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How a single mum in Senegal is building a better life for her family

Fatou puts her children first in everything she does
Fatou puts her children first in everything she does

Meet Fatou. Fatou is mum to seven children. At SOS Children, we think mums like Fatou are incredible – even when life becomes very challenging, they still do everything they can to love and care for their children.

That’s why we work so hard to help mums like Fatou by giving them the support and resources they need to build better lives for their children. 

Fatou and her family are beneficiaries of our Family Strengthening Programme in Pikine on the outskirts of Dakar in Senegal. Life is good for the family now, but just two years ago the situation was vastly different.

More than money

When her husband went out one day and didn’t return, Fatou was left to bring up her seven children completely alone. With no money or support she struggled to put food on the table and send the children to school. But even when the going was tough, she did everything she could to make a home full of love and laughter. “Love and care are the most important things when bringing up children,” says 50-year-old Fatou. “Money is not enough to keep a family strong and together.”

With such a big family to feed, the situation was becoming increasingly desperate. Luckily for them, the Family Strengthening Programme Team in the area were alerted to their need and rapidly enrolled them on the Programme. Fatou immediately made an impact on the Team: “What I admire most about her is that even at the toughest points, she never stopped providing her children with the same level of love and attention,” says Rokaya Diouf, the coordinator of the Family Strengthening Programme in Pikine. “The welfare of her children is the most important thing to her.”

A savvy business woman

Today, Fatou is one the Programme’s greatest success stories.

Thanks to micro-credit she received as part of the Programme, Fatou has been able to set up her own business selling fresh fruit and vegetables. But even though she is now a successful businesswoman, Fatou still puts her children first.

Fatou at her vegetable stall
Fatou has built her business around her children

“Everything I do is for my children,” she says. She has set up her fruit and vegetable stall in front of her house so that she doesn’t have to spend long periods of the day away from home. It is a move that has also paid off for her business too – “I have lots of regular customers,” Fatou explains. “There is a small market not far away, but many customers prefer to come to me: I give them good prices, good quality and a variety of fresh produce and people in the village like it because they don’t have to walk as far.”

She also only opens her stall at specific times – times that fit with the rhythm of her children’s days. “I make sure I’m here for my children too,” she says proudly.

Making time for family

Every day Fatou brings a spare mattress outside into the concrete courtyard in front of her house. Here, the family get together at the end of every day. “This is important to me and my children,” explains Fatou. “This mattress represents our family time; the time when we sit together, chat about what happened in school, tell stories, play and have some rest.”

Every visitor to Fatou’s household is immediately struck by what a warm and loving place it is – this is definitely one big, happy family.

At SOS Children, we think that Mums really do matter. Whether it’s through our Family Strengthening Programmes which work to keep families like Fatou’s together when poverty, disease or disaster hit, or in our Children’s Villages where our SOS mothers love, care and support orphaned and abandoned children, we’re dedicated to making sure that every child is able to grow up with a Mum.

Are you looking for a unique gift for your mum this mother’s day? Why not help give a child the love of a mum? Find out more.