Residential Accomodation for Women

Presentation of our project: Residential accommodation for women

• At the beginning: a meeting in one of the most deprived area of Dakar
In Socé, a Senegalese language , “Kambeng Kafoo” means something like “To put together, to unite, to link, to share resources”. “Kambeng Kafoo” is the name of an association of women native from the southern region of Senegal : from Casamance.
This association is located in Arafat, one of the most deprived area of Grand-Yoff, an overpopulated township of Dakar.

These women, about a hundred, mostly young, have decided to join their forces, to help one another, to improve their every day’s life. Their main economic activity is to buy “bissap” (a variety of sorrel)in the countryside and resell it in the city. So the women take turns at buying and retailing, according to a fixed schedule.
They meet every Wednesday afternoon, invariably before the house of the president of the association. Then they all club together, each of them giving the equivalent of 10 French Francs (about 1,53€) and a bar of soap. Thereafter they entrust the money and the soap which have been collected to one of the women’s safekeeping. When all is said and done, each woman receives what she has saved.

• Our Slogan : Join forces to change out lot
It is within this group (the Kambeng Kafoo) during a meeting organized with members of the REFDAF, that the issue was brought up. The women of this group felt strongly about a particular problem and wanted to discuss it with us. They told us: “we have been living in Dakar for 5, 10, or even 20 years…..Just to say that our future and that of our children is there. Most of us unfortunately, have to rent a room in the suburban areas of Dakar, as we are low-income families. The few husbands that own a house are mostly polygamous, what of course causes a lot of troubles like : lack of privacy, repudiation, divorce, inheritance issues, eviction from the house…..So that’s why we came to you. We would like the REFDAF to help us find solution, i.e. to acquire our own houses in the region of Dakar”.

• Our philosophy: think, walk and act together
Living conditions of the women in suburban areas are very hard and precarious. However , we remain convinced that there is a way to improve them. Thus by exchanging ideas, sharing knowledge, experience and expertise to enter dynamically a new phase, to think up a new order, in one word to build up a better future.
A decent housing is to us the first step towards a decent life. That’s why we answered positively to the request of the Kambeng Kafoo association. After having studied the feasibility of the project, we decided to create a section of “house-seekers” within the REFDAF.

The project is now under the supervision of the OHLM (the main state-owned company that operates public housing projects in the suburbs of the regional capitals). The programs of the OHLM are dedicated to the low-income households, that can afford these public housing units only on credit.
Many units are under construction in Dakar, Thiès and Kaolack and besides the OHLM plans to set up more program in Saint-Louis.
The setting we are interested in is in “Keur Massar”, 20 kilometres far from Dakar. There will be there 30 units each of which comprising 700 parcels of land, together: 22.000 parcels.
Each parcel covers an area of 150 to 300 square metres. The price of a square metre is 10.000 CFA Francs*
A personal capital contribution of 500.000 CFA Francs is required to buy a 150m2 parcel and for a 300 m2 one the price will be of course double i.e. 1.000.000 CFA Francs. The outstanding amount is to be paid within the 5 following years after the acquisition date.

The REFDAF section for women “house-seekers” has a membership of 300 people that have already collected 3.000.000 CFA Francs, as each woman gave 10.000 CFA Francs.

• Our goals
As soon as the 300 parcels will be bought, we plan to work for the construction of the women’s residential accommodation.

• Why should be build a residence for women?
Because we want to finish the work be began together. We also want to work for the advent of a new economic order that would be fair, equitable and sustainable.
And more concretely we want to achieve what seems just now to be a dream. We are willing to build up a neighbourhood where the respect of the environment, people’s well-being and dreams as well as their future will be taken into account.
Thus by creating collective spaces, spaces for leisure where our children can blossom. These spaces will allow ideas to spring up, to be continuously exchanged. It will be spaces where creativity, love and hope will be values shared by people from different cultures.
What we need are areas where one can have the time to think, think about it’s freedom.

(*) 1 French Franc is worth 100 CFA Francs

Written in Dakar, on January 15th 2003