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Canadian Crossroads international

Entrepreneurial Spirit: Malian women build business and community By Idrissa Kone: Bamako, Mali


ako Sylla was scraping by doing odd jobs in Sirakoro Méguétana, Mali. She brought in so little that she

was unable to provide her children with the most basic necessities like food, clean water, medical care and education. About 20 kilometers away in the capital city of Bamako, Fatoumata Diallo was earning a pittance. She was forced to abandon her trade as a Batik dyer when she could no longer afford materials or find markets for her products. That is how the story began. Today, both of these women, with the support of Crossroads’ partner Association jeunesse action Mali (AJA), are successful entrepreneurs. The association’s programme helped Sylla and Diallo master the basics of running a small business with projects like researching local markets, writing a business plan, acquiring financing and equipment, and learning a specialized trade.

Cultivating Leadership

Women and gir ls participate in public life

The results are impressive. Sylla established Tako Sylla Sarl, a food processing operation that produces organic dried mangos, a precooked millet cereal called fonio, dried tomatoes and powdered ginger, among other fare. With continued assistance from the association, the business ensures decent wages for


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2 3 4 Standing for election: Women on the ballot in Ghana

49 Bathurst St., Suite 201 Toronto, ON M5V 2P2 Canada

Senegal’s next generation of women’s rights advocates

What is Lawrence Hill buying this holiday season?

Entr epre seed neur Ta ko S mo proc ney to o ylla use p essin d g pla en a foo d nt in Mali.

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workers by getting a fair price for their products in market. “Now, I am more involved in the activities and decisions in my neighbourhood,” says Sylla. “I would like to take on the challenge of encouraging more women to become entrepreneurs with the support of AJA.” Diallo, along with a number of her classmates in the entrepreneurship programme,

“Now, I am more involved in the activities and decisions in my neighbourhood. I would like to take on the challenge of encouraging more women to become entrepreneurs.” Tako Sylla, entrepreneur, Association jeunesse action Mali

founded Ben Kunda, the first women-run laundry and dry-cleaning service in Mali. She continues to act as head manager. “Co-operatives allow women to get more involved in the management of their

empower individuals and communities to develop robust local economies. This kind

communities,” says Diallo. “Women feel more responsible when they are part of a

of programme means that Sylla and Diallo are able to provide for their families, to

co-operative, so they participate in decision-making.”

meet their basic needs with dignity – a decent job for a decent wage.

Through AJA, Crossroads is helping men and women get fledgling businesses off the ground. In supporting women like Sylla and Diallo, Crossroads is helping

Idrissa is the Communications and Information Manager for Association jeunesse action Mali.

STandIng For eleCTIon: on: Women on the ballot in Ghana

taking t aking part in lo loCal deCisions

By Matthew Watson: Accra, Ghana with WiLDAF’s prominence in supporting


wo years ago, rebecca asamoah made a critical decision that changed many lives in her village. after attending a workshop about the importance of involving more ghanaian women in politics, she brought the message home. asamoah took up the challenge of encouraging local women to stand for office.

female candidates during campaign season,


And she delivered. This fall, five women from her community are running in Ghana’s

Programme Officer Frank Bodza

“It changed my life in so many ways,” she said of We Know Politics, a leadership programme organized by Women in Law and Development in Africa-Ghana (WiLDAF) — one of Crossroads’ partner organizations in the country — and


recounts. Bodza adds that he is opti-


mistic, but cautiously so, about the

hop p artic Ghana ipants in , fall 2010.

have “found the courage” to run, he says. we asked participants to identify prevailing sex and gender roles by reciting local proverbs about women and men. A few of the more memorable sayings included, “The stupid man is wiser than the wisest woman;” “If a woman buys a gun it’s kept in the room of the man;” and “If you teach a man, you teach an individual;

three other local groups. When I met Asamoah she was speaking at the launch of We Know

but if you teach a woman, you teach a nation.”

