'Flemish support is important for women in Guinea'

Markant celebrates Nènè Hadh Cherif as the winner of the Womed Award South. The Guinean entrepreneur explains why her life hasn’t always been a bed of roses.
How does it feel to be recognised by Markant as a role model?
'This award exceeds my wildest expectations. For me personally, I see it as a reward for the perseverance that has made me the woman I am today. But I also look further: the ripple effect of this award in Guinea is a lever for the ambitions of our production group.'
You are the chairman of the farmers’ group in the village Wakaly?
'That is correct. We have 61 members, most of them women. We work with agriculture and the processing of agricultural products. Also the literacy of the members is an important challenge: most of the members can’t read or write.'
Did you receive the chance to study?
'As a young girl I dreamed of being a well-educated mother who could support her children during their studies. But when I reached my first year in high school, all my illusions were shattered.' (silence)
What happened?
'In our community, according to tradition teenage girls are given away for marriage. For my parents, traditions were more important than the education of their daughter. From one day to another, my study plans were aborted and I ended up with a husband I did not want.' 
Do you feel any resentment towards your parents?
'I had a beautiful childhood. My parents did everything they could not to bother me with different chores in the fields. I was really happy… until that one moment. I blame it on the ignorance of my parents.'
But eventually you made it very far. Today you are the chairman of a microcredit bank and of a federation that unites peanut producers.
'Primary school opened my eyes: the level of education wasn’t very high, but I became fascinated by the knowledge you can acquire as a human being. Later, when I got the chance to learn to read and write thoroughly, I grabbed that opportunity with both hands.'
A lot of women in Guinea don’t get that opportunity?
'Many women never go to school and don’t get the chance to learn to read or write. Even I haven’t got the education level that I once dreamed of, but I am very proud that I can make notes about my agricultural activities. It helps me to make progress in daily life.'
In Guinea, do women face more difficulties than men?
'Definitely. It’s not common for women to get involved in the way a village is governed. Luckily that is starting to change. Trias educates the women that they have the right to participate in decision-making processes. As president of the agricultural group, a micro credit bank and a federation, I am living proof that women can get a say.'
Do you receive the same recognition in your own family?
'In my polygamous marriage, I am the second wife. But it is no longer the same as it used to be: I have the freedom to develop my talents. Indeed, my husband is one of my students in the classes I give to teach people to read and write.'
So women are gradually receiving more chances?
'Yes, but let’s not jump the gun. Not all women benefit from the same freedom in their family as I do. That’s why it is important that we feel supported by Trias, Unizo, and of course the women of Markant as well.'