Success Story: JAMOO Social Self-Support Assistance Center in Senegal

By: WFWP International

Published at ECOSOC Civil Society Network

Link to ECOSOC - Civil Society Network Best Practices

Location: Senegal

Topic: Sustainable Development

Background

Senegal, located in Western Africa, has half the land mass of Japan and a population of approximately 10 million people. The capital city is Dakar. Senegal became independent from France in 1960. Since President Abdoulaye Wade was elected in 2000, the democratic political culture has taken root in Senegal. Islam, practiced by approximately 95 percent of the country's population, is the predominant religion, but not an official religion. Due to a lack of natural resources, agriculture is a main industry.

When WFWP volunteers entered Senegal for the first time in 1994, Senegal's GNP was 720 US. The unemployment rate was over 25%. Even university graduates and men had difficulty finding jobs. Many children could not go to school. WFWP volunteers often saw 4 and 5 year old children begging and selling on the street during the day. Instead of mothers, girls were forced to take care of their younger brothers and sisters when mothers found work in domestic services. Sometimes the girls themselves were hired out as domestic servants to support their younger siblings. So many girls are affected by this phenomenon that the literacy rate was only 25%. Moreover, children were impacted in mind and body by polygamy in Islamic culture, divorce, and broken families.

Development of an idea

It was and is more difficult for women to find jobs than men. In light of this circumstance, WFWP volunteers wanted to empower women in Senegal through technology and open the way to economic independence for women. To this end, WFWP established the Social Self-Support Assistance Center "JAMOO" in Dakar, in 1995. "JAMOO" means "Bringing Peace" in the local Wolof language.

Activities

Staff at the JAMOO Center provides vocational training each year for sixty to ninety girls and women, ranging in age from 12 to 40 years old. Since JAMOO Center opened in 1995, over one thousand women and girls have graduated from the program. Students pursue a four year curriculum of dressmaking, knitting and embroidery. The Senegal official language is French, but Wolof language is used for classes because some students do not speak French. In addition to vocational training, there are classes in moral education, child rearing and home economics to help prepare the students for motherhood.

The academic year starts in November and ends in July of the following year. Students pay USD 5 per month toward the cost of educational materials. PTA meetings are held three or four times a year. A certificate accredited by the government is presented to the students upon graduation.

Uniforms and dresses for the graduation ceremony are made by students. Since 2002, graduates have made uniforms for new incoming students.

Even if students learn many wonderful skills in four years, it is very difficult for women to find jobs after graduation. To help solve this difficulty, in 2001, "Salon de Couture Jamoo", a training shop for graduates was established and opened. The training shop offers opportunities to the graduates to learn sales and management skills through practical experience by selling custom-made and ready-made clothing. After a one year on-the-job training course, each graduate receives an electric sewing machine and financial assistance so they can open a new dressmaker's shop. Graduates of the training shop have become successful and economically independent by getting jobs at one of the big tailoring shops or by opening their own shop at home. It seems that having sewing skills is a good contribution to marriage. WFWP volunteers learned that the husbands of some of the graduates were willing to contribute funds in support of the opening of their wife's tailor shop.

In 2006, a group from the Ministry of Youth visited the JAMOO Center. The Ministry of Youth acknowledged the center's comprehensive system that leads to economic independence for graduates. In honor of the JAMOO Center's successes, the Ministry of Youth provides support and cooperation by giving job recommendations for the graduates.

Insight

Together, the JAMOO Center and the Salon de Couture Jamoo equip women and girls with the knowledge, experience and tools to support themselves and their families as independent dressmakers or employees in large tailoring businesses. There is an ongoing need for clothing production so the graduates of JAMOO Center's programs have skills that contribute to the economic sustainability of their families and communities. When the adults in a family have steady work, they can afford to feed their children and send them to school. These opportunities have a ripple effect in the struggle for economic sustainability in the communities and in the nation.