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10/10/2016 Dakar, Senegal, Caterina writes:

A Senegalese-flavoured Eid al-Kabir

In light of the theory on gender budgeting, introduced in my last article, today I decided to talk about an important religious ceremony in Muslim countries, as well as elaborating on what we said about the unpaid work of women. It is estimated that, in Senegal, women devote themselves to domestic work seven times more than men (an average of 30 minutes a day for men as against 3 hours for women). This constitutes, respectively, 9.2% and 19.1% of GDP. 

Religion and tradition in Senegal are a constant mix also during the Tabaski, better known in Arabic-speaking countries as Eid el-Kebir (big party), that commemorates the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham and the intervention of God who provides a ram as a substitute sacrifice. The party atmosphere is in the air and the city centre is busier than ever. Amongst street vendors there are dozens of boys who crowd the streets selling knives of all shapes and sizes. In addition to the colours, tools, clothes and shoes, flocks of sheep invade almost every roundabout, where merchants and buyers prolong negotiations until night. This year it seems that the price of sheep has increased because of the scarcity of animals on the market and the minimum price you will pay is 65,000 FCA (almost 100 Euro): I wonder if polygamists reflect on their choice at least during this day. Can you imagine a husband who must buy a ram for each wife? It seems that in some cases men are almost forced to go to the market with their different wives, trying to satisfy their needs. The day before the Tabaski Dakar is empty; most of the residents, in fact, have moved here during the rural exodus seeking their fortune and now will go back to the village to celebrate with the whole family; it will be a moment of sharing that will bring most commercial activities to a standstill.

The "Tabaskimania" mainly affects men's wallets but sees women as protagonist. Diatou is the mother of a friend of ours. We will have the chance to spend this celebration with her and her husband. Their children study abroad and to reduce costs, this year they decided not to return to the village: Diatou shows us her relief: "This day is a commitment that you cannot escape and forces many women to work for days nonstop. When I was young I was looking forward to it: new clothes, family, food ... But now everything is different and over the years the workload weighs more and more! Could we still call it a holiday? "

This year the Tabaski was celebrated on Monday 12 September. I woke up around 10:30, as my friends and I had to buy some drink and a cake, just like those invited to the Sunday lunch at my place that arrive when everybody is already sitting and smile showing proud the package of pastries. I am thinking about Diatou and what time she went to sleep yesterday. Usually during Tabaski, men go to the mosque in the morning and come home to sacrifice the ram, while women take care "of everything else." When we arrived, the ram was in the oven and "everything else" was done. Diatou’s husband opened saying "Dewenati" (which literally means "the next year" and refers to the wish of good health and the possibility to celebrate) and welcomed us into the house. In the big living room decorated with paintings and plants, a large table was in the centre of the room: you just could about make out the edges of an embroidered cloth fully covered with plates, glasses, drinks and everything you need for a feast.

What about Diatou? 

Here she is, with her colourful boubou in a corner of the kitchen cutting, chopping, cleaning and preparing succulent sauces. We greet her and lend a helping hand. While cutting bread, I think about the meeting of the Scientific Committee organised last week at the monitoring unit of the Ministry of Women to assess the gender report that will be added to the Budgetary Law of Senegal. The methodology is that of the National Transfer Accounts (NTA), an international research project involving more than 40 countries whose goal is the creation of a system to measure and analyse intergenerational economic transfers, including non-monetary ones. From these considerations was developed the National Time Transfer Account (NNTA), a satellite account for the estimation of production, consumption and non-monetary transfers between generations and gender.

What about if we try to include the time spent by Diatou at home to understand the effect on the labour market? The preparation of a dinner, for example, not only depends on the purchase and use of goods, but on the time devoted to the preparation. The working time is essential for assessing the investment in human capital, the cost of youth as well as the dependence of the elderly: the results show that the cost of a child (in terms of time) for his family, exceeds by far the cost of goods and services purchased for him.

Meanwhile on TV, Prime Minister Macky Sall gives a speech, while men smile at us from the salon proud to have an army of women going about the domestic work. In order to include this domestic work in the labour market it is interesting to use the criterion "of the third" (Reid, 1934), i.e. the ability to pay someone for the same activities; in this way activities like sleeping, eating, sports and leisure would not be included while management and care would. Chicken and mutton are now on the table, next to all kinds of vinaigrettes, salads, fries, fried fish, chopped vegetables, crispy baguettes and rolls filled with fish while friends and family join us and welcome us as if we really are part of this family. During the afternoon the door is almost always open: people come in and go out to greet relatives and friends while kids go around the neighborhood looking for the "ndéwénal", some coins that would enable them to continue the party.

Looking around, parties at my place cross my mind: days of negotiations to agree on the menu, afternoons in supermarkets to compare quality and prices of the best stockfish and well-defined roles for men and women. On Christmas morning every woman in my family cooks and knows she will do it as best as she can or else could draw controversial opinions. We meet at my house around noon and every aunt brings her best piece: the focaccia, the cod with onions, the sauce, the fried cod, wondering if it will never be enough. Even uncles do so and jion the group with bottles of wine (which, however, they have not personally harvested), mozzarella cheese (not produced by them) and the fantastic last resort pastries, looking at us with the same fierceness with which men are observing us today.

Yet, at Christmas, we do not have such beautiful boubou. Ba thi Kanam!


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