Crossroads International: Empowering women

| January 4, 2016 | 0 Comments
Fatou Kiné Fall left an abusive marriage and turned her life around with entrepreneurial training. Now she is the proud owner of a kiosk that sells cosmetics and toiletries to travellers.

Fatou Kiné Fall left an abusive marriage and turned her life around with entrepreneurial training. Now she is the proud owner of a kiosk that sells cosmetics and toiletries to travellers.

Fatou Kiné Fall felt trapped. For more than two years, the Senegalese woman suffered at the hands of her abusive husband. She desperately wanted to leave with her children, although she knew that she had no way to support them. Finally, when Fall’s husband deliberately spilled a bowl of scalding porridge on her legs, resulting in third-degree burns so severe she couldn’t walk, she realized that her life was in danger and she must find a way out.
She turned to a Crossroads International-supported women’s centre recommended by her mother. She joined a support group for women who had experienced violence, and staff at the centre helped her navigate the complicated paperwork and legal proceedings of a divorce. She was leaving her abuser in the past, but she still had the future to worry about. With few skills and no formal work experience, Fall couldn’t imagine how she could have an income.
Once her burns healed, she decided to enrol in an entrepreneurial training course at the centre. She quickly built skills in accounting and management and also gained the confidence to apply for a micro-loan in the hopes of opening her own business. With the loan secured, she launched her own business — a toiletry and cosmetic kiosk at the central bus station in Kaolack, on Senegal’s northern border. With lots of foot traffic and high demand from travellers, her business took off. She is already making plans to expand her inventory.
“Every morning, I wake up knowing that I can provide my children with a safe home, food and education,” she says. “That is my biggest accomplishment.”
For the first time, Fall is brimming with confidence and sees that her future looks bright.
World Bank studies show that when women have the means to earn an income, they typically reinvest 90 percent of it into their families and communities. Women’s economic empowerment improves access to food, clean water, health care and education for all, but economic empowerment is about much more than collecting a paycheque; it gives a woman the autonomy she needs to walk away from violence and into a promising future. As a woman’s economic independence increases, so does the power of her voice in decision-making at home and in the community.
As one of Canada’s foremost international development and volunteer co-operation organizations, Crossroads has been fighting inequality for almost 60 years. We accomplish this by bringing people together to create lasting solutions to overcome poverty and advance women’s rights. Crossroads supports women, youth and the rural poor; those who are often marginalized in the economy and left out of the decisions that affect their lives. With our partners, we build capacity and individual proficiency through workshops, skills training and improved access to tools such as microfinance loans. More than 5,000 women and youth improved their livelihoods this year through initiatives such as soap-making co-operatives, market gardening and small business start-ups.
Awa Kone, a Malian woman, is a perfect example. Kone’s father died when she was 13 and she had to leave school to support her family. She worked the land with her siblings to make ends meet, but she wanted more. With little education and few skills, she didn’t think she had any options, and then she heard about the Crossroads-supported entrepreneurial training program in Baguinéda, Mali. After taking courses in finance, management  and, Kone’s favourite, women’s empowerment training, she opened her own restaurant. In only two years, Kone was able to hire four young women as full-time employees. With her income, Kone is able to take care of her mother and siblings and her staff members do the same for their families. But her ambitions don’t stop there. She wants her restaurant “to be the biggest and best in my neighbourhood,” she says.
Crossroads works as an equal with volunteers and local partners to create decent jobs and empower women to become leaders and live free from violence. We address the causes of inequality by sharing expertise, building networks to address common issues and scaling up successful initiatives. To be part of the change, please visit cintl.org/volunteer to make a lasting difference.

Christine Campbell is interim executive director of Crossroads International, which is based in Montreal and Toronto.

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Christine Campbell is interim executive director of Crossroads International, which is based in Montreal and Toronto.

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