, workshops were run by the 99 Project to collect the testimonies of 70 women to raise awareness and recognition of who they are and what they are already doing, as well as their dreams and challenges.

Their stories covered education, poverty, regrets about leaving school early, forced marriages, the people who helped or hindered them, family inheritance, widowhood, divorce, violence, customs and traditions, what triggered their desire to start a small business, the difficulties they had to overcome, their successes and their ambition.

All the life stories collected during this phase were transcribed verbatim and compiled in a document that was then used to write the play.

Stage 2: transforming verbatims into acting monologues

Between October and December 2022, urban women from the Dakar and Ziguinchor regions wrote the monologues that serve as the text for the play. They were able to immerse themselves in these testimonies to give voice to what affects them. These writing workshops provided a unique opportunity for these women to gain an insight into the experiences of their counterparts living in rural areas.

Stage 3: writing the play

In March 2023, 8 women wrote a multilingual play based on these monologues, accessible to all. This work brought about a significant transformation in the participants, who gradually gained the confidence to express their stories with talent.

Then, 3 professional actresses joined the team to read the play. The whole team was moved to see the extent to which these actresses were moved by these testimonies, which expressed realities with which they were very familiar. From the very first reading, they put their heart and soul into the play, becoming the voices and spokespersons for these women.

Stage 4: touring the show

The play was performed 5 times between mid-June and mid-July 2023 in Casamance. Initially, the tour was due to take place in May, but political unrest triggered violent demonstrations, creating a climate of insecurity in the evenings, and the tour had to be postponed for a month, with the fear of suffering the first rains of the season. After the show, a debate was held to give the audience the opportunity to express their feelings about the play and share what resonated in their lives and their desire for change.

Continuation of the project: awareness-raising training and distribution of a documentary

All stages of the project were filmed to create a 26 minute documentary, from the point of view of 4 women entrepreneurs who are representative of the women who took part in the project. This documentary will be a key tool in the continuation of the project, which will continue to sow the seeds of recognition for these women, by enabling the Entrepreneurs du Monde teams to develop awareness-raising training, particularly for the beneficiaries of Fansoto.

It will then be distributed in France and Senegal. A number of performance dates have already been scheduled:

  • 21 October – Rufisque: presentation of the play by the MAMA AFRICA troupe at the Centre Maurice Gueye in Rufisque
  • October – Saint Louis: presentation of the play at the Institut Français, as part of the Forum Exclusively Féminin
  • 7 November – Lyon: Presentation of the documentary at the Hôtel de Ville
  • 27 February – Paris: Presentation of the documentary at Sisley
  • March 2024 – Saint-Louis: Presentation of the documentary as part of the Saint Louis 2024 Film Festival
  • March-May 2024 – Casamance: Presentation of the documentary in all the villages where we are active in Casamance

Impacts of the project

The project contributes to the empowerment of women through 5 levers:

  • Community: it promotes women’s expression, recognition and participation in decision-making and change, in the villages. Encouraging the sharing of experiences, strengthening solidarity between women and the feeling of belonging to a network of mutual aid and resources. Encourage meetings, action and leadership.
  • Economic: it promotes the work of rural women, their potential and their contribution to the country’s wealth. It also helps some women to take their business to the next level, by building bridges with women entrepreneurs in the towns involved in the project.
  • Cultural: it helps to change attitudes by bringing the voice of women to a wide and varied audience, through theatre and video. It improves understanding and cooperation between women of different ethnicities, castes and religions, and between rural and urban women.
  • Educational: it improves and its content helps to create training modules that respond perfectly to the needs expressed by women.

Thank you to our partners Axa Senegal, the Anber Foundation and the Sisley-d’Ornano Foundation, without whom this project would not have been possible!

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