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Watch: Senegal 'Salt Queen' tastes success in a man's world

Diouf employs between 10 and 20 men and women on her marshland
Diouf employs between 10 and 20 men and women on her marshland Copyright Reuters
Copyright Reuters
By Lindsey Johnstone with Reuters
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Diouf, 35, began her venture a decade ago, investing her savings to buy her own salt flats in Fatick, one of the West African nation's biggest salt mining regions.

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Marie Diouf has built a business from salt flats she saved up to buy, in a trade where most marsh owners are men.

Starting off as a harvester in Fatick, Senegal, she wondered why the women doing this job never got to keep the proceeds of their work.

"I was a salt harvester, which is what you see those women doing in the pond. I saw men harvesting salt and got to keep whatever they harvested. And I thought to myself, why men and not women?" she said.

Nicknamed the Salt Queen, she now employs between 10 and 20 men and women. Diouf said: "I felt this great push to create jobs, to help people who are poor and unemployed. The need to help others motivates me and pushes me to work harder. I want to grow the business, I want to create more jobs and modernise my company."

Furthermore, she has employed a simple process in her work that is improving the health of her community – she adds iodine to her salt, which helps brain development in young children.

Most locally produced salt lacks the chemical, but Canadian-based NGO Nutrition International trained Diouf on the process.

Although the Iodine Global Network (IGN) rates Senegal's iodine intake today as adequate, iodine deficiency is still a problem due to poor quality controls, especially amongst small producers who fail to iodize the salt effectively, despite a presidential decree that all salt produced in Senegal be iodized.

"After iodine began to be widely consumed in the village, I noticed that my work significantly improved, my salt was properly iodized. I can say that my children are healthier [and] my revenues have increased," Diouf said.

She added: "At the beginning, people thought, this woman will not succeed doing this. It's not a job for women, it's a job for men. I was courageous, I told myself that I was going to succeed, and I invested a lot, and you can see it through my work here in and in the village.

"I always had in mind that people did not think I could succeed, so I did everything I could to succeed."

Video editor • Christophe Pitiot

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