Giorgia Nicatore

Giorgia Nicatore (Sini Sanuman in Mali): Italian by birth, Giorgia grew up in Belgium. Before her fellowship, she studied the philosophy of war at King's College London. She also worked in Senegal, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau where she discovered the power of local peace-building. Giorgia took a semester off from studying for a Master's in Conflict Resolution at Georgetown University in Washington to work in Mali. After her fellowship Giorgia wrote: “Six months in Mali and I don’t want to leave. 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.”

Dear diary…

03 Aug

Wednesday, July 23rd

Zaliha O. Maiga, one of Sini Sanuman’s animators, hands me her left hand before walking away from the office in downtown Bamako. A left hand handshake symbolises an incumbent long journey, all the while retaining the hope of a future reunion. Zaliha is always upbeat, focused, bubbly, and hopelessly determined to teach me Bambara, despite being Songhai herself.

She and two other members of the Sini Sanuman Bamako team are being deployed to Bourem, in the Gao region, northern Mali. When Zaliha extends her left hand to me, suddenly everything becomes very real. I read about left hand handshakes in my guidebook, yet it is only when I shake Zaliha’s hand that I understand the power of this gesture. I look at her and I tell her I’ll see her soon, in Bourem. I hope that my next five months here give me the opportunity to travel to the region of Gao and make good on my promise – as of yet, however, the climate is simply too unstable to know. All I do know is that, as per our handshake, we both hope to meet again.

Thursday, July 24th

Germany speaks. The funds are ready. The president and director of Sini Sanuman, Siaka Traoré, sends me an email to translate. Good news, the German foreign office announces that they are ready to send the first portion of the funds. I jump up and down and start clapping in mid-air. I won’t lie, I do a little dance. In the meantime, the Gao-bound bus that the Sini Sanuman team are on is on route. The project coordinator, Alpha Boubeye, is amongst them. He welcomes the good news as strong encouragement for their 30+ hour bus journey.

Friday, July 25th

Zaliha, Alpha, Aziz and Vincent arrive in Gao as I lead a meeting with the Bamako team to deliver the good news and formally deploy the animators and the psychologist in the nine different neighbourhoods of the Commune I of Bamako. Their tasks: to get in touch with the communities, civil society, women’s groups and lead workshops on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), identify survivors of SGBV and refer them to the appropriate services and identify survivors of sexual violence linked to the Malian conflict to refer to our reintegration centre.

It’s been raining and life in Bamako is not easy after a storm, but I am sitting around the table with the ten animators answering their questions and concerns despite the runny noses and wet feet. As I look around the room I realize once again that it is them that constitute the heart and soul of Sini Sanuman, and that the best is yet to come.

Monday, July 28th

Eid is here, Ramadan is over, and Bamako is in party mode. The streets are empty, men are dressed entirely in white headed to the mosque, women are more beautiful and colourful than ever, children are clean, perfumed and, well, they are wearing shoes. I head to the presidential palace for the first time – the home of Ibrahim Boubakar Keita, or IBK, is located on a hill overseeing Bamako, in a very presidential fashion. Bamako’s youth is gathered at the national park, at the foot of the hill, so naturally my friend and I decide to join. It’s a whole new Mali. People are radiating with joy, each wearing their newest and best outfit, dancing and laughing. It’s a beautiful day, turning into a beautiful night, and everything is ok.

I wanted to capture those joyous and youthful moments in Mali’s capital, but my camera is currently taking pictures in Gao and Bourem at the hands of Alpha. I cannot wait to get a photographic taste of the environment. Stay tuned for sandy and dusty pictures of northern Mali, coming soon, Insha’Allah!

Posted By Giorgia Nicatore

Posted Aug 3rd, 2014

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