"She Asked For It" — Rape Culture In Spotlight At Miss Senegal Beauty Contest

A top executive of the Miss Senegal beauty pageant dismissed accusations made by last year's winner that she'd been raped, igniting furious debate across the West African nation about the treatment of women and the retrograde attitudes across society.

DAKAR — As a defense mechanism, Amina Badiane could not have done worse. It was last Thursday, Nov. 18, when the chairwoman of the Miss Senegal organizing committee spoke with Dakarbuzz, a website based in the capital.

The interview was an opportunity to respond to the revelations of Ndèye Fatima Dione, Miss Senegal 2020, who had revealed publicly the violence she'd suffered during her time as the nation's No. 1 beauty queen. Her mother had also revealed that Dione's pregnancy was the consequence of rape, committed during a trip organized by the committee.

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In Senegal, An App To Tackle Violence Against Women

Femicide is a major problem in the West African country. A French entrepreneur of Senegalese origin is hoping her invention — App-Elles — can help end it.

DAKAR — In the Place de la Nation, in the heart of Dakar, hundreds of Senegalese chant the words "doyna, doyna!" — "stop" in the local Wolof language. What the protestors want is an end to femicide and violence against women.

For many here, the murder of Bineta Camara, 23, in May, was the final straw. The young woman was strangled in the family house after refusing the sexual advances of a friend of her father. Since then, protesters have been demanding the criminalization of rape and more severe sentences for assault, sexual harassment, and forced marriages.

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A Boxing Gym As Bridge Between France And Senegal

After earning fame and fortune in France, fighter Souleymane Mbaye made good on a promise to open a professional-level boxing club in Dakar.

DAKAR — The blows come fast and furious. The leather of the punching bag pops. The chains holding it in place grind and groan as Idrissa Gueye, 24, unleashes his fists — along with cries of exhaustion mixed with rage. "Go again, no time out!" yells Souleymane Mbaye, his coach.

Both men are dripping in sweat. It is the middle of the rainy season in Senegal, and the sultry, late-September air makes every move difficult.

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Spain To Senegal To Brazil, 'Other' 1968 Movements To Remember

PARIS — Political conflict and social movements around the world in 1968 made it a year for the history books. The 50th anniversary of several signature episodes are being marked throughout this year, from the Prague Spring and monthlong French student uprising of May "68, to the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in the U.S. and black power salutes at the Mexico City Olympics.

But the upheaval that year spread beyond just a handful of internationally iconic events. Among the other notable moments and movements of 1968 are four chapters that may not have made it into your high school history textbook:

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Lucia Benavides

The Female Factor In Senegal's Fishing Crisis

On the coast of Senegal, fish stocks have fallen 80% in the past year alone. The women fish processors of the region have been hit hardest, with consequences across society.

SAINT-LOUIS — Fatou Binetou Sarr sits, arms crossed and lips pursed, looking on as fishermen bring in the day's catch. She's with a group of women, all wearing long, colorful dresses with matching headscarves and bright gold earrings. They're quick to point out that today they're not working — because there is not enough fish coming in off the boats.

"Why do you think we're dressed so nicely?" Sarr asks. On the days they work, she implies, they don't wear anything so fine.

All around them is a bustling scene. The Senegalese beach is full of people talking, children chasing each other and goats bleating. There are about a dozen colorful wooden boats, called pirogues, docked close to shore; some women stand waist-deep in the water, negotiating with the fishermen. They'll be selling fresh fish at the market later that afternoon. Men in waterproof gear carry buckets of fish on their heads up to refrigerated trucks waiting to hoard off the catch to various destinations.

But Sarr and the other women in her group have to wait. They are the town's fish processors who descale, boil, dry and salt the fish. The result, a stiff and brownish version of what was once a flailing fish, is used to spice up meals or provide an important backup when fresh fish is not available. Processed fish can keep for months and is five times cheaper than fresh, though with a lower nutritional value.

The processors aren't able to buy their share of fish until the evening, when it's less fresh and the price is cheaper — if there's enough left. Yet it's these women who are fighting hardest to save the life-blood of Saint-Louis. Through women's associations, they are demanding more investment from NGOs and the Senegalese government, and sharing funds to help each other buy the increasingly expensive fish.

17% of Senegal's population suffers from food insecurity.

Big catches are becoming increasingly rare in Saint-Louis. Stocks in this major fishing hub on the border of Senegal and Mauritania had been dwindling in the past 10 years, but 2017 was a disaster. Stocks collapsed by 82% in that year alone.

