Friday, September 23, 2011

Sinking city

Flooding commenced in the late eighties, but it wasn't until 2005 that it became a permanent problem. A working class neighborhood in the outskirts of Dakar is slowly disappearing into the ground. Gounass and its surroundings bloomed in the sixties, when many families came to live here from countryside, looking for higher wages in the Senegalese capital. Without proper urban planning, a neighborhood was built over sand, with no adequate plumbing or sewage system. The years have proved to show how short term thinking takes a toll on thousands of life's.

For the last six years, underground water has been seeping to the surface through the sandy ground, creating a perpetual flood. During the rainy season, this problem increases exponentially. Few buildings have cement foundations, and there is no proper canalization for all the water, thus buildings slowly sink into the soft ground. In the spirit of "taranga" (which stands for the warm-caring-hospitality and the capacity to help others) the youth gather on Sunday's to work on hand dug the canals; a desperate attempt to drain out the water from the homes.

Six years ago, as a short term solution, the state destroyed four large areas across the neighborhood, hundreds of square meters large. The Jaxaay Plan displaced the hundreds of families forty kilometers away, to a newly built neighborhood in a locality far from social commodities. Four deep holes were dug in the new lots, the basins would allow for the water to be canalized here, and from the basins, pumped into the ocean.

Most people don't have enough money to move, and are forced to live with the water in their homes. Neighbors with a little bit more economic power buy garbage and sand to elevate their floors, competing against the water to stay dry. The privileged can move to another home, but won't be lucky enough to be to sell their sinking property.

Malaria and hygienic diseases have been at an increase, due to the filthy water and human cohabitation. Septic tanks mix with underground water, proper working sewage for the bathrooms is more of a commodity than a given. Life gets increasingly hard, yet a proper solution seems far away.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Yaay ak Doom

Gounass, Senegal.

Mai Yajate: four children, widow and I’m guessing around 55 years of age.

Ten years ago her quiet village life took a drastic turn. Mai’s husband, a truck delivery driver from Ziganshor to Kaolack, was kidnapped and killed by local rebels. She was left alone to fend for herself and family.

Mai’s older sister lived in Dakar, off she went to the capital to find warmth in the proximity of her family. Here she realized how such a small act of kindness from one person to another can do to change a life around. She saw how most of her neighbours needed just a little help, a little guidance. Thus in the sea of her own sadness she became inspired to help.

Yaay ak Doom (mother and child in Wolof) is painted on the exterior wall of a well kept building in Gounass. Any child can approach her humble office, a building she constructed out of her own pocket and effort, housing two classrooms for workshops and a small patio for children to play. She selfishly gives all of her time to help, and deals with everyone in an individual basis.

She started out with a small group of children, funding the activities by collecting 100 CFA’s (15 cents) every Thursday from neighbors. Over ten years have passed, and currently she directly helps 110 children. She pays tuition and school supplies for over fifty children. Since her help has exponentially grown, every Thursday she now asks for 500 CFA’s (76 cents).

Mai is a model of how an NGO should work. Transparent in her affairs, she attends meetings where money is donated to her cause with five other people. They walk, in order to save transportation cost, and presents herself with her co-workers so they can witness how much money is given.

More to follow.

Y'En A Marre

The government of President Abdoulaye Wade will have a hard time silencing a growing part of his population. For the last couple of years, Senegal has been suffering chronic power outages. In 2010, then Energy Minister Samuel Sarr was under pressure to resign due to the power managing of the electrical situation. The government failed to give a tangible explanation to the population, some explain that it has to do with the poor quality fuel damaging unit generators. Former Minister Sarr, revealed that the government was lifting taxes on renewable sources of energy in an effort to diversify supply. He said the power problem would end by August 15, 2010, still the end is nowhere in sight. After a week of strong protests President Wade replaced the Minister of Energy with his son Karim, adding speculation that the President is grooming his son as his successor (although both deny claims).

2010 - Imams of Guediawaye (an area on the outskirts of the capital) called on its mosques to boycott Senelec (the state controlled company) for one month.

Energy problem also has reduced the rice production -Africa’s third-biggest importer of the grain. Estimates by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Service said imports dropped 33 percent in the first quarter of 2010.

The International Monetary Fund has also identified the energy sector reform as crucial to expanding economic growth.

A group of young advocates are arising from the turbulent waters the government has being brewing. Led by four rappers and a journalist, the masters of words speak out on the common thought found in a growing part of the population, “enough is enough.” Y’en a marre they call it.

