Empowering Women and Engaging Men in Fombori

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Mamadou Tah Ongoiba establises VSLA with women
Food Security in Mali


In Mamoudou Ongoiba’s community, men’s and women’s roles have always been different and well defined. Mamoudou is a farmer and the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) promoter in the village of Fombori in Mali’s Mopti region. As one of 32 community members of the Oro Edjo VSLA, Mamoudou helps to organize around common objectives and takes an active role in ensuring activities are carried out as planned. These associations are generally composed of 20 to 35 women members. Associations define a set amount of money each woman will contribute according to an agreed schedule, in order to grant loans to one another.  To date, the women of Fombori’s VSLA have been able to save $5,682 and issued loans allowing each member to start an income-generating activity such as animal breeding or marketing of horticulture products and cereals, or to meet urgent needs.

The fact that Mamoudou worked with the women was complicated. Other men looked down on him for deviating from the usual role of a man in his community. "My commitment to the development of women was very badly perceived by the village men. However, I was able to break this negative perception and my perseverance transformed all the other men into engaged men”, explains Ongoiba.

Despite negative perceptions, Mamoudou continued to work hard within Oro Edjo VSLA and was nominated by the women to become a VSLA promoter for Harande so he could help create other successful VSLAs. He established five other VSLA groups with women and helped them to start saving and achieving their goals as groups. He also spoke with men about the rigid norms in his village and convinced them to start changing attitudes and behaviour towards women. They now support him and his work with the women’s groups. Male community leaders who previously disapproved of Mamoudou’s engagement are now supportive of his work, and in some cases, even surprising him with their willingness to change their minds about traditional gender roles.

Mamadou Tah Ongoiba with VSLA group members
Mamadou Tah Ongoiba with VSLA group members
Food Security in Mali

Mamoudou’s ambition hasn’t stopped though, he now wants to support women in the creation of a larger network that can participate in and lead development efforts in their community.

Overall, Harande has created 399 VSLAs with 1239 members. These groups help build social cohesion at the village level, empower women with loans to start income generating activities and contribute to women’s empowerment. Harande is a five-year, $45 million Food for Peace activity which started in 2015.  With support from the American people through the United States Agency for International Development, it aims to improve food security, nutrition and incomes of vulnerable communities, especially women and youth in 290 villages of Mopti.

Last updated: July 01, 2020

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