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Mali: The SBA Mali is born!

With more than 16-years’ experience in Cameroon, the Serge Betsen Academy (SBA) opened a branch in Mali. The opening ceremony, kicking off the start of the rugby training, took place on Saturday 24 October at the AS Real stadium in Bamako. As for the daily after-school tutoring, this will begin in a few weeks, the 25 young girls aged 8 to 13 having now been selected.

SBA Mali banner SBA Mali Girls

Through rugby, we want to offer new perspectives for the future of the 70-90 children who will follow our program. Among them, 25 young female rugby players from very disadvantaged backgrounds will be offered tutoring every day after school, except on Saturday, training day. By preventing them from dropping out of school, we seek to protect them against the scourges that plague Mali, namely forced marriages, teenage pregnancies and female genital mutilation (FGM).  A long struggle for girls’ education and gender equality is underway at the SBA Mali.

It is thanks to our referent on site, Boubacar Traoré a.k.a. “PC” that this opening ceremony was able to take place in the best of conditions. The get together was set-up at the Modibo Keita stadium located in the Djikoroni district. It is on the site of the Sports Association of AS Real in Bamako that the SBA Mali will be able to train and it is thanks to Mr. Sow, its president that we will very soon be able to install, on site, a mobile structure to accommodate our tutoring courses.

Joy and pleasure could be seen on all the faces, especially those of the little ones. About a hundred children were present as well as a few parents and guests who honoured us with their presence.

Before 4 p.m., young and old were ready on the ground and at 4:10 p.m. “PC” greeted the first guest: Mr. Sow’s representative: Mr. Abidine Maiga. We then began the opening ceremony with a presentation of the SBA in Bambara, the lingua franca of Mali.

Ceremony launch SBA Mali

The rugby games kicked off at 4.30 p.m. first with the big players: the national rugby sevens team taking on a team made up of other players from Bamako. Then, the U13 and U15 boys each played a game.

Rugby Matches SBA Mali Rugby Matches SBA Mali

At 5:00 p.m. we played the short video of the great Serge Betsen so that, in a way, he could be there with us too. Because of the global pandemic, sadly he was unable to be physically present for the big occasion.  Still, his encouragements rang out throughout the stadium and served as a good transition, prior to the girls’ games.

The girls appeared on the field and played very close games.  Their game was eagerly awaited, the girls holding a key place in the mission of the SBA Mali.  In the attached video you can appreciate their presence and their fighting spirit on the ground.

It was with great pride that the 25 girls aged 8 to 13, who will receive daily after-school tutoring as part of the first year of SBA Mali, were presented to everyone. As you may know, they were selected by “PC” among the Anges Noirs (Dark Angels) players and a meeting with the parents had been organised beforehand. We specifically chose these young girls to provide them with academic support through Malian teachers chosen by “PC”.  The aim is to help them continue their studies in order to provide them with a safe and healthy environment.

Girls of the SBA Mali tutoring programme

The opening ceremony ended with a well-deserved snack and some dancing.  Our children all seemed happy to meet again next Saturday for another training session.

The SBA Mali is launched, dreams will be fulfilled, lives will be changed.

We would very much like to thank the Malian authorities, H.E. Mahamadou Nimaga and his team from the Embassy of Mali in the USA, Mr. Arouna Modibo Touré, former Minister of Youth and Sports, for their support without which our branch could not have seen the day.

A big thank you also to Mr. Lauran, Vice President of the Rugby Federation of Mali, Dr. Seydou Sow, President of AS Real in Bamako who provided us with the ground for our training and the site for the after-school tutoring.

Our children also greatly appreciated the presence of Manhi Dembelebb, the champion of Mali in bench-press and Samba Benzema Doucoure, Credit Manager at Banque Atlantique, two models of success!

To learn more about the genesis of SBA Mali, please read our Press Release and share it with others, friends and more.  We also take this opportunity to thank the journalists who helped us share the good news about our branch in Mali.

 

Translation : Katy Birgé-Wilson

Cameroon: Our SBA Coop has tripled its crop production

Four years ago, our CEO, Odile Prevot offered to some mothers of the children we help, the opportunity to create a farming cooperative in Bangangté. She has been closely following their progress, meeting them virtually every month. So far, this cooperative has enabled 17 women to grow their income and has had a positive impact on the lives of their families and the ones of our children. Odile and all the Serge Betsen Academy are very proud of their achievements and their ambitions. She decided to write the following notes to honour these brave women and share with you their success story:

“How creating financial independence for women leads to sustainability?

Back in 2016 while visiting one of our centers in Cameroon, I was sitting in the classroom with a few of the mothers of the children we help. We have known each other for a number of years now and they are always in demand for stories coming from Europe and America.

Whilst seating with one of their babies on my lap, health and education were our main topics of discussion. They explained that, although the duty of the man is to provide a house and cover the main household’s costs, it is up to the mothers to take care of the children and all the costs associated with raising them. However unlike men, their access to financial resources is very limited. One of the mothers, Clotilde, expressed her concern that her working in the fields was not enough to provide for her children’ school fees and other expenses and asked for help as she knew that with the right resources, she could grow more crops and make ends meet.

Other mothers joined in and the discussion became very animated. Realizing it was a common problem, which could become an opportunity if they joined forces, I offered them to consider a cooperative framework, where the mothers would take responsibility over the operations and the management of COOP. The role of the Serge Betsen Academy (SBA) would be to provide oversight and the seed funding at the beginning of the year, and in return the COOP would reimburse the funding 12 months later and share a portion of the crops during the year, in order to help feed the children of the SBA center.

And just like that, the SBA COOP was created, the lawyer in me wanted to create a sustainable structure so I drafted the COOP bylaws following OHADA principles, with 11 mothers as founders with the SBA providing corn and bean seeds funding, producing 450kg of corn and 342kg of beans at year-end.

We are now four years later, the COOP has tripled its crop production, provided enough extra income for the mothers to finally afford to pay all their kids expenses, and in some cases allowing some of the mothers to start new businesses, becoming increasingly financially independent.

This incredible success story has also been very positive for the SBA, which was not only always repaid on time by the COOP, but it helped the center in becoming more sustainable as the COOP now provides enough food to feed more than 130 kids of the SBA center throughout the year, totaling nearly 4000 meals.  

Today this micro-financing scheme, offered to the moms, helps them to deal with emergencies, make critical purchases that they could not otherwise afford and put food on the table in times of scarcity, even start new business ventures! But more than that, they are all empowered to speak out more, they assume leadership roles. When I meet them virtually every month we make sure that SBA COOP is an opportunity to meet formally with all the other moms to discuss problems and develop joint actions.

So proud of our rural women. They are working as hard, or more, as the men next to them with less income and as member of civil society we must use our convening power to build capacity and resilience when assisting women in need.”

Odile Prevot

A meeting of the SBA Coop