Meet Senegal’s Mother of the Forgotten
Meet Awa Diba, a champion for children’s rights in Senegal.
Awa Diba speaks to us in her home, where she has welcomed countless underprivileged children.
Awa Diba is one of the unsung heroes of our world, so today we’d like to take the time to sing her praises. Penny Appeal have been working alongside Awa Diba and a group of amazing women volunteers as part of our ‘Forgotten Children’ appeal in Senegal.
In Senegal’s capital, Dakar, it’s estimated that nearly 50,000 children spend their days begging on the streets, and 90% of these children are boys known as ‘talibés’ from local ‘Daraas’, which are Koranic schools in the area.
Children are sent to these Koranic schools to learn the Qur’an and be looked after by the Koranic masters there, but without a formal education or use of a proper curriculum, many children remain illiterate and face a life of poverty and vulnerability when they leave the Daraas. These schools often offer very harsh living conditions, inadequate access to healthcare and very meagre food portions, so children are forced to beg on the streets to provide for themselves.
In partnership with United Purpose, our Forgotten Children appeal is working in Senegal to help support and care for 100 vulnerable talibe childreby raising awareness of their rights within the Daraas, providing them with a holistic education, improving their living conditions, supplying them with proper healthcare and creating a safe space for the children to play and socialise.
One of the talibe boys smiles in excitement at our fun Circus Skills Workshop.
We have leaned on the experience and compassion of amazing women like Awa Diba to help bring many parts of this essential programme to life. Awa Diba has been supporting underprivileged children voluntarily for years.
Talibé boys have been coming to Awa’s front door for a long as she can remember. Her husband is an Imam, so her family is well known in the community. She cooks them hearty meals and often give them clothes that she collects from her children. She says it’s her duty to help the boys who have been sent by their families to stay with a Koranic Master so that he can teach them the Quran.
“As a mother, I want my children to have enough to eat, be properly clothed be healthy and happy,” says Awa. “Why should I treat other children any differently? When I see these children, my maternal instinct takes over.”
Awa was not alone - many women in the community were helping talibé boys in their own way. So, as part of our programme, we decided to get the women together to formalise them as a group, locally known as Ndeyou Daaras, or ‘Mothers of the Daaras’. These women are the mothers of the boys who would otherwise be forgotten, neglected and abused.
Together, the Mothers of the Daraas decided that the most sustainable way of supporting the boys would be to generate an income. Our partner delivered training in making soap, bleach, cheese, yoghurt and body lotion, as well as basic business development skills like financial management, marketing and negotiation.
The voluntary ‘Mothers of the Daraas’ receive training on how to make soap and essentials.
For the past year, the women’s group have invested part of the profits into increasing production, and have used the rest to buy food for the boys. They also deliver soap and bleach to the koranic schools and remind the boys about the importance of personal hygiene.
The training also went one step further, by teaching them how to identify malnutrition in infants. This means that Awa can adapt the food she donates to the boys’ health needs. Awa says she has noticed a reduction in the number of hygiene related illnesses amongst the boys, and they seem to be in better health.
Awa delivering entrepreneurial training to a group of women in a Senegalese village.
But Awa didn’t stop there. She recognises that supporting the talibé boys in Dakar is only part of the solution, and it’s also important to support the boys’ families so that they can support both themselves and their sons in their Koranic education.
Most of the boys in the Koranic schools that Awa supports come from the same village. So, Awa travelled to the village with Penny Appeal, and shared the knowledge she has gained through training with the boys’ mothers, sisters and grandmothers.
These women now have an income and are better able to support their family’s needs, as well as to send money to support their children, and stop them from begging on the streets. By selling their soap and essentials to local shops, this newly formed women’s group made £280 profit in the first month alone, Alhamdulillah! Awa is still in touch with the women she trained, and gives them regular mentoring over the phone.
Awa and the voluntary women’s group show off their handmade artisanal products.
Awa and her women’s group hope to set up a community shop so that they can get more customers and expand their business into a social enterprise. In the meantime, she’s committed to sharing her skills to help others uphold the rights of boys in Koranic schools.
Thanks to Awa, 138 women are now making and selling cleaning and beauty products, and 100 talibé boys are finally getting the proper meals and healthcare they need – and when the boys return home from Koranic school they’ll find a mother, sister or grandmother with new business skills, and a family with increased income that is better able to meet their needs.
We hope you’ll take some time to appreciate the hard work of Awa, the unofficial mother of the forgotten, and make dua for her continued health and happiness, and the success of the social enterprise we are supporting. You can join Awa in making a difference to underprivileged children’s lives, by donating to our Forgotten Children appeal today.
MONDAY 10 AUG 2020