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A grandmother’s voice from Mali

Kaidia Samaké with her grandchildren - Soumaïla T Diarra | Panos London

Kaidia Samaké didn’t learn to read or write when she was a child because girls in her village weren’t sent to school. However, the 40-year-old widow can now read and write in Bambara, her mother tongue, thanks to night classes in her village of Gwelekoro.

Her passion for education is one of the reasons journalist Soumaïla T Diarra has chosen to interview her for Panos London’s Voices from the Ground blog. She joins the blog as a new contributor, along with schoolteacher Maimoona Shahzadi, from Pakistan.

As Kaidia does not speak English, Soumaïla will interview her regularly and recount her story for the blog in her own words.

Soumaïla, who is based in Bamako, the capital of Mali, said: “Kaidia Samaké is studying at 40, every night, with other women who have never been to school. In her village – and generally in rural Mali – girls don’t have many opportunities to study. This trend may change with parents like Kaidia who are now aware of the importance of education.”

Gwelekoro, which is around 50km from Bamako, is an interesting village, says Soumaïla, because the women have grouped together to give themselves more rights.

“In rural Mali women don’t have any power when it comes to deciding things for the community. But in Gwelekoro a group of housewives is trying to organise themselves despite this cultural hindering. Their association collects money, as its members work in other farmers’ fields, which they put into a bank account. Another source of this bank’s funding is a collective farm where the women grow crops which they can sell.

“All the difficulties of the village affect women, and I choose Kaidia Samaké because she is the memory of the women’s association and knows more about the village’s activities than many others.”

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Key facts

Kaidia's first blog post is now available to read

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