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Girls & Women

I am (wo)man: Introducing Dem Aissata Thiam

This piece in cooperation with EmpowerWomen.organd the I am (wo)man campaign. This week's story comes from Mali. Dem Aïssata Thiam (pictured above) shares what women empowerment means to her.

Women who are economically empowered serve as role models. I am a role model – not only for my daughters, but also for our community and for women across Mali. Through my company, I am helping empower another generation of women – through job opportunities that otherwise would not exist and showing people that they can overcome barriers.

My path to economic empowerment was not easy. It began when I was 10 years old and started school. My dream has always been to own a factory which would produce pre-cooked processed cereals that would help women reduce the time they spend cooking. Initially I worked out of my home alone and gradually hired two other women. One day while taking my product to market, a man told me that I would never succeed – that a factory was no place for a woman, that my place was in the kitchen. That was an important day. That day motivated me and I realized that succeeding was “my” fight – not only for myself, but also for women across Mali. This drove me to realize my dreams and dedicate my life to running a successful company – my company, Danaya Cereales.

Women in Mali face numerous barriers to becoming economically empowered. Gaining financing for women is very difficult. When I started my business, I wrote danaya, which means confidence - having confidence in your product. This is what we had. I never believed I could get to this point. I’m so proud. When I see the new factory today, it is hard to believe that it is the same place/same business as when I began this work. This is not just for me; it is for my daughters and women across Mali. I would say to other women that we can succeed – Yes We Can.

With thanks to Dem Aïssata Thiam and USAID for sharing this story. This is the second part in a weekly series with more to come. For more information on the campaign visit campaign.