North East Connected

COCO marks International Women’s Day with appeal to improve lives through sustainable agriculture training

Newcastle based international children’s charity COCO (Comrades of Children Overseas) has launched an appeal to fund sustainable agriculture training for women in East Africa, in the lead up to International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March.  The new ‘Planting Future’ campaign is part of COCO’s celebrations of IWD, which will include a special event in partnership with Newcastle University Business School.

COCO, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2020, focuses on supporting sustainable education and training projects for people living in poor and marginalised communities.  The Planting Future appeal is aiming to raise £5,000 to provide access to training that will use naturally available resources, to improve agricultural efficiency in the community of Bwayi, Western Kenya.  The funds, combined with grant funding of almost £10,000 from the Evan Cornish Foundation, will benefit over 20,000 women in the region.

In Bwayi, 65% of the population are women, who have to provide for children, grandchildren and often orphans.  The majority work seasonally on large scale farms on a first come, first serve basis, starting at 4:00am for only 40p per day.  As a result, women can’t afford to feed their families, access healthcare or send their children to schools.  COCO has already funded sustainable agriculture training for 140 women in the region, which has seen incomes increase by an average of 300%, reducing poverty and affording them the