Ini Inkouraba Youl Damien
This profile was prepared when Ini Inkouraba Youl Damien was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1997.
The New Idea
Ini Damien, herself a woman of the rural world, is showing women how to bring about lasting social and economic improvements for themselves within the existing traditions of their communities. She distinguishes between some sociocultural practices and their negative effects, and identifies other sociocultural practices she can use to reinvent and reinforce gender-positive behaviors. Thus, while maintaining cultural traditions, Ini fights against the resistance to social change and secures the endorsement of the community for the changes she introduces. She explains that there are certain traditional levers, which when used wisely, can change things without disowning the cultural identity. "One cannot get rid of one's culture in every case and, we do not want to: what we aim to do is to keep the positive elements and continue to be ourselves: before, women were afraid, and now, they have self-confidence as women, and not only as mothers or wives."