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International Women’s Day: Celebrating Women’s Efforts in Mali and Beyond

International Women’s Day: Celebrating Women’s Efforts in Mali and Beyond
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NOTE: This is a guest post from†Anna Kramer, a writer at Oxfam America.

I met Yvette Cissť a year ago today. The farmer from Yanfollila, Mali, traveled to the US for the first time for Oxfam America’s 2011 International Women’s Day celebration. In the midst of an East Coast speaking tour, Cissť told me about the biggest challenge facing her community today: hunger.

“When I was young, we’d eat three meals a day, but that’s not the case anymore,” said the soft-spoken mother of six. She said unpredictable rainfall, combined with chemicals used to grow cotton–Mali’s biggest commercial crop–has weakened the soil and made it hard for farmers to produce enough to earn a living.

As treasurer of an organization called the Malian Organic Movement, Cissť is working toward a solution. Her group trains 8,000 local farmers to use organic growing methods. Going organic improves both the soil and farmers’ incomes, since organic cotton and other products fetch higher prices on the international market.

About a third of the farmers in Cissť’s organization are women. Many are defying gender roles by growing cash crops like cotton, which is traditionally considered men’s work. With support from Oxfam, women members also learn reading, writing, accounting, and entrepreneurial skills. (Mali has a 31 percent literacy rate for women, compared with 47 percent for men.)

“Education has worked wonders,” said Cissť, who said the knowledge gives women confidence to become leaders in their communities. And because women farmers often use their earnings to pay school fees or put food on the table, their children also benefit.

A year later, Oxfam America is celebrating International Women’s Day, March 8, by honoring women who make a difference. Our supporters are giving awards, sending e-cards, and hosting events in recognition of the inspiring women in their lives.

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Photo courtesy of Oxfam America.

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9:41AM PST on Mar 9, 2012

:) sweet!

9:08PM PST on Mar 8, 2012

It takes a Woman - who doesn't want to see her children starve, or her son, her father, or her husband go off to war... It takes a Woman.

9:24AM PST on Mar 8, 2012

Como cidadão da Europa e como humano e homem desejo que no futuro proximo todas as mulheres Africanas tenham os diretos fudamentais

4:27AM PST on Mar 8, 2012

We really need more women in power all over the world to bring some sanity to this planet. When I see some of the krap that goes on ( look no further than the current teapublican war on women) it make me ashamed to be a man

4:26AM PST on Mar 8, 2012

And in a Muslim country too, this progress is happening. Great news.

10:52PM PST on Mar 7, 2012

Great story. Thank you Emily.

12:28PM PST on Mar 7, 2012

Bravo for these brave women!

12:24PM PST on Mar 7, 2012


12:01PM PST on Mar 7, 2012


11:59AM PST on Mar 7, 2012


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