As we celebrate International Women’s Day, The Sonder Project is proud of our commitment to equality and the empowerment of women. It’s our mission to strengthen communities, and strong communities require empowered women. The impact of supporting women propagates through the generations. Research shows that child nutrition, health and education improve in the developing world when women are educated and provided with adequate resources. (UN Inter-Agency Task Force, 2012) When women spend less time at menial tasks, such as transporting water, more time can be spent at school or earning an income. Through The Sonder Project’s international Community Farms and Wells programs, we help provide the resources and opportunities women need to get ahead and ensure they have a voice in the process. In fact, we require all leadership committees have an equal percentage of male and female representation. Equality stands as one of our three Core Values, and equality begins with the support of women.
Women make up 69 percent of our registered Community Farm members. Our Community Farms encompass approximately 11 acres of irrigated land in a rural village that local community members maintain with The Sonder Project’s support. Once enrolled in one of our Community Farms, women can support their families and generate income to take greater ownership of their future. Our Community Farm program began in 2018, and the sense of hope and pride it has brought to the local communities is palpable. One member, Ouedraojo Mary, from the village of Bendogo remarked: “When I look at this farm, I know it will strengthen our kids education, it will bring our name higher, it will make our community stronger.” Another member, Nikiema Elizabeth Jeteba, who is a widow with ten children, stated, “The Farm will bring change to our lives.”
Our Wells program is having a similar impact in the communities we serve. To date, The Sonder Project has completed the installation of six wells with hand-crank water pumps. These installations are changing lives, especially for the women in sub-Saharan Africa who collectively spend approximately 40 billion hours a year collecting water — more than twice as much time as men, and in some countries eight times as much. According to Desire Kabre, the Student-Parent Association Leader in the village of Kouglapaka in Burkina Faso, “The well has many impacts. It has reduced the walking distance to get water. The kids have clean water near the school, and the clarity of the water is not even comparable to the water of the [old] bore hole.” Everyone in the community benefits from these changes, but it is the women who benefit most, as they spend less time collecting water and more time earning an income and receiving an education.
In addition to this, The Sonder Project is very excited to share news of a pilot Mentorship program we are rolling out in 2019, which also stands to greatly benefit women. Our new Mentorship program will train unemployed youth who’ve completed school to lead adult literacy classes, tutor kids who are struggling in school, and support school-age youth who are out of school to get back in. As “women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people” and rural girls are less likely than their male counterparts to be enrolled in school, women stand to gain the most from this exciting program.
As we look to celebrate International Women’s Day, The Sonder Project is proud of our commitment to empowering women and we are excited to share some of the individual stories of those whose lives have been directly impacted by our work.  http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/commission-on-the-status-of-women-2012/facts-and-figures
photography: Tara Rice