On Feb. 3rd, our second day in Segou, we visited the municipal pre-school (jardins d'enfants) "Les Poupons". There appeared to be four groups of perhaps 60 students each distinguished by colored aprons and between the ages of 3 and 6. There are approximately 179 schools in the greater Segou city area which includes Peleguana to the east and Sebougou to the west.
Joining us was Mme. Fatoumata Fau Sidibe (pictured above right), member of the Sister City, Civil Society and Sanitation commissions. This means that she is focused on women, children, education, health and sanitation - at the governmental and grassroots levels. She is one of several women we will look forward to getting to know better.
In this photo is Robin Poulton left, Mayor Simaga center and to his right is Mme. Traore, director of Les Poupons. Pictured at the far right is journalist and English teacher, Douba Dembele that we met during a press conference the day before at the mairie (city hall).
There is a strong women's movement in Africa and I've recently learned about at least two international conferences addressing the relationship between women's oppression and poverty. We were travelling in a man's world, and gracious though they were, it was apparent that on our next visit, more time will need to be dedicated to talking to women, visiting women's institutions and associations, schools and healthcare facilities. On the road to Comatex there was a road-side stand that seemed to be a kind of ad-hoc testing clinic - for HIV/AIDS, I think.
Oumou Kone, aka Michelle Poulton, and Les Poupons director, Mme. Traore, in front of the center at the end of our visit - women dedicated to children's education. I wanted to bring all three gifts (star, bird and flower) to Southside Child Development Center, but only the bird would cross the Atlantic without being destroyed. The other two pieces live now in Bamako. It was with these gifts that Mme. Traore indicated her interest in being connected to the director and children of SCDC in Richmond.