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Mat weaving is the key to empowerment

Fatimata stands next to one of her mats in the Tabareybarey refugee camp.
Fatimata stands next to one of her mats in the Tabareybarey refugee camp.
November 30, 2012

For women in the Tabareybarey refugee camp, making money can be the key to their survival.

Life in a refugee camp is a far cry from life in a village. Refugees from the poorest village would ultimately prefer to return home to life in the camp. A refugee camp is the last resort, a place for shelter when the violence and oppression forces people to leave their homes. Tabareybarey is such a haven for the people leaving northern Mali.

Plan Niger, one of the leading organizations involved in camp management, has initiated several activities to promote income-generating activities for women and adolescent girls in the community.

Fatimata Hamidou is one of these women. The forty-something year old is the mother of seven children. This brave lady, originally from Labzanga (a village in northern Mali), fled to Tabareybarey with her entire family where she takes care of her children.

Sitting idly in a camp to wait for safety and stability to return to her village, was not for Fatimata. She has always been a mat weaver, continuing to work in the camp would provide additional income. The new school term was approaching and she needed to pay for new clothes and supplies for her children. The rations that have been provided would ensure that her family would not starve, but she would like to have more nutritious food. Her mats are sold at different price points depending on the model that is requested.

Fatimata's husband is a mason, but he cannot practice his work as no one in the camp is building homes fast enough. "He too makes ends meet with the sale of the mats and takes on the responsibility of the father of the family," she says.

This goes to show just how much Fatimata's work has helped her family. However, their livelihood is precarious because it is based solely on the sale of mats. And yet, as we see it, when a woman is economically and socially independent, she can become a powerful vector of development. Through her work, she contributes largely to supporting her household, significantly improving their daily life and beyond as the entire community in the camp will benefit from her impact.

In Tabareybarey camp, Plan Niger has helped to set up 16 income generating activity groups which have about 1,344 members. This initiative assists women and adolescent girls to continue their small businesses in order to provide supplemental income to their families.

Learn more about Plan's work in Niger.

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