Refilwe Moahi

Refilwe was born and raised in Botswana. Prior to her fellowship, she completed her MA in Sustainable International Development at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management. Most recently, she worked with Oxfam America in Boston as Campaigns Organizing Fellow supporting legislative and corporate campaigns that focus on international food justice, food security, economic inequality, and issues of transparency in the extractive industries. Prior to that, she worked with the Andando Foundation in rural Senegal, where she fell in love with West Africa, managing micro development programs on food and water security and income generation that directly benefit women and children. She also worked with the Government of Botswana’s Department of Women’s Affairs supporting women’s small enterprises and raising awareness about gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS. She also holds a BA in Politics & International Relations and French Studies from Scripps College.

Henna and Bassan: A Malian Wedding

19 Jul

This week, one of my coworkers, secretary and accountant, Sitan Konaté, celebrated her religious wedding. The whole office, as well as the community organizers attended and celebrated with her.

It was held on the 26th day/ 27th night of Ramadan, which is considered a blessed day to get married. So, as you can imagine, everyone in town had a wedding to prepare for and get to. The grand marché was filled with women getting their hair done, their eyebrows shaped, getting fake eyelashes, getting their nails done, and henna painted on their hands and feet.

Sitan with Djeneba, the center's cook

Sitan with Djeneba, the center’s cook

The grand marché is always bustling, but towards the end of Ramadan celebrations it is even more so. Street vendors beat drums and sing and dance on the road, not leaving much room for cars to get through. Walking through the market, it is not uncommon for them to follow women around persistently trying to sell bassans (fabric with a sheen worn for special occasions) to them.

When we arrived at the wedding, all of the women were dressed in their best and shiniest bassans. They would go indoors to greet and congratulate the new bride and take pictures with her, and then move to sit in the yard to make room for the next group of women to go in and see the bride.

Sitan with Mariam, Sini Sanuman's outreach coordinator

Sitan with Mariam, Sini Sanuman’s outreach coordinator

While this took place, the men went to the Mosque for a special prayer. The whole celebration was over in less than an hour. Normally, the religious wedding takes place some months before the civil wedding at city hall. In some cases, they are both celebrated on the same day. In this case, the civil wedding followed by a reception will take place in a few months.

Posted By Refilwe Moahi

Posted Jul 19th, 2015


  • Giorgia

    July 21, 2015


    Sitan got married!!!!!

  • Sarah Reichenbach

    July 26, 2015


    It warms my heart to see the ways that life goes on in places where from the outside we see only violence, hardship, or sadness. I’m sure it must have been a beautiful day and a really special way to celebrate Ramadan.

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