Politics II, the second round of WiLDAF’s campaign to increase the

The last proverb echoes a core value of We Know Politics. Namely, that

number of women running for office. Participating in these workshops,

the best way to teach the nation about the crucial need to increase women’s

with community leaders like Asamoah, was one of the highlights of my

voices in the halls of power is not through NGOs or politicians in the

five-month work placement with WiLDAF. While I was primarily respon--

capital. Rather, it is by conveying the message to community leaders, who

sible for creating online resources to help increase women’s access to

share this lesson with their neighbours and friends.

legal services and combat violence against women, my experience was enriched by the opportunity to participate in this communitybased campaign. The week-long We Know Politics II training that I attended, in the town of Axim, drew a vibrant range of

of the physically challenged community. Sessions like this are taking place in 24 districts across the councoun try, in an effort to ramp-up the number of women candidates campaigning in local and Parliamentary elections.

One of the things I most admire about Crossroads, and one of

“This fall, five women from her community are running in Ghana’s District Assembly elections, [Asamoah] reported with a wide smile. ‘It changed my life in so many ways.’” Rebecca Asamoah, community leader and workshop participant with Women in Law and Development Africa-Ghana

The need is clear: Ghanaian women repCanadian Crossroads International


For my part, one of the most striking moments of the workshops in Axim was when

District Assembly elections, she reported with a wide smile.

Mother, student union representatives, and members

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28, 2010. It’s still unclear just how many women will

ed sitting members of the District Assembly, a Queen



upcoming local elections on December

participants. From 20 to 70 years old, attendees includ includ-



champion the nomination, WiLDAF


ip ersh lead hana. a G at ing nce in e peak h s confer a o sam

the reasons I chose to work overseas as a Crossroader, is that they share this philosophy. This is evidenced, for instance, by their commitment to a largely bottom-up approach to development, and the simple, yet empowering view that Crossroads’ international partners know best how to serve their own communities. I couldn’t help but be slightly troubled by that last proverb, however. After all, the purpose was not just to train women; WiLDAF set out to train all participants, male and female alike. So while that proverb, like all proverbs I suppose, has an important kernel of truth to it, it also oversimplifies the matter. WiLDAF is striving to empower more Ghanaians, both women and men, to do what Rebecca Asamoah did – to

resent only 8.3 per cent of Parliamentarians and 9.4 per cent of local

convince women to run for office. And I truly believe that our work in the town of Axim

District Assemblypersons. We Know Politics seeks to improve these

may have helped to create other Rebecca Asamoahs, or perhaps Richard Asamoahs.

woeful statistics by convincing community leaders that women can,

And that is a deeply gratifying thought.

and should, take up public decision-making roles. It also equips

them to spread this message in their communities.

The partnership between Crossroads and WiLDAF focuses on increasing access to justice for

While these workshops alone cannot usher in change at the polls, polls the programme

women and girls by promoting and monitoring the implementation of Ghana’s recently passed

has already yielded unexpected benefits. For example, in 2008 the newly-elected governgovern

Domestic Violence Act. Increasing the number of women involved in political decision making

ment appointed Joyce Bamford-Addo as the country’s first woman Speaker of Parliament.

is critical to addressing both violence and systemic discrimination as issues of equality – as

When news of the controversial appointment hit the press, the government, impressed

issues of women’s and girls’ rights.

In Remembrance of long-time CCI Volunteer John MacFarlane Canadian Crossroads International’s Board and staff were saddened to learn of the death of John T. MacFarlane on August 14th. John taught physics for almost 30 years at Mount Allison University and was a well-loved teacher and a respected researcher and scholar. He taught overseas in Ethiopia, Ghana and Rwanda and was recognized for his significant contributions to the development of education in Africa. But for more than 30 years, John was also a committed Crossroads volunteer. Through the 1970s to 1990s, John served multiple terms on the Board of Directors, also serving as chair and taking on numerous local committee roles. We are stronger “[MacFarlane] taught overseas in Ethiopia, for his leadership and wisdom. John’s family has continued his legacy of support by Ghana and Rwanda and was recognized requesting that donations in his memory be made to Crossroads. On behalf of the whole Crossroads family we wish to express our condolences to John’s family and for his significant contributions to the friends and our sincere thanks to those who have made gifts honouring John’s development of education in Africa.” unwavering commitment to a more just and equitable world.

