2019 Project Focus: Education and Economic Empowerment in Mali

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At the heart of what we do at Somebody’s Mama is the desire to see true community development led by women around the world. We know statistically and anecdotally that empowered women carry their communities with them. One of the keys to seeing women empowered is providing opportunities for education which creates space for dignity and transformation. 

In 2011, Tandana Foundation began a cotton bank and Savings for Change micro-credit program for women in the village of Kansongho in the Mopti region of eastern Mali. The women receiving these grants approached Tandana leadership and asked specifically for literacy and numeracy training to help them manage their businesses better. The Mopti region has the lowest literacy rate in all of Mali with only 10% of women being functionally literate and 87% of women having no formal education.

Tandana partnered with a technical linguistic service to create booklets and training manuals in Tommo So, the dominant language in the region, the first of their kind. Since the beginning of the Tommo So literacy program in 2012, Tandana Foundation has provided classes to over 1,100 women in 28 villages. They have expanded the program to include a second, more advanced class for women who wish to complete more coursework.


In 2018, 250 former literacy students were selected by their peers to participate in women’s leadership workshops during which they learned how to create and lead women’s associations in their villages. In the last year, 27 women’s associations put together income-generating enterprise proposals they wish to undertake as a group. After a vetting process, Tandana has selected six of the proposals to receive startup funding.

From start to finish, the women of the Mopti region have driven change in their communities. Tandana Foundation has provided support, resources, and guidance for best practices after years of seeing successful community development in Mali and Ecuador. We are in love with their approach to building relationships, committing to long-term support, and allowing the people they are helping to lead the way.


Somebody’s Mama has the opportunity to come alongside this well-oiled machine to continue to change the statistics in the Mopti region. We have agreed to fund a $15,000 grant to Tandana Foundation to help at the ground level of development. The goal of this grant is to provide literacy and numeracy classes to 300 new women in 10 villages. Of those 300 women, 40 will go on to form and lead women’s associations. 5 of those associations will receive start-up funding for their communal enterprises such as market gardening, transforming cotton, and raising livestock. Working together through these associations not only increases their income but also supports their political participation.


Here’s where your donation goes:

$8 – Supplies for one literacy student (includes: chalk, pencils, erasers, notebook, ruler and slate)

$40 - Pencils for one class

$60 - Chalk for one class

$80 – One chalkboard for a literacy class

$242 – Supplies for one literacy class of 30 women 

$545 – Classroom equipment for one class (includes: chalkboard, mats, and teacher’s equipment)

Education is the first stepping stone to paving the way for our friends in Mali to support their families, to build communities, and to become engaged citizens and community leaders. We are delighted to partner with the Tandana Foundation in this life-giving endeavor!