Taking Control

By Jessica Beckerman ’06, Whitney Braunstein ’04, Ari Johnson ’04, Sasha Rubel ’06 / September / October 2006
November 13th, 2006

As described in the March/April BAM, wehave coordinated Project Muso Ladamunen in Yirimadjo, Mali, for thepast year (“Women with Something to Say,” Elms). Our team wants tocorrect a misunderstanding and thank Ricardo Howell ’93 for bringing itto light (“Lazy Thinking,” Mail Room, May/June).

Toclarify, consider the story of Kadia and her two infant sons. Like theother women in Yirimadjo, there is nothing passive about Kadia. Shewakes before dawn and works late, often until 10 p.m., searching forwater, cooking, cleaning, and caring for an extended family of morethan twenty people, selling fried root vegetables in an attempt to earna small income.


The painful challenges she faces every day have nothing to do with passivity; on the contrary, each night, after working continuously for sixteen to eighteen hours, she must go to sleep knowing that she still cannot afford eight dollars for a mosquito net to protect her sons from malaria.

The greatest tragedy in Yirimadjo is not simply the manifold health crises the community faces, but also the feeling of helplessness in the face of these crises. This helplessness is the direct product of economic, social, and political domination and of a long history of oppression and exclusion.

Project Muso (www.projectmuso .org) partners with women in Yirimadjo to help them develop the skills they want and need to fight health crises in their community, and to fight the poverty that causes them. Over the past eight months, Project Muso has trained 120 women to be community health promoters, and we plan to train 180 more by 2008. Participants build upon local wisdom and performance-teaching traditions to develop skills in health, literacy, math, problem solving, community organizing, teaching, organizational and financial management, and revenue-generation.

Kadia, for example, doesn’t stop at 10 p.m. anymore: while breast-feeding, she takes out her homework, and under a dim lamp she manipulates numbers she could not recognize a few months before. We have never met people more strong, diligent, or dynamic than the women of Yirimadjo, who are taking control of the health of their community. Every day, they inspire us to work harder.

Jessica Beckerman ’06, Whitney Braunstein ’04, Ari Johnson ’04, Sasha Rubel ’06

New York City


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September / October 2006