Crossroaders and aFeMe inspire a new generation of women’s rights advocates

Message from the executive director Karen Takacs

By Nicolas Gersdorff

Cultivating leadership Crossroaders show the way to a more just and equitable world


hen Crossroads honorary patron Lawrence Hill delivered the convocation speech

at the University of Toronto this year he said, “Some of the richest experiences in my own life have involved modest acts of volunteerism – travelling three times with Canadian Crossroads International to Niger, Cameroon and Mali, and more recently, meeting with prison inmates to talk about books and literature and the joys of reading and writing.” Hill is not alone. Forty-six per cent of Canadians over the age of 15 volunteer, offering 2.1 billion hours of time annually, according to the

2007 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating. At Crossroads, we know the value of volunteerism. Every day we witness the skill and passion that Canadians bring to their placements in West Africa, Southern Africa and Bolivia. Our volunteers relay the tremendous lessons they learn from our overseas partners; their perspectives and values changed by working so intimately with people who have fewer resources and face greater obstacles. In offering their time and experience, they build capacity and empathy. Their small investments yield long-term results. Crossroads volunteers — from Canada, Africa and Bolivia — are making our vision of an equitable and sustainable world a reality. In this issue, we celebrate how Crossroads’ programme is cultivating leadership among volunteers, partners and the people they serve. From Ghanaian women courageously running for election, to youth entrepreneurs in Mali, to a Canadian writer bringing home stories of hope, Crossroads is investing in tomorrow’s leaders. With International Volunteer Day just around the corner, on December 5, we dedicate this issue of Sankofa to our volunteers and partners, whose leadership has been the foundation of our work for more than 50 years. a happy International Volunteer day to you all!

“Whether you take two years to go work as a volunteer in another country, two days to help out in your city, or two hours to do something for a neighbour on your own street, there are countless ways to give to other people, and to enrich oneself at the same time. Paradoxically, you end up receiving as much as you give, when you step into a world of volunteerism.” -Lawrence Hill, writer Niger 1979; Cameroon 1981; Mali 1989



MonThly donorS: loyal supporters making a vital commitment Suzanne gIbSon (Monthly Donor since 2004) “I have worked in the Canadian charitable sector for more than 20 years and have watched Canadian Crossroads International transform and evolve over that time. It is a vibrant, adaptive organization that provides people with the resources and skills to make meaningful, positive change in their lives. I love that Crossroads involves Canadians as

global citizens in a way that educates all of us and helps us find better solutions to complex problems abroad as well as here in Canada. I joined the Board as a volunteer director because I was so inspired by Crossroads’ work. And did I ever learn a lot during my time on the Board! I really believe in Crossroads’ model for change. It is all about creating synergies across cultures and communities through the exchange of people, ideas, resources and solutions. It is a dynamic response that propels people to work collaboratively to uncover new and creative ways of strengthening communities. Whether it is reducing violence against women or strengthening people’s economic independence, I have seen first hand, that Crossroads really makes a very positive difference. I know that my monthly donation goes a long way to creating lasting change and that feels great!”

