Prison is an experience that changes you for life
From ex-prisoner to association president in Mali
An unusual story from Safiatou DIARRA, rightful owner of the Tara BOUARE project, an empowerment partner that has come to an end but whose results will remain forever.
“Prison was my springboard”
Prison is a disturbing experience for many people, but the hardest thing is the way society looks at and rejects ex-prisoners. Socio-economic reintegration is very difficult, which is why the association has a reception committee for those who finish their sentences.
Safiatou was sentenced to four months in prison in a court in Segou (10km from Bamako). She found herself in this situation after shouting “thief” when the man who hit her nephew drove off.
A group sitting in the street after hearing the young lady’s screams threw a chair at the motorcyclist. The latter died on the spot when he fell off his motorbike.
The wife and mother of two children is sent to Segou prison with four other people, each with a different sentence because they did not all play the same role in the “involuntary homicide” of the motorcyclist.
“The first few days were horrible, I was crying all the time. And I didn’t understand how I ended up in this situation. Life is often very hard. And as a believer we can only accept what God has done. And this painful experience was an “Allah ka ladjarabi” a test of God’s unshakeable faith in HIM.
Unlike some people who are engulfed by such experiences, Safiatou’s experience was a wake-up call. Suddenly she began to open her eyes and see the world differently (to use her own words). Prison was her springboard. She then started to get involved in activities in the prison, to learn the rehabilitation skills taught in the penitentiaries.
From ex-prisoner to association president
When she was released from prison, the Tara Bouaré Association approached her with the idea of creating an association to help prisoners and ex-prisoners. She accepted and with the support of Tara Bouare created the association “Jiguiya de Sebougou”. A non-profit association that aims to support prisoners in the Segou region.
Since then, Safiatou devotes her daily life to supporting prisoners and taking care of the reintegration of ex-prisoners.
To date, the association has received support from some public figures. But the aim remains to raise funds to support the prisoners. Safiatou and her team have to their credit to date, training sessions in saponification, and entertainment days at the prison.
From being a quiet and orderly woman, prison has turned Safiatou Sidibé into a strong, committed and resilient woman.
“I am not ashamed to be an ex-prisoner. And I will never be embarrassed to tell my story. Everything I went through has made me stronger, more resilient and more devout. I myself have not experienced any rejection from anyone. My family and friends have supported me enormously, especially my husband. Unfortunately, many people are not so lucky. Ex-prisoners are considered “pariahs” by society, especially women. But you know what? Prisons are also full of innocent people. So let’s avoid making judgements, because once the sentence is served, prisoners owe nothing to society and justice.
I invite everyone to support us in accompanying the detainees, some of whom have no clothes or money, or even relatives.
Ms DIARRA shares her story during Accountability Lab’s Linkage and Learning Day in July 2020
Safiatou is a “magnanbaga” bridal counsellor, president of the “Jigiya” association and owns a catering service for ceremonies. She is also a speaker, using her voice to help others. Safiatou Sidibé has been trained in the great school of life, fortified by the experiences and encounters she makes every day.
This voice of change was written and published also through this link