The use of WakaWakas by Dogon Women in Mali

Jacqti: “The Dogon women who have bought a WakaWaka now have more time to work and earn their own money. According to the women they can perform all their tasks much faster now. They now need less time for their household chores, because they can actually see what they are doing and where everything is situated. To save money women used to do their chores in the dark. With help of the WakaWaka lamp, the women also produce more. They can work inside their house now by light of free solar energy.

The women save the money they used to spend on kerosene and therefore have more money left after they sold the products they made. Before flashlights were used for lighting. These were of bad quality and only lasted for three months. As they do not have a single toy children used to play with the batteries. This can be very dangerous, for example when they are putting leaking batteries into their mouth.

In the course of time, the women discover more entrepreneur opportunities. Some women make beignets and sell them in the morning. This enables other women to safe time for other activities as they do not have to make their own

breakfast anymore. The women become more and more creative! They are getting used to the fact they have light, which broadens their scope. The money stays in the local economy but it circulates more often. The WakaWakas are at the Dogon villages since four months. I expect that the income of 25% of the women who own a WakaWaka will increase with 50%!

Except for entrepreneurship the WakaWakas are good for socializing. Normally during rain time, the women are sitting inside the house with their children and other family member. In the dark, because their houses do not have windows. There are no toys, so the children have nothing to do. With the WakaWaka they can see each other and can socialize. The utility of the WakaWaka also proved itself during community meetings. Because all women are working during the day, these meetings always take place in the evening. It is really dark. We cannot imagine how dark it can, as we are used to light.  In Mali, every single day of the year it is dark between 18.00 and 6.00 o’clock. The consequence  of meeting in the dark is that you only hear voices; you cannot see the other women. So they cannot look into each other’s eyes, which hinders communication. Now the WakaWaka makes it possible to have effective meetings.

In the Dogon culture men and women work together on their fields. The family lives from the harvest. If the harvest is big enough, crops will be sold as well. But the money they earn with the harvest is owned by the man and he can decide where to spend it on. In order to earn their own money they can spend their selves, the women do side jobs in the evening. For example, they make soap or divide big bags of peanuts or rice in small portions. Some women make pots, beer, or bisap (a kind of fruit syrup). Others spin cotton and sew strips of fabric together. In Mali it gets dark at 18.00 o’clock. Therefore the women have to do their work next to dirty and dangerous kerosene lamps which are bad for their health. On top of that, kerosene costs a lot of money. The women are really aware they are actually ‘working against the costs’.

The lamps remain in the hands of the women, because they paid them and they use them for their work. The women now earn something valuable and they earn more money. This strengthens their social position. They get more respect and more self-esteem. You should look into their eyes, they are shining! They are getting so happy of light! We really do not have to do anything to sell the WakaWaka’s!”