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Fatou’s Baskets

My Magazine 2022/11
3 min
This is a story of a young girl from a remote village who faced a common challenge – how to support the family without proper education. With determination and focus, she learned how to make beautiful coloured baskets which she now sells as unique Gambian-made products.

A village girl in the capital city

Fatou Sowe is a 28-year-old young woman, the first-born to her parents. The first-born sons and daughters have a responsibility and an essential role in every family, which is not always the easiest.

Fatou and her parents lived together in a remote village without high school, so Fatou had to move to the capital to be able to study. There she enrolled in 10th grade, but her parents could not financially support her, so Fatou had to look for a job. Going to school and working was not easy, and Fatou ended up dropping out of high school and continued to work to support herself and her family.

Fatou lives on her own in a small rented room in an old building in Banjul. Her life is not easy, yet she keeps trying and working hard for a better future with a smile on her face.


A new business idea on the trip to Senegal

Approximately four years ago, Fatou travelled to a remote village in Senegal to buy beans for making akara (beans fritters) for a lower price than in The Gambia to increase her profit which could otherwise be as little as 1€ per day. 

In this village, women were making baskets of dry grass and coloured ribbons. She did not pay too much attention to it. Fatou was focused on beans, a trip back to Banjul and earnings, as her family depends on her income.

Some time had passed when she noticed that colourful baskets were being sold on craft markets in The Gambia. It was then that she remembered Senegalese women making baskets in the remote village that she visited.

She saved some money and headed to Senegal again; this time was not only for beans but also for knowledge. She stayed in Senegal for two months, learning to make baskets with Senegalese women from the village.

When she returned from Senegal, she started her business journey making baskets. 


Facing the challenges

Fatou currently needs a suitable space for organising workshops and making baskets but is focused on achieving this goal in the future.

Her friend has been helping her with marketing and advertising. She has also presented her baskets to various vendors in the craft markets around The Gambia, which are now reselling her handmade art. Recently she was offered to display her products on the tourist market in Banjul, so her business is improving step by step. 

Making one basket takes a considerable amount of time and patience. It starts with collecting grass from rural areas to sit down for several hours or days to finish the product. Fatou likes to accept custom orders and fulfil customers' wishes. We admire her diligence, perseverance, will and desire to work.

Interested in making a unique handmade souvenir yourself? Book your spot at the workshop with Fatou.



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