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A hero from "the South" - Awa Seye, leader of the women in artisanal fisheries in Senegal

Film debate

So short after International Women's Day (8 March) it was just the thing to do - present the video-interview with Awa Seye, leader of the women in artisanal fisheries in Senegal in which she tells her quite extra-ordinary story.

So, who is this unsung hero of "the South"?

She lost three children in child birth but then became a midwife, saving many newborn babies and their mothers. She faced many obstacles before carving out a role for her as a successful entrepreneur of her family fishing business.

She struggles with fellow women fish processor to keep access to essential beach space for their fish processing business defending it against encroaching tourism.The women are very resourceful and support each other.

She actively defends the rights and needs of her community of Guet NDar in Saint Louis in the municipal council.

She may not have had the chance to go to school but she is second to none in defending the interests for safety and healthy resources of the fishermen all over the country and promotes sending girls and boys to school now to open up additional opportunities for their futures.

She also claimed greater political attention to the lot of the small-scale fishers who represent a large chunk of the national economy and a representation in the national assembly in order to become a more active and recognised part of the political decision-making process.

The interview lasted barely 20 minutes, but the ensuring lively debate went on for about two hours! Aliou Sall, Senegalese socio-anthropologist knows Awa Seye personally for many years and was able to give additional explanations about the living conditions in the fishing communities and their daily struggle. He also spoke about the erosion of authority at many levels and how this was making it difficult to reign in overcapacity and a gradual degradation of the natural and social environment.

Many speakers in the exchange recognised that these development issues were not merely of a technical but also of a political nature.

How can groups and entire countries define and defend their interests effectively in the face of strong financially and institutionally backed opposition from others? Should African groups and countries do more to shape international negotiations or is it enough to tag along once e.g. an economic partnership agreement has been agreed?

What else could be done to enhance the role and rights of women? Giving greater reach to their voices through e.g. such video interviews that recognise their role as social actors in their own right is certainly a step in the right direction.

The film debate was organised by Campus en Transition and Mundus maris as part of Campus Plein Sud 2015 at the ULB on 12 March. Watch the video with Awa Seye for yourselves on the YouTube channel of Mundus maris here.