In Senegal, Women Carry Everything


by Karen Topakian

While traveling in Senegal, I intentionally paid attention to women, noting what they wore, did and carried.

Clad in bright colored tunics (boubous) with matching head wraps or in long skirts with matching blouses, women walked with perfect posture.


Women work in fields. Till the soil behind a horse or donkey. Sell clothes, jewelry, bottled water, fruits and vegetables and fish in make shift stands on the sides of dusty roads or in the market place. Care for children. Pull water from the well, Tend to goats and sheep. Work in hotels. Clean.

Women often work in groups, Sharing the shade under the broad canopy of a baobab tree. Eating communally from a big metal bowl.


Women carry children. Mostly on their backs tied with an mbotu, a broad piece of soft cloth, like a sarong or pareo that keeps the baby close to the woman’s back.


Or they walk hand in hand with a child.

Women carried everything, often on their heads.


Empty gourds full of greens. Plastic buckets full of water. Pans of fresh fish, whole mangoes. Or cut up mango pieces parceled into small plastic bags. Shelled peanuts in small plastic bags.


Women carry everything.