While it's not clear what caused the precipitous drop last year, a combination of climate change, increased competition, fishing territory disputes with Mauritania and industrial foreign fleets illegally fishing off the coast have led to the overall decline. Rising sea levels and warmer water temperatures have caused fish to either fall in number or migrate north. As a result, malnutrition is rampant in many parts of the country — the World Food Program estimates 17% of Senegal's population suffers from food insecurity.

Because fresh fish doesn't keep long, processed fish is being consumed more and more — it can keep for up to six months. That's extremely important for interior villages, which are themselves struggling with the effects of climate change on growing crops and raising livestock. Sarr says 70% of the fish processed in Saint-Louis is shipped to landlocked communities.

"If women don't work, people don't eat," Sarr says. "The interior communities and countries rely on the fish that's caught and processed here."

A History of Solidarity

Like most other fish processors, Sarr learned the trade from her mother. She was 7 years old when she started helping around the processing plant. Today, she is the president of the Female Processors Association in Saint-Louis, a position her mother also held.

The women pool their money together to buy fish by the crate, process it together and split the profit — money that, when it doesn't go toward their children's education and healthcare, is used to buy the next load of fish. Sarr says that today, they pay about 15,000 CFA francs ($28) for a crate. A couple of years ago, the same crate cost just $5.

Declining fish stocks in Senegal have led to increased food insecurity, malnutrition and job loss, especially for women Photo: Ania Freindorf/ZUMA

A visit to the processing plant lays bare the damage done to the women's livelihoods by the declining stocks. What was once a crowded place full of women working side by side now looks more like a graveyard. The outdoor roofed area is full of hollow pots of clay, empty sacks of salt and rusty drying racks. Only one woman is seen rummaging through the pots, looking for processed fish to buy and take back to her hometown. She says she traveled 95 miles this morning and will return in the evening, probably empty-handed.

When Women Are Left Behind

Khady Sané Diouf works with female fish processors through COMFISH (Collaborative Management for a Sustainable Fisheries Future), a project funded by USAID. "Women are very vulnerable because of climate change, and also because of bad living conditions, which all makes them have less revenue than they did before," she says. "If the fishermen bring in less fish, that impacts our food security. That's certain. The women who depended on those fish will sell less, and they'll process less too, or not at all."

COMFISH organizes workshops with women across Senegal to educate them on how to generate the highest profit with the fish they have available. There, the women learn to read and write, integrate technology into their work and find new ways to sell their product. The organization also helps women work on alternative projects to earn money on the side, like gardening and making artisanal jewelry.

I'm very proud of my work.

She says the Senegalese government isn't doing enough to support the women. While COMFISH has built processing plants with modern equipment — their goal is to have more hygienic workspaces — the organization's work isn't enough to sustain the entire population. Among the women's list of needs is increased state funding to put into their workspaces. Diouf says the state sometimes turns to them for guidance on how to better serve the women, but the money coming in isn't nearly enough.

Sarr believes that investing in the women's work will help boost the local economy for everyone, not just those in the fishing industry.

"I'm very proud of my work. If we can add value to it, the men will come back, and we'll bring back the jobs," she says, referring to the large numbers of Senegalese men who have migrated to Europe in search of better job opportunities.

"If we had fish, if we had resources, they would have never left."

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Cartoon Of Muslim Leader Wearing 'Dress' Sparks Uproar In Senegal

DAKAR — A cartoon of an early 20th-century Senegalese Muslim leader has sparked a nationwide uproar, with the vignette criticized by civilians and political leaders alike. The Paris-based African news magazine Jeune Afrique published a cartoon of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, founder of the Mouride Brotherhood, last week in which a passing Westerner asks why the traditionally robed leader is "wearing a dress." The magazine formally apologized for the caricature over the weekend and removed it from the website, although it is still visible on the cartoonist's Twitter profile.

The caricature poked fun at ongoing controversy in Senegal over men carrying handbags, a new fashion trend pioneered by the young singer Wally Seck. Religious leaders — including representatives of the Sufi Muslim Mouride Brotherhood, whose adherents make up around 40% of Senegal's population — harshly criticized his fashion choice and called it "effeminate," with newspapers publishing homophobic insults. Homosexuality is outlawed in Senegal and many other African countries.

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Migrant Lives
Christophe Châtelot

In Senegal, Where Europe's Dangerous Allure Continues To Beckon

THIAROYE — Sitting on the corner of his bed, behind the curtains drawn to hide the blazing sun, Saada Ndiaye is waiting for the moment to come. That moment is his would-be departure to Spain, via a clandestine and uncertain path from this small town in Senegal, and onward through Morocco.

