Senegal is located on the westernmost tip of Africa. It is home to 13 million people and is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Mauritania and the Sahara desert to the north, Mali to the east, and the Republic of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south.
Due to the warm and welcoming nature of its people, Senegal is known as the land of Téranga, meaning hospitality. It is also renowned for its rich culture, which results from an interesting mix of tradition, worldly influences, and modernity. Senegal is also known for its exquisite traditional food, rhythmic music and long-standing traditions of excellence, entrepreneurship, peace and stability.
Since its independence in 1960 and despite a low-level civil war in the Casamance region, Senegal has enjoyed relative political and social stability. This is largely due to the Senegalese people’s sense of community, pride, diplomacy, and non-violent resistance. Presidents have served and peacefully transferred power after democratic elections, making Senegal one of the few African countries to never experience a coup d’état.
Despite its beauty and accomplishments, Senegal is ranked 154 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index, making it one of the least developed countries in the world. According to the World Bank, 46.7% of its population lives below the poverty line and its unemployment rate is at 48%, making poverty reduction the country’s largest economic challenge. Increased poverty is most prevalent in rural areas. Senegal is divided into 14 regions and Deline’s Gift work is concentrated in two of them: Saint-Louis and Casamance.
Located in the northwest of Senegal about 200 miles north of Senegal’s capital city of Dakar, Saint-Louis is the epitome of hospitality, elegance, and refinement. It is one of the best introductions to Africa, and its exceptional past gives it the distinctive international recognition of being a UNESCO world heritage site.
Saint-Louis was the capital of the French colony from 1673 until its independence in 1960. About 225,000 people live there, 51.1% of whom are women. As many as 49% of women, including those who are disabled, live under the poverty line.
Though it remained an important tourist attraction and trading center, when Dakar became the sole capital of the country after the nation’s independence, Saint-Louis’ economy began to decline, with many of the town’s shops, offices, and businesses gradually closing. As a result, jobs and human potential were lost, leading to decreased economic activities and a general decline. Women in particular were the most affected. Amongst them are disabled women for whom economic activity is vital.
Casamance has the ingredients of an earthly paradise: lush vegetation, beautiful beaches fringed by coconut trees and hospitable people. It is a rare and authentic place with a mild climate, abundant rainfall and fertile lands that make it a potential breadbasket for the rest of Senegal. Fields and fishing activities sculpt its landscape and economy.
As a crossroad in the West African sub-region, Casamance is a melting pot: a cultural mosaic of ethnicities and religions. Its population of 340,000 inhabitants, 53% of whom are women, is characterized by great diversity, which is a source of wealth and a factor in tolerance. It is undoubtedly the most harmonious region of Senegal in terms of religious and cultural integration.
Located in Southern Senegal, 300 miles from Senegal’s capital city of Dakar, Casamance is the most isolated and arguably the most beautiful region of Senegal. It inherited colonial borders with Gambia to the North and Guinea Bissau to the South. Gambia and Guinea Bissau are respectively Anglophone and Lusophone countries, which contributes to Ziguinchor (Casamance) not connecting directly with the rest of the Senegalese territory, physically that is.
This isolation significantly impacts Casamance and causes major rifts in the country, including: repeated revolts against perceived economic and geographic isolation or anything that threatens the prevailing free and independent values there; the sinking of the Ferry named the Diola which remains on of the worst civilian maritime disasters of our time; and finally, more than 30 years of armed conflict to thwart a rebellion sponsoring the independence of Casamance.
The rebellion in particular caused major disruptions to the economic and social development of the region and resulted in massive internal displacement of women and families who were victims of landmines and violence. These same women perform two-thirds of all labor and play a key role in the peace process, thus deserving special attention to be propelled out of the lack of opportunity and extreme poverty they face.