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them about their opinion. They are not used to talking about Founded in 1993, the Association was created by women who their problems,” explained Shirley Richard, the Crossroaders’ decided that they were entitled to their rights. They demanded an team leader. “The different activities allow them to make their active part in the decision-making and the development of their voices heard and to act for the community.” neighbourhood. After years of working for the economic and “Girls have rights and it is important that we instruct them, social promotion of the women of Médina, AFEME realized because there is much ignorance,” said Diop. “We want them to the vital role young women and girls could play in the feminist have more self-confidence, to be able to make their own decisions movement. … and to take their rightful place.” “We thought, ‘Why not include our daughters, our nieces? Ndoye and her AFEME colleagues understand better than Why not bring them in?’” recalls Maymouna Diop, head of anyone the importance of leadership for girls of that age, not AFEME’s girls programme since its creation in 2007. “We didn’t only for themselves, but also for the community as a whole. “We want to remain an association of mothers and leave our girls by want better development for our neighbourhood and to help the wayside.” children in difficulty,” she notes. “Girls encounter many It would take three years and the arrival of a team of problems. We must help them to learn their rights and Crossroaders before the programme for girls was set in their duties.” motion. Since then the scope and number of projects Diop and Ndoye travelled to Canada this fall to has grown dramatically — awareness-raising in schools, meet with Crossroads and Canadian partner la Table informal chat groups, meetings with influential des groupes de femmes de Montréal (TGFM) to learn women in political and social circles, training courscours more about its leadership programmes. The two AFEME es in public speaking and leadership, etc. representatives also met with many community-based The girls at AFEME see the arrival of organizations to draw inspiration from the activities Crossroaders as a catalyst. “We went from 17 they offer to young leaders and took part in to about 100 girls. Young women were coming in to sign up every day,” added “We want [girls] to have more the World March for Women. For the young president of the girls’ Rokhaya Ndoye, a 21-year-old student and self-confidence, to be able to chapter, Ndoye, the future is already filled the president of the AFEME girls’ chapter. with promise and ambition: “I want to Young girls in Médina are often vicmake their own decisions… become a successful businesswoman. I tims of poverty and violence but must face and to take their rightful place.” want to be someone important (…) to their problems alone. Social pressures, culhelp street kids and to bring new life to the tural mores and tradition prevent them Maymouna Diop, head of the AFEME old quarters of Dakar.” from speaking out. “No one ever asked programme for girls

FulFilling women’s rights


reat projects often come from great encounters. For the girls of the Association des femmes de la Médina (AFEME), Senegal, it was in the summer of 2010 when a team of Québec sans frontières Crossroaders arrived to support the association’s efforts to establish a leadership programme for girls.


MONTHLY GIVING Making every dollar count


cannot overstate the importance of our loyal Monthly Donors! Knowing we can rely

on this income enables us to plan more effectively, increasing the impact of our work. Monthly giving is the most cost effective and environmentally responsible way to donate, and you can cancel or change the amount you give any time. A gift of $20 a month, less than $1 per day, could help a woman gain financial independence. Over time it adds up to a significant and vital contribution.

It’s never too early to start shopping…

This season, what is Lawrence Hill buying?

Check out CCI’s exciting new


Ethical Holiday Gift Guide

Check out our unique gift options for women and girls online at or contact Shobi Sivaraj at 1-877-967-1611 ext. 288.

t g Lis

ila er Swaz h t n i o s M lub ls’ c


ive a “gift that keeps on giving” to loved ones and friends this holiday season. From microcredit loans for women in Bolivia, to girls’ empowerment clubs in Swaziland and Zimbabwe, to training for legal literacy volunteers in Ghana — your gifts will support innovative programming that empowers women and girls! So … if you are not sure what to get that “certain someone”, or want to give an ethical gift this year, please consider supporting Crossroads, our partners and the many women and girls who will benefit from your generosity. Whether you give a gift in your own name or on behalf of someone else, you will receive a tax receipt for income tax purposes. When you purchase a gift on behalf of others, they will receive a personalized gift card describing the special gift you have made in their honour. By making a special gift this holiday season you, and your friends or family members, will be helping to create a more equitable and sustainable world.


pin Shop



s er in busines Sistm n a o e Afric •W est in W

a her ng in Zimb t o r B i train



itical a Niecmeen’s ponl in Ghan o o i t

W icipa part

“There is no better feeling than seizing on the chance to give and making that gift really count. This year, I am offering my family and friends a CCI ‘GIFT OF GIVING’. I can’t think of a better way to give meaning to a holiday tradition. Please join me. Help spread the feeling by bringing hope and opportunity to women and girls living in poor countries across the world!” Crossroads Honorary Patron Lawrence Hill, best selling author of The Book of Negroes Niger, 1979; Cameroon, 1981; Mali, 1989

lIVIng leaderShIP A profile of Crossroads volunteer supporting autonomY

Patsy George

among other honours. Now her focus is building the global community. “Conditions are so dire, how can I sit back and enjoy my retirement?” she asks. “We are interrelated and interconnected… we have a joint responsibility to each other.” In addition to serving on Canadian Crossroads International’s Board of Directors, she is also a founding director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, a proud member of the foundation’s Grandmother’s for Africa, and President of the United Nations Association in Canada, Vancouver Branch.

