Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation

The sand sellers of Niamey

Comune Info 13.05.2022 Mauro Armanino Translated by: Jpic-jp.org

Niger Women's Day is not celebrated on 8th March but on 13th May. It is reminiscent of a great march that saw thousands of them, back in 1991. Mauro Armanino, a missionary in Niamey, focuses in particular on the women who collect sand on the river bank, carry it in buckets attached to the ends of a stick and then sell it in the capital, 30-euro cents per cup, to masons or other buyers. That sand, he explains, carried on their shoulders thanks to the Tagala, the stick, tells better than anything else how the world, even in Niger, rests above all on the women’s shoulders whose job is to build it every day. Of sand, like everything else.

In Niger, 13th May is the anniversary of the women's march. In 1991, preparations were being made for the Sovereign National Conference, which was to be the greatest democratic opportunity experienced by the young state of Niger up to that time. Thousands of women marched to the headquarters of the Primature that day to demand greater female representation on the preparatory committee for the conference. The following year, 25th November 1992, the date of 13th May would become Niger National Women's Day.

The road to women's emancipation is fascinating! The history and daily life of any country passes through them. In the home, at the market, at school, in hospitals, in government offices, in trade unions, among the police and in the Armed Forces, women are always there. More so, in the rural areas of this country it is they who turn land and fields into food opportunities for the enlarged family in their charge. Wood, water, market, cooking and much more often constitute the day, the past and also the future of the many rural women. In our own country, even more than elsewhere, various worlds coexist that often ignore each other or, more often, pretend not to know each other.

In fact, according to recent data from the World Bank, Niger, with a poorly diversified economy, depends on agriculture for 40 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product. The level of extreme poverty reached 42 per cent of the population, some 10 million people, in 2021. Niger has to deal with the arrival of refugees from Nigeria and Mali, both for security reasons. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reviewed 250,000 refugees and over 276,000 displaced persons. Many girls, for economic reasons, marry before the age of 15.

A particular parable of these worlds passing each other by are the 'sand vendors'. Even the weekly newspaper of the political majority area, the 'Sahel Dimanche', in a special edition for the Niger Women's Rights Day, talks about this in its pages. It is called 'Tagala', the stick carried on the shoulders with two containers at each end, filled with sand collected on the banks of the Niger river or other propitious sites. The sand, or sometimes gravel, is collected, passed through a sieve to remove the waste, and poured into the two buckets placed at the ends of the stick and held in balance by ropes. Then it goes around town to sell.

For 200 local francs, about 30-euro cents a 'cup'. The women who sell the sand come from the villages around Niamey and it is to survive every day that they ply this trade. They go to the market and sell the sand to masons or other interested buyers. They leave their families in the village and search the city for what little they need to feed themselves or take care of their children's health.

In the women's festival, the sand sellers of Niamey are, perhaps without knowing it, something unique. Hanging from ropes, balanced on their shoulders, the buckets contain much more than sand or gravel. They are an eloquent sign that the world, such as it is, rests on the shoulders of the women who build it every day... out of sand.

See, Le venditrici di sabbia di Niamey

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Segers Godelieve 02.04.2024 Merci pour ce beau témoignage sur le rôle que jouent les femmes dans le monde. ces apports qui lui permettent de continuer, au jour le jour, à renouveler les générations. Un de nos amis, Gratien Girod (jésuite de son état, gentiment "expulsé" d'Amérique du Sud pour y avoir trop pris le parti des pauvres) faisait la même réflexion après un voyage au Viet-Nam : c'est elles qui faisaient tourner le pays. Un rôle qu'elles tiennent sans tambour ni trompette et qui est rarement mentionné, et encore moins célébré, à part UN jour par année. Entretemps, leur travail n'est en général pas rémunéré et elles ne sont propriétaires d'à peu près rien au monde. Elles ont moins accès à une éducation académique que les garçons, pour diverses raisons, mais des fois de façon voulue, comme le font les Taliban. Garder les femmes ignorantes, c'est encore la stratégie la plus efficace de les rendre incapables de se défendre contre l'exploitation dont elles sont victimes. Si tu connais une organisation qui se spécialise dans la défense de droit des femmes à une éducation, je serais prête à l'aider.