The group of rappers mobilized thousands of their peers to assert themselves non-violently for democracy. As of early 2011 the apolitical group known as Y’En A Marre, has been advocating voter registration, protesting against the growing power cuts, and defending their constitution. On June 23rd, Y’en a Marre participated in a street protest for the prevention of President Wade’s grab for power attempting to amend the constitution in order to serve a third term and reduce the portion of votes needed to win re-election, at 85-yrs of age.

Rappers, Thiat, Fou Malade, Kilifa and Simon and fellow journalist Fadel Barro will fight to keep their democracy afloat. They wont let the state touch their constitution, and they will animate their fellow colleagues to stand in protest.

Dakar, 9 am, Sunday, September 18, a roomful of colorful t-shirts with printed bold letters screaming Y’EN A MARRE, dress the populace who attentively listen to the five spokesmen of the movement. Senegalese have gathered to share ideas in an open forum. They all have time to speak, and the assembly drags from morning to late afternoon. A mic is passed, from hand to hand, as the chapter leaders from fourteen regions speak of their individual progress and chip in thoughts, as everyone listens.

Corruption is a common topic among the people. Some rappers have let go of their dignity and joined the campaign trail of prominent politicians, lured by large amounts of money. Yet others have looked the other way when offered campaign participation. Fou Malade can speak for himself, no money will buy him out. He will speak his voice on his distaste of government affairs, not be manipulated by them.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Painted bindi

On the top floor of one the large four storied floors of the Faridpur Brothel, a Madam puts make up on one of her girls, the painted bindi is the last detail. Most girls start dressing up towards the latter part of the day, when the client rate picks up.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Anju ('wish" in Bangla) is hit with sunlight; she waits in her hallway, in one of the four large buildings of the Faridpur brothel. Light seeps into the hallway at certain times of day, most of the time artificial light illuminates her everyday life.

Red lips

Small alleyways create a maze through the Faridpur brothel. Individual shacks fill the space between the four main buildings where sex workers have their own rooms. These girls wait for business outside in the darkness of the warm nights.

Slow time

Work usually slows down during mid day and early afternoon. The girls pass their time in their rooms and hallways waiting for business to pick up.

Rays of light

A sex worker waits in front of her room for her customers. Once a day, in the evening, direct sunshine sneaks into the dark, artificially lit hallways of the brothel .

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A customer

A young man talks to two sex workers on the second floor of one of buildings found in the Faridpur brothel. Customers of all ages tend to hang out in the halls with the girls, as if browsing their options in a catalog.

Faridpur Brothel

Pakhi (meaning "Bird" in Bangla) gets ready in her room for the afternoon rush-hour of clients in the Faridpur brothel. The brothel is composed of four large, three-story buildings, a maze of bungalows fills the space between the buildings housing even more workers. An estimate of 600 sex workers work in this brothel, many condemned to work for years to pay off the madam that has purchased them. A portion of the girls have been sold by their families, in search of some extra cash to be able to maintain the rest of the family.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Kite Flying

Despite the congested traffic and lack of space, Dhaka is a magnet for millions of Bangladeshis. Korail Slum is largest settlement of rootless people in the city (population estimate of 120,000). It lies on the opposite side of Banani Lake overlooking Gulshan, the residential neighborhood where some of the country's wealthiest families live.

The slum has no permanent sanitation or sewage facilities, thus residents construct toilettes on bamboo stilts over Banani Lake (more like a pond than a lake). Children bathe and play in the sewage infested waters of the small lake.

The shore is lined up with trash, but its one of the few open spots where children can fly their kites in their informal settlement.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Kids in class

A large room with four classes taking place at the same time - a school for the children of Old Dhaka.

From a roof top

View from roof of building in "Hindu Street," Old Dhaka.

Roadside tea

While rickshaws zoom around the streets, two men enjoy a tea on the side of the road in Old Dhaka.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Red Rickshaw

Stuck in one of the uncountable traffic jams of Dhaka.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Shashemane, Ethiopia - Febrero 2009. Man in Shashemane streets

Awasa, Ethiopia - Marzo 2009. Man in Lake Awasa.

Gambo, Ethiopia - January 2009. English class in Gambo School run by the Consolata.

Basaco, Ethiopia - Febrero 2009.

Gambo, Ethiopia - April 2009. Woman making doe out of the "false banana" tree.

Lepis, Ethiopia - February 2009. Chalku - "The Biggest"

Gambo, Ethiopia - January 2009. Gambo bar

Meki, Ethiopia - January 2009. 7 year old orphan

Awasa, Ethiopia - Marcho 2009. Lake Awasa boat

Lalibela, Ethiopia - March 2009. The making of a bible written in Ge'ez.