Ndiaye, who introduces himself as a "32-year-old carpenter, tiler, soccer player and DJ," has only this journey in mind these days. He's been thinking it over for months, saving up the necessary 500 euros in secret, keeping his hairdresser wife, their twins and the rest of his family from knowing his intentions.

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N. Korea's nukes, First HIV remission, French Scrabble champ‏

Photo: Li Jing/ZUMA


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Emily Liedel

Smart Cities International: Autobahn 2.0, Dakar Hub, Speeding Songs

Here is a preview of our exclusive newsletter to keep up-to-date and stay inspired by Smart City innovations from around the world.

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Worldcrunch's Weekend Staff Playlist #9

Senegalese soul, English surf-psych rock, German slow dancing ... Only on Worldcrunch's weekend playlist!

Rémi Barroux

How 'Kangaroo' Care Saves Premature Babies In Senegal

First established in Colombia, kangaroo care for underweight babies relies on constant mother-child contact and avoids costs and complications of incubators that rarely arrive in Africa.

DAKAR — Three moms are occupying the cream-colored room of the Albert-Royer Children Hospital, in the Fann neighborhood of Senegal's capital. Each is caring for her newborn of little more than four pounds. Resting skin-to-skin, the contact between mother and child provides the warmth necessary to treat premature babies. This is called the "kangaroo method."

As she is cuddling her little Adama, one mother named Comba Fall wears a special homemade T-shirt that has a slit to let her son's head out. The 23-year-old mom has been there for four days, after realizing that her son, born during the eighth month of pregnancy, was losing weight. He was only 3.5 pounds at birth. But so far, the kangaroo method is working: Adama is gaining around 0.3 ounce per day.

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Martine Valo

Invest In Africa? How It Looks To Senegal's Fishermen

JOAL — On the beach here in Joal, a large fishing harbor south of Senegal’s capital of Dakar, a group of women watch as fishermen unload their catch from their motor boats. It wasn’t such a good day.

But empty nets are not the only disappointment here. A Russian factory that will transform fresh fish into meal is scheduled to open soon along the shore, disrupting the locals’ salting and drying activities.

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Martine Valo

The Lepers Of Senegal, Still Shunned By Society

MBALLING — Some 20 people, all officially cured of leprosy, are sitting together at the functional rehabilitation center in Mballing, Senegal. But seeing them calls to mind the ancestral fears linked with this disease: club foots, mere leg or arm stumps, hands without fingers, misshapen faces, washed-out eyes that can no longer be opened.

The leprosarium in Mballing — a town located on the Atlantic coast, 80 kilometers from Dakar — opened in 1955, when Senegal was still a French colony and when leprosy was still incurable. For the authorities, it was about isolating lepers from the rest of society.

Delinquents were also sent here. In 1976, a law turned leprosariums into “villages of social rehabilitation,” transforming these internment camps into places where the sick and their families could enjoy some form of social life again. There are nine such villages across Senegal. But Mballing has since become a town with between 250 and 300 current and former patients and a total population of 5,600.

The people present this morning are all over 70. They formed two mutual aid groups — one for men, the other for women — launched a charity and are part of a microcredit scheme. In a nearby room, three other former patients are soaking their legs in an antiseptic product. Leprosy has deteriorated their nervous systems. They can’t feel their limbs, so they don’t notice when they hurt their feet and when their wounds become infected. Some women want to keep cooking despite the illness and often burn themselves without even noticing. Many suffer from permanent ulceration.

At the other end of the room, a 12-year-old boy observes the scene. A spot on his skin indicates that he’s also infected. But because he has been treated since this first symptom appeared, chances are very good that he will be cured without the stigmatizing amputations that the elders had to experience. For that, though, he must scrupulously follow a lengthy poly antibiotic treatment (up to two years) that is generally well tolerated and costs relatively little (under $50 for a six-month treatment), although the World Health Organization provides it for free.

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Maureen Grisot

A Senegal City Drowning In Bad Policy And Climate Change

SAINT-LOUIS — In front of the houses in Pilote Barre, tires inexorably creep up on a shoreline that is gradually disappearing. The tide easily swallows these futile rubber fortifications along the Senegal coast. Only the large stones seem to be able to withstand the assaults of the ocean, but for how long?

For several years, the inhabitants of Gandiol — a region of about 25,000 people situated a few miles south of the scenic city of Saint-Louis — have known their villages and ways of life are in grave danger. They are the victims of a misguided decision made in October 2003 to protect Saint-Louis, which is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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