Mar 8, 2021 | Sonder Update

The Sonder Project is proud to celebrate International Women’s Day and share the stories of some of the incredible women in our partner communities who inspire us every day. All of our initiatives focus on engaging women as a key component to success because we are committed to addressing the gender inequities that are deeply ingrained in many cultures throughout the world. Furthermore, we recognize the truth in the African proverb, “if you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” Women living in our partner communities are responsible for child-rearing duties and, as a result, hold great influence over the next generation.  An educated mother has educated children; a well-hydrated mother has well-hydrated children; a mother with a full belly has children with full bellies. The impact of our programs to increase access to clean water, education, and food security create a ripple effect through the communities we work with, and they flow furthest through the women.


In a Mossi community in the rural Center-West Region of Burkina Faso, Rasmata Kologo lives quietly with her family in a small packed-earth homestead. Subsistence farmers, they survive by growing their own food during the limited rainy season, and Rasmata assists food sellers in a nearby open market to earn some extra cash. All told, she and her family survive off less than $1 per day. Rasmata and her husband were brought together through an arranged marriage, still common for women without much of an education in Burkina Faso.

Rasmata (back row, third from right) and the rest of the Community Farm female leadership team

Rasmata dropped out of school after second grade so she could help her mother at home, and she was never able to learn to read. Together with her husband, she had two sons, and she wanted their opportunities to be different. She worked as hard as she could to keep her sons in school. Ultimately, her oldest son ended up moving to the Ivory Coast to try and make a living on a Cocoa Plantation, while her younger son completed grade seven and lives at home doing his best to help his parents. It’s not exactly the future Rasmata wanted for her sons, but she is not giving up.

When The Sonder Project arrived to assess the community needs, we set out to establish a new well and a Community Farm.  Rasmata was excited and saw an opportunity to step-up. She joined our Leadership Committee and helped mobilize the rest of the community to get involved. When the community farm earned additional funds to share amongst its members, Rasmata led the group to spend some of the funds on a ceremony to honor the students who had graduated out of the local primary school.  She told us it was important to show the young generation how much the community valued education, and she looks forward to more opportunities to do the same. She said she hoped it would make the young students feel special.  She said she hoped they would be inspired.

Female Senior Chiefs in Kauzegalu (L-R) Olivia Chidiso, Lozina Phiri, and Rachael Banda


Meanwhile, over 4,000 miles away in the community of Kauzegalu in the country of Malawi, where The Sonder Project completed our latest school block, women have broken through the glass ceiling and are helping to reconfigure gender stereotypes that have dominated for so long. Far removed from the civic institutions of towns and cities, these communities where The Sonder Project work continue to rely on traditional systems of authority led by locally selected chiefs based on lineage and character. Historically reserved for men, the community of Kauzegalu has three female Senior Chiefs: Olivia Chidiso, Lozina Phiri, Rachael Banda. Senior Chiefs are the lead arbiters in local disputes and are responsible for all community-related decision-making, including development activities. The influence of these women in leadership positions has a powerful impact on the girls and boys growing up under their jurisdiction.

Senior Chief Kauzegalu, Olivia Chidiso, and her three children

When Olivia Chidiso became the first local female chief, women leadership was far from the norm. In fact, when Olivia was first selected as chief, the history of women as unfit to lead was so ingrained in her own psychology that she didn’t believe she could do it, and she ran away to stay with relatives in another community. Fortunately, she was persuaded to return and has since laid the groundwork for new female chiefs like Lozina and Rachael to follow.

Today, girls in the village of Kauzegalu are used to seeing women as leaders in their community. Girls like Kelita Phiri, who is in Grade 7 and attends classes in the new Sonder Project constructed school. Thanks to women leaders like Olivia, Lozina, and Rachael, Kelita dreams of becoming a doctor one day, and she has the confidence to believe it is possible.

Kelita Phiri in front of the new Sonder Project school block

Consider joining The Sonder Project’s efforts and support women around the world by making a donation today.

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