Women helping women, from Agassiz to Mali

Agassiz-based Teryia group raising funds for shea butter makers in Mali

Six years ago, Earla Legault wouldn’t have been able to point to Mali on a world map. She was, however, familiar with the music of the African country.

But it wasn’t long before she and a few other locals became immersed in all things Malian, from the music to education and to the struggles that women there face. They called their group Teryia, which means friendship in Bambara — the native language of Mali. Its purpose was, and still is, to connect Malian women with Canadian women. And what began as a “twinning” project, Legault says, has evolved into a connection that is helping the Malian women thrive.

They communicate regularly, and the women’s progress in Mali is well documented.

And on Feb. 22, Teryia will host a Malian Music and More film night in an effort to further assist their friends across the world. The public is invited to come out and learn more about the project.

They will show the film The Road to Baleya, which was created by Toronto filmmaker Bay Weyman and follows Canadian musicians as they travel through Bali.

The film gives a brief glimpse of life in Mali, Legault says, and with knowledge comes understanding.

“One of the many hardships that came with the recent situation in northern Mali was the Islamist extremist’s banning of all music,” she says. “It was explained to us, that for Malians this was like taking away part of their soul.”

The musical portion of the evening will be introduced by Harrison Festival Society general manager Ed Stenson, who has considerable knowledge of Malian music and will be sharing that with the audience.

Guests will also learn about the shea butter project that sustains the women involved with Teryia in Mali.

Making shea butter is a livelihood of the Malian women in this commune. They would like to financially support their families and community, and this depends on their shea butter production. The women here in Agassiz use the funds donated to purchase nut grinders, making it more feasible for the Malian women to support their families. The Malian women are keen entrepreneurs, and fundraise for their grinders as well.

So far, Teryia has raised enough money to purchase three grinders, two of which are already in use.

To learn more about the project, visit teryia.wordpress.com, or attend the film night.

The film night is by donation, and will be held at Agassiz United Church.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the film starting at 7 p.m.

There will be Malian refreshments, drumming and a cultural display.

news@ahobserver.com

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