“In Senegal, I had been working as a seamstress for three years when one day, I told my boss I was leaving. He asked me why I wanted to abandon everything. I answered that I needed to take my mind off things, discover another country. I arrived in Mauritania and worked as a cook in a Moorish family for one year. The work was very hard, I left this job and went back to Senegal for the holidays and to think about my future.
My dream was to open a tailoring shop but there were already many in Senegal. On the contrary, in Mauritania, they were quite uncommon and the market was still open. After these three months of holidays in Senegal, I decided to go back to Mauritania. My parents were against my project, they were scared for me because I was a single woman. My heart was heavy to leave them but I had to attempt the adventure, see what was outside. I had to live my life.
I met a woman who let me stay with her. I had a small sewing machine that my mum bought for me and I did some sewing for a month. Then, I found a job at the French Development Agency as a cleaning lady. My boss was very nice, he covered the cost of French classes. In the language school, I met a Spanish woman but we lost sight of each other. Coincidentally, I bumped into her six months later and when I told her about my issues at work since my former boss left, she said offered me to work with her. I went to Nouadhibou with her and I became a waitress in her guesthouse.
One day, I saw a fabric pouch and told her I could make one. She was surprised and asked me why I was working as a cleaning lady or a waitress. I explained to her that it was difficult to open a sewing shop. She gave me some work to do and really liked it, she said “You must work in the field of sewing” and did everything to encourage me. We opened a sewing shop together in Nouakchott. At the beginning it was difficult, but hamdoulilah, now it goes well. I thank her a lot because she did not know me well but she trusted me. She liked my work and gave me courage. I did everything to succeed, I am ambitious. Now I do what I like and I have more self-confidence.
At the beginning, it was not easy to live in Mauritania because people look at you, especially if you are different. People are very curious, if you are taking a walk with a man, they ask if you are married, if he is your boyfriend. This is something that bothers me, and still does. Mindsets and cultures are very different from my country. But in spite of it, I like Mauritania more and more every year.
Once a year, I go back to Senegal and it makes me happy, especially to see my mum. I miss the atmosphere in Senegal a lot, talking to people and eating a real ‘thiéboudiène’. In a few years, I would like to go back home and open a large sewing shop. I would like to do something in Senegal, in my country, or somewhere else. At the moment, I am in Mauritania but I have other projects in mind.
What I want above all is to continue sewing.”
Photo credit: IOM/Flavia giordani