Avlo in Grand-Popo has become a focal point for our work in Benin this time around. Research Assistant, Seth Avusuglo, has been key to our process of meeting women from the village, many of whom speak Mina, a language similar to his own, Ewe. We returned to Avlo to again meet with the women who Mr Addra had introduced us to, to talk to them in more depth and get to know them better. After extensive conversations with the women, held in their homes and places of work (yes, many still work!), Seth says, “The elder women of Avlo remind me of the women in my village – strong, charismatic, and exuberant, still in control of the house and the family. You can see the respect they command.”
Tasivi store, one of the only shops in the village of Avlo, is a focal point for the community. Schoolchildren flock there to buy sweets during their break, older women gather there to commune and gossip, girls and women of marriageable age pop in to pick up foodstuffs and household supplies, and men of working age bound in for a tot of local liquor before sauntering out to face the world. In the 40 minutes we’re in the compound house in which the store takes centre stage, we encounter all these characters and more for whom Tasivi is a hub and a lifeline that means they no longer have to travel the eight kilometres to Grand-Popo for essentials.
The store is run by Affi Dossou, the 50-year-old daughter of Madam Bessanvi, 70, a lifelong trader. Seth spoke with the elder woman at length in preparation for our interview. “What I found most interesting about Madam Bessanvi is that, at the age of 70, she’s still very active and selling goods in the family store. The way she commanded the store from a seat in the corner was impressive. Her memory was also good and she had a lot to say about how things have deteriorated in the country since her day.”
Image: A scene from the store, Tasivi, in Avlo, Benin, where we spoke with Madam Bessanvi and her daughter, store owner, Affi Dossou.
Image: Ernest Ankomah