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Issue: Micro-economics

Release Date: October 1, 2009

Video Testimony: K. Barber

Photos: A. Seegers and N. Eley

Pass It On! Story #2
Photos by N.Eley and A. Seegers

Small Dolls Change the Face of Health Care in Senegal

With these dolls we take care of each other; we take care of our community.

Pass It On! Story #2Colorful pieces of tightly woven fabric are used to make dozens of handmade dolls in the Diembering village of Southern Senegal. But these are not your average dolls – they stand as a symbol of strength and innovation in the community. For each doll sold, money is reinvested back into the village’s health clinics… small steps that are making a big difference for health care in Senegal.

Diembering village is located in the Casamance Region, which has seen some of the most devastating effects of a 25-year civil conflict, leaving local health systems in a deteriorated state with health indicators among the lowest in Senegal. Today, malaria is endemic, and tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are increasingly prevalent… in large part because health care simply isn’t an available option.

“So these dolls are very important because as soon as we sell them we will be able to use that money to take care of our [community's] needs," notes NDeye Traore’, founder of a women’s group that first began making the dolls in 2004.  “With these dolls we take care of each other; we take care of our community,” notes Ndeye.

NDeye was first inspired to start the group just two years earlier as a way to unite voices from communities in conflict about how to address major problems affecting the area. The group was to be a place for open dialogue and the sharing of ideas. And with the support of Africare, it would also be a place to generate money and provide solutions for some of the various problems they discussed – solutions such as providing money to pay for school tuitions of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and bed nets for expecting mothers to shield themselves and their unborn children from malaria-carrying mosquitoes. 

Together, Africare, NDeye and the women’s group are bringing health care back to the rural areas of Casamance through income-generating initiatives such as the “dolls project,” which has empowered the community to take their health back into their own hands.

On November 3rd Africare is bringing these same dolls to Washington, DC, to offer as gifts to all attendees of the 2009 Bishop Walker Memorial Dinner, the largest annual fund raising event for Africa in the U.S. (Join us for this year’s dinner. Learn more here.)

Through these dolls, the women of Diembering are also standing as a testament to the power of strong women and successful business in Africa. 

Keep their story going. Pass It On! for Africare.