Invest for Jobs and the YOU Foundation are turning a former slum in Senegal into a residential area with good jobs.
Bernadette Bineta Ndiaye was a child when she moved to Baraque, a slum in Senegal’s capital city Dakar. Life here was a daily struggle overshadowed by a fear of crime and flooding. But thanks to the YOU Foundation and Invest for Jobs, she now lives in a proper apartment, has trained as a hairdresser and opened a salon with other women.
‘Imagine being accustomed to living comfortably in a flat and lose all that overnight to end up living in the streets. It was like night and day.’ Bernadette Bineta Ndiaye’s life changed abruptly when she was 13 years old. Up to that point, she had lived with her mother and father in an apartment in Dakar. Her parents worked hard, but the small family enjoyed a quiet life. However, this all changed when they lost everything in the blink of an eye: first her parents’ jobs and then their apartment, leaving them on the streets and with no other option but to move to the slum Baraque.
Baraque had nothing: no running water, no electricity and no prospects. ‘It was really hard. Back then it was a complete desert. There was nothing here except the trees, the snakes and other animals. We kept struggling and struggling,’ says the now 43 year old. They built themselves a corrugated-iron shack and got by with any jobs they could find. The worst thing, recalls Bernadette Bineta, was the permanent lack of sleep, either from fear of being robbed or because of the regular flooding during the rainy season. When the rains came, the family would spend the entire night trying to keep the water out of the hut and scrambling to save the few possessions they had. ‘We couldn’t sleep, we would stay awake the whole night. It was a total nightmare.’
There was no kind of future to be had for Bernadette Bineta in the slum. She was exhausted, penniless and spent the entire day looking for drinking water and tending to the damage caused by the floods. She never went to school. Later her life consisted of selling food on the street directly in front of the hut she lived in so as to feed herself and her four children. An education for them was out of reach, let alone any professional training for herself.
Baraque becomes Baraka
But now the slum is changing into a symbol of hope: Baraque, which means a ‘shanty’ or ‘shack’ in French, has been renamed Baraka. Honouring this change, the German YOU Foundation, with the support of the Sawiris Foundation and CasaOrascom, has built modern residential housing in Baraka with stable foundations, waterproof roofing and running water. ‘Just imagine coming from the slums where you have to walk many kilometers to fetch water and then moving into proper buildings where you just have to open the tap to get clean water,’ she says laughing.
‘This changed every aspect of my life.’
Bernadette Bineta Ndiaye
For the second time, her life changed completely. In June 2020, she and her family moved into an apartment which only costs a nominal amount in rent to cover maintenance. With safe housing available for the first time and people no longer having to transport drinking water for miles on end, attention could turn to another problem in New Baraka: the lack of training and job prospects for many residents. This issue is now being addressed by Invest for Jobs in the form of further training on site in Baraka. Specifically, Invest for Jobs is offering residents the chance to train in 28 different occupations, enabling them to compete in the labour market. The plan is to train approximately 500 people and create some 350 good jobs. Training ranges from traditional trades, such as carpentry and masonry, electrical installation or metal working to services such as laundering and hairdressing through to marketing and web developing. Furthermore, once qualified, people are fitted out with technical equipment, such as washing machines, computers, sewing machines and building supplies, so they can get started in their new line of work.
First hairdressing salon in the area
Bernadette Bineta Ndiaye has always been keen on hair styling and trends. So when the opportunity presented itself, she jumped at the chance to train as a hairdresser. Bernadette Bineta and the other participants received expert instruction from German hair stylists and make-up artists and were also educated about marketing and salon design. They too were equipped with the tools of their trade, such as electronic devices, hair dyes, shampoos, conditioners, hairdressing chairs, towels, capes and much more. With the right knowledge and equipment, Bernadette Bineta Ndiaye and ten other women from the training course have now opened the first hairdressing salon in New Baraka. ‘We never thought one day we would develop so many skills, whether it is massages, hairdressing for women and men. We learned so much and now we have the chance to build a future.’