I arrived in Kita, Mali yesterday with my women’s association!

The journey was very long – about 8 hours total travel time, starting at 5 am – but we didn’t have any major bus issues, so it was fairly easy.  I was so happy that 9 of 11 women who planned to come, showed up on time for the bus with their ticket money in hand.  In Mali, a lack participation and little regard for timeliness can be major barriers to achieving success.

We arrived in Bamako around 8:45 am and had a short walk from one bus station to another.  I wish I had a picture of that walk. I was at the front of the single-file line, with my backpack fully packed, walking ahead of a group of village women in bright, patterned fabric with their bags atop their heads.  Every couple of minutes I found myself looking back to make sure no one was lagging behind and when we arrived at the bus station, I took a head count.   I kind of felt like a Girl Scout troop leader, haha.

Once we arrived in Kita, after another 3 1/2 hour ride, we were all exhausted.  We headed straight to the shea butter cooperative concession, where the formation is being held and the women are staying.  After lunch, brief introductions and lots of blessings we broke for an afternoon of relaxation.

Our first day of formation work was today.  The goal for the day was to enable the women of the shea butter association in my village to “talk business,” with the women of the association here in Kita.  During the lively conversation, the Kita women shared the successes and hardships of running a shea butter cooperative for the last three years with my women, who are just starting out. It seemed to be a really valuable exchange of information and my women appeared to be connecting the dots.  I hope that they are able to use this information, paired with their motivation, to continue and expand their work in the coming years.

Tomorrow, the women in Kita will show us how to make shea butter soap.  With this skill, the women in my village will be able to diversify the products they sell at market and also make soap to keep for their families.  Shea butter soap can be made with second or third quality-shea butter that can’t be sold as a pomade or for cooking, so butter that they would struggle to sell otherwise can still be profitable.  This part of the formation will certainly produce some good photos and I’ll be sure to share here in a later post!

I can tell that the women are really excited to be traveling away from village and participating in this formation (and I’m happy to be traveling and learning with them). I anticipate the rest of the formation will be informative, but exhausting. Wish me continued luck – or as they would say here, “Ala k’an deme,” God help us!