Dakar Women’s Book Faire: Jinnda Dem Represents the Pulaar Authors

The Dakar women’s book fair is on its last day after three days of activities. The event was officially launched on Thursday, May 5 in Dakar, with the aim of allowing women to exhibit their works, shine, and demonstrate the impact of women’s writing in the fight for their rights. According to Amina Seck, the initiator of the project, her principal objective is to promote Senegalese and African women writers by making them more visible. “There are more than two hundred female writers out there,” she said, “some of them are well known, however, their representation in major book fairs is very low.” She lamented.

  The first phase of the event was to organize a week-long writing workshop with 15 women. Following these workshops, a collection of collective short stories will be produced by the participants and will be published by the book management.

  “We want to support and promote Senegalese literature. We want to encourage young people to write, guide them and help them so that they can write and express themselves through their books,” explains Amina Seck, initiator, and organizer of the event.

Hapsatou Y. Deme an author and lifelong promoter of local languages

Eighteen women writers have participated in the event, among them is Hapsatou Y. Deme (aka. Djinda Deme) representing the Matam region (north of Senegal). She was also the only participant who writes in Pulaar/Fulfulde, a language largely spoken in Senegal, but also widely spread in several African countries. Djinda Deme, as she is best known, is an ardent supporter of the promotion of literature in local languages. She has authored seven books on different topics in her native Pulaar/Fulfulde language. One of her books is titled: “Darnde Debbo Pullo E Bamtaare”, (Fulani Woman’s Role on Development). In it, she addresses several issues that hinder the Fulani women from using all their potential to contribute to the development of their society. The biggest factor, she said, is illiteracy. The lifestyle and the condition in the rural areas make it exceedingly difficult for women to get a basic education. However, teaching them in their native language instead of French would have been a shortcut and would help them to acquire the knowledge and basic skills they need to improve their lives and better contribute to society. The Fulani women have always played a crucial role in their society, though, in today’s world economic system, new skills are needed to be productive. In fact, her first book “Uddooji Maayo Senegaal” (The Dams of the Senegal River) published in 1991 was discussing the vast hydro-agricultural and hydroelectric development program implemented by the Organization for the Development of the Senegal River. These large dams, commissioned in the mid-1980s, now have major environmental, socioeconomic, and cultural impacts on both the biophysical and human environment. The option of irrigated agriculture taken by policymakers and planners seems to be out of phase with the traditional techniques (recession system/rainfed system) used by local populations. As result, the populations need to adapt to a completely new system which requires from them new sets of tools and skills.

The First Edition was a success

This was the first edition, and for the organizer, it was a huge success. Several activities related to the book have taken place during these three days: meetings, discussions, and exchanges between different disciplines of art and culture (painting, cinema, dance, music), exhibitions, conferences, events, etc.

The representative of the Department of the book at the Ministry of Communication, Malick Ndiaye, present at the event, assured the support of his department to this initiative, which he said, is consistent with the reading campaign that he is currently leading to the extent of the Senegalese territory.

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