Today marks my six months in Mali. I arrived to Bamako on the night between June 4th and 5th, I didn’t know what to expect from this adventure, the night was hot and humid, and as soon as I made it to my room at The Sleeping Camel, it began storming. I remember being thirsty and worried about how to get from the airport to the hostel, I remember getting to the hostel and realising that I was, once again, in a far far away country, and that my life would have a whole different colour scheme for the following months. I had no idea what the work and the country would bring me, but I can honestly say, six months on, that this experience has profoundly marked me, both personally and professionally.
Today also marks the first time that I spend six months in one country without crossing any borders. My life as an Italian living abroad, and then living away from home, meant that I was constantly travelling between countries, to visit family, friends, go back to school, etcetera. Maybe it’s a coincidence that Mali is the country where I have been able to “stay put” for more than half a year, maybe it’s due to its sheer size (it’s HUGE!), maybe it’s due to the nature of our work – a six months project hardly leaves any time to hop over to Burkina Faso or Cote D’Ivoire.
Mali is a country worth exploring, with its complications, challenges, questions (and very few answers). Malians are a people worth knowing, with their kindness and hospitality, diversity, culture and colour. There is so much to know and understand, from the mystic Dogon villages in the South East, to the life and activity in Bamako, to the mystery and poetry of the desert. Six months gave me just a taste of all of it, and it made me want to see and learn more. Although my time here is almost over, there is still much to do and still a lot to discover.
Maybe the six months mark also calls for a small “compte rendu”, feedback, a resume. Sini Sanuman have been kind enough to let a stranger into their offices, to let me try and help with a whole new programme and they opened their doors to me. Sure, it has not been without its ups and downs and its challenges, but those are also part of the journey. For the first time, I was confronted with stories experiences that I had only read about it books and articles, stories of rape and sexual violence, the faces of the survivors, their inner strength, their struggles. The sensitivity of this subject is such that not much can be shared widely; even creating profiles of women at our centres, sharing their names and telling their stories would be unfair to them, and could potentially pose risks. I have shared, and will share, their stories in a coded format, their names won’t figure on the article. The world should be aware of happens in the remotest corners of the world, in tents in the desert, in the darkness of the slums of Bamako and improvised IDP camps.
Six months in Mali and I don’t want to leave. Six months in Mali and despite of all the dust that I really need to wash off, I am not tired. I have found wonderful friends and accomplices in this city, in this country; I feel that this project, that I am fortunate to be part of, has the potential to have a real impact, and indeed already has it. Below is one of the photos that made it all worth it: survivors of sexual violence, strong women at our centre, wearing the clothes that they learned to make, and being proud of showing them off.
Posted By Giorgia Nicatore
Posted Dec 5th, 2014