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

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By Lindsey Johnstone  with Reuters
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

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