Published on
26 February 2024

Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, and women and young people in rural areas face major economic challenges. Young people, often inadequately trained, find themselves without alternatives to the predominantly informal economy. For women, whose decision-making power is limited, have difficulty accessing formal employment.

These economic challenges are exacerbated by security, environmental and political factors. The launch of small businesses can provide a path for a better future but many people are reluctant to become entrepreneurs in fear of failure.

Hence, the Djonkoli Kènè project was launched by the Kilabo Association and the Carrefour de solidarité international (CSI) out of the belief that with proper accompaniment women and youth can launch successful businesses.

Djonkoli Kènè

Djonkoli Kènè is a concept that signifies “the space dedicated to our personal activities” in the local Malian language of Bambara, embodying an entrepreneurial approach aimed at combating poverty. To turns this vision into reality, the project brings together peasant federations, women’s associations, village forum and communal councils to mobilize youth and women and offer training, mentorship and local support in the launch of entrepreneurial activities.   

The Roncalli International Foundation provided a significant boost to the project with $31,000 in funding to cover some of the staff costs, as well as the purchase of livestock, farming supplies and gardening materials to help with the start of agricultural endeavours.

This support from the Foundation helped 546 people, mostly women, in their efforts to secure a better future for their families and communities.

Here, we share the inspiring stories of three remarkable individuals who participated in the project.

Mrs. Diarra Diahara Dembélé
Ambassador of women’s empowerment

Village of Boyan

The story of Mrs. Diarra Diahara Dembélé, 55, is an extraordinary one. Her involvement with Kilabo, which seeks to strengthen community participation and local development by helping to form peasant and women’s associations, began in 1992.  Today, she is a mentor-ambassador with the Djonkoli Kènè project, and accompanies young people in the development of their entrepreneurial activities. Her story illustrates the transformative effect of projects like these that support women in reaching their full potential.



“I am very proud of my journey as a female leader. Thanks to awareness and training sessions, I have become a fundamental figure in promoting women and the development of my community. I no longer hesitate to speak to defend the cause of women, especially rural women.”

Mrs. Diarra Diahara Dembélé

Mrs. Diahara climbed the ranks to become the secretary of the communal women’s association, a municipal councillor, president of the union of cooperatives of shea butter producers, and much more. She proudly represents her country at agricultural fairs in Africa and Europe.

“I went from the shadows to the light, from a time when I didn’t even dare to raise my eyes to men, to today where I have become a remarkable figure. Thanks to awareness and training sessions, I have become an indispensable resource person. Transformation is possible when education and support come together to illuminate the path to empowerment.”

Madame Diarra Diahara Dembélé

Mrs. Awa Diallo
Resilient entrepreneur

Village de Tingolé

Mrs. Awa Diallo, 31, played an active role in the entrepreneurial discovery workshops of the Djonkoli Kènè project. Although her goat farming project was not initially selected for funding, she used the skills acquired during the workshops to adjust her project proposal.



“Thanks to the tools for entrepreneurial exploration and the methodology taught during the Djonkoli Kènè incubation workshops, I successfully structured my project and secured a source of funding. My gratitude is immense; I was able to acquire the necessary skills to realize this project that was so close to my heart.”

Mrs. Awa Diallo

Mrs. Diallo now successfully manages her goat farming business, demonstrating the resilience and determination of project participants.

Mr. Yacouba Coulibaly
Active supporter of women’s empowerment

Village of Sokoungo

Mr. Yacouba Coulibaly is the husband of one of the participants in the project, Mrs. Bintou Coulibaly Fofana. He expresses his unwavering support for his wife’s success. Actively involved in the Djonkoli Kènè project, Mrs. Coulibaly brilliantly initiated a market gardening project, benefiting from financial support and attentive guidance from the program.



“Previously, my wife earned a modest income from the produce she sold at the market, which she then used to support certain family expenses. With the funding from the produce growing project by Djonkoli Kènè, I realized that supporting her meant more harvests and a more significant family role. That’s why I chose to fully support her in all tasks related to her produce-growing activities.”

Mr. Yacouba Coulibaly

Mr. Coulibaly’s story illustrates the transformation of family dynamics through the empowerment of women within rural communities.

“Supporting my wife in her work is not just a duty; it is a pleasure. Her contribution to the family has become much more significant, enriching our daily lives. I am very happy to spend the day with her in her produce gardening plot.”

Mr. Yacouba Coulibaly

These inspiring stories unveil the transformative power of the Djonkoli Kènè project and its significant impact on individuals, the community, and beyond. The Roncalli Foundation continues to inspire positive change and remains an essential support for the flourishing of communities in Mali.

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