By Christine Campbell

“As a board member, part of my responsibility is to raise funds,” she adds. “I can do this in a number of ways, I can make a gift myself, I can open doors to my community and I can host an event – raise a few dollars, but also raise interest in the issues and the organization.”

“I am a tough cookie when it comes to planning

For Patsy leadership means having the courage to act and to involve others. “Find an issue that you care about. Involve one or two others – relatives or col-

events,” Patsy George says with a laugh referring to Banking on Women,

leagues and see what you can do together.” The result, as Patsy has shown with her

a Crossroads fundraiser she and a committee of dedicated volunteers

own leadership, is a community of interested, engaged citizens who are comfortable

organized in Vancouver. “That comes from years of managing budgets in

challenging the status quo.

government departments.” The cookie part maybe, but tough? The word seems incongruous when you meet her. At only 5 feet with her long hair, now graying in a trademark bun, Patsy greets you so warmly you’d think you were the most important person in the room. You soon realize that’s how she makes everyone feel. Make no mistake, Patsy is a force to be reckoned with… a determined force for good.

Banking on Women, which featured award-winning writer Lawrence Hill, sold out two weeks in advance and the October event raised over $12,000 for Crossroads’ work with women in West Africa. Patsy, the event chair board member, hopes the success of this event will inspire other Crossroads supporters to organize events in their communities. This brings our conversation around to leadership, a topic Patsy knows a bit about. Since coming to Canada from India 50 years ago, she has had a distinguished career as a social worker and a civil servant, including serving as Director of Multiculturalism

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for British Columbia. She has devoted her life to empowering communities. “I get so much joy out of it,” she says. “Citizenship means you have to be involved, to be active... Being an active part of a community brings meaning to life.” As a volunteer, she has worked alongside immigrant women, visible minorities and First Nations people to advance their rights. It is a passion deeply held. “For me there

CCI is supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Ministère des Relations internationales of the Government of Quebec, other government and non-government funders, as well as many individuals around the world. Sankofa is published twice yearly for Canadian Crossroads International alumni and friends. Please send us your comments, letters and ideas. • executive director: Karen Takacs • director, external relations: Christine Campbell • Coordination and writing: Candice O’Grady • linguistic services and writing: Nicolas Gersdorff • Contributors: Matt Watson, Idrissa Kone • Photos: courtesy of ABANTU for Development (cover), courtesy of Association jeunesse action Mali (cover inset, 2), courtesy of WiLDAF (2), courtesy of Elisabeth Nicol (2), Nicolas Gersdorff (3), courtesy of Suzanne Gibson • art direction: Wioletta Wesolowski, Visual Concepts • Canadian Crossroads International, Toronto office: 49 Bathurst St., Suite 201, Toronto, ON, M5V 2P2; Tel: 416.967.1611; Toll-free: 877.967.1611; Fax: 416.967.9078; email: Montreal office: 3000, rue Omer-Lavallée, Suite 126, Montréal, QC H1V 3R8; Tel: 514. 528.5363; e-mail: Program/project/activity undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

is a sacred duty to care,” Patsy explains. “It is the challenge by which I live… I go back to our Crossroads motto, One World…. We are inextricably bound up with one another.”

Canadian International Development Agency

Agence canadienne de développement international


At 70 years of age, she tells me, she has limited time. She has to focus her efforts.


A lifetime of volunteer work, locally and nationally, has garnered her The Order of Canada

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Sankofa Fall/Winter 2010  

Sankofa is published twice yearly for Canadian Crossroads International alumni and friends.