HerstoryOfChange – Fatou Ndoye, environmental activist and women’s rights advocate for fisher women in Senegal

As an ecofeminist network, we want to give space to the stories of inspiring champions of gender equality and the fight against climate change and environmental degradation. We believe that a sustainable future and environment needs feminist solutions reflecting the lives of people on the ground. That’s why we honor people who are leading the way into gender equality and women’s human rights in interconnection with sustainable development and climate justice. One of these champions is Fatou Ndoye.  

Fatou Ndoye is a sociologist and gender, climate and development expert. She has been working since 1997 for Enda Graf Sahel, an NGO dedicated to the social and economic development of disadvantaged populations in Senegal. 

 As the coordinator of the Food Security Pole of Enda Graf Sahel, Fatou supports sustainable value chains in agriculture, fishing and small-scale livestock farming, as well as women’s entrepreneurship. With her organisation, she is supporting fisher women to restore and develop sustainable fishing, and energy efficient processing practices of mangrove shellfish and small fish. Her work for environmental protection and women’s empowerment in the Saloum Delta has been praised by many.  

In 2016, Fatou’s work was awarded a grant from the Gender Just Climate Solution Awards. The grant was used to acquire 45 improved stoves and to create a revolving fund. The new equipment also lightens the women’s work and reduces the incidence of respiratory diseases caused by smoke.  

Women fishers demonstrate that a different way is possible

Women fishers of the Saloum Delta are demonstrating that a different way of reshaping the fisheries sector, in a gender – and climate just way, via a sustainable energy transition, is possible. The Saloum Delta is a fragile ecosystem prone to climate change, deforestation and industrial fishing. Climate change is causing the sea level to rise and is emphasizing coastal erosion. The presence of big fishing corporations also contributes to the degradation of the environment as it increases overfishing. Concerning the mangrove, both climate change and intensive industrial fishing are degrading it. To address these issues, women fishers from seven villages of the Saloum Delta are working to develop sustainable fishing.  

Fishing plays an important role in Senegal, both culturally and economically. 80% of protein consumed in the country comes from fish and the fishing sector provides nearly 70 000 jobs. One of the aims of Fatou’s work is precisely to revalue the local economy of the Saloum Delta, using a gender approach : by being present throughout the entire value chain, from shellfish collection to production and processing, as well as selling, women contribute to maintaining and developing the local economy, creating jobs for a major part of the population. 

 With Enda Graf Sahel,  Fatou helped to introduce 200 locally manufactured improved stoves for the low-carbon transformation of fish and shellfish products. The stoves are used to cook, smoke, dry and process the fish and shellfish. As a result, the firewood consumption has been reduced by 75%. Ovens that require less wood reduce CO2 emissions, health risks and fuel costs. So far, 4 800 women are carrying forward an energy transition in their sector. The next step they hope to achieve is the total elimination of wood in processing practices and replace it by fully solar-powered equipment. 

But the fisher women’s work towards climate justice includes more than just reducing fuel use. The women learn how to reforest the mangrove, to guarantee the reproduction of the species. Shellfish harvesting is always combined with mangrove reforestation activities and the seeding of clams, activities that are culturally carried out annually by women, and are essential for the preservation of the environment. 

“Women are at the heart of the energy system: to fetch wood, water, transform… This requires enormous physical efforts while at the same time educating and taking care of their children. With all these burdens, they are de facto distant from decision-making”. 

 One of the very important outcomes of the work conducted by Fatou and Enda Graf Sahel is the fatct that it includes a more political component, which is to give more place to women in the decision-making process when it comes to policies concerning food autonomy.  

In fact, in the fishing sector, decision-making bodies are predominantly male-dominated, even though women outnumber men in this sector.  To remedy this and to establish more equality between men and women, Enda Graf Sahel initiated a training programme for the fisher women’s to strengthen their leadership capacities and their skills in organisational management. 20 fisherwomen have been included in local fishing regulation committees. A national network bringing together all the women in the fishing sector has also been set up. 

Meet Fatou herself in this video we made about her achievements!

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