Box #5: Family & Community

Photographs & Descriptions

A bed made of sticks sitting outside a home. The men typically relax here, wearing a sun hat and resting. Women were never seen on one of these beds in our journey. Men typically nap during the hottest part of the day. This picture could be used with others depicting the work that men, women, and children do and the lessons about families. Found in the women's museum on Goree Island , this painting depicts the typical daily chores of a Senegalese woman. She needs ten arms to carry the water, hang the clothes, feed the children, make dinner, carry groceries, carry the baby, sweep the floor, transport bathing water, serve tea, and beat the rugs. This does not even include the aspect of running a business, such as dying fabrics, attending literacy classes, having friends, or conversing with her husband.

Traditionally, food is served in one common bowl. Silverware is nonexistent. People use their hands to break of chunks of the food to eat.
About thirty women are engaged in a math lesson, directed by a female teacher. (Most literacy and math classes we saw were directed by men.) The literacy classes combine whole language with basic math. When asked why learning these things are important, the women reported that it helped them keep track of who owes them money. This class and the others like it that we visited are in place through an agreement between the Senegalese government and some foreign country. The foreign country promises to provide the classes and they are strictly controlled by the government provisions. Some wonder if these classes are two faced. On the surface they appear to be uplifting and educating the women of Senegal. With a deeper look, some say that the heavy hand of the government in the content and methods of the educating are a way to control how much the women are allowed to know.

I am learning how to use thread to create a design in the cloth, once it is dyed.
By contrast, this picture of the girls in the Quranic school tells a story of the (mis)education of women in the Senegalese society. They too can recite the Quran by heart but it is not seen as a valuable asset for women and girls, as we heard of a place of worship where they are not even allowed in the mosque to pray until after menopause. It is very important to note that this view and value of women in the mosque varies very greatly depending on the specific population and belief system, just as it does in the different churches in Christianity.
These boys are learning the Quran, the holy book of Islam. They can recite large passages by heart but typically can't tell you what the words mean. As we walked through the cities, we could hear the chorus of chanting coming from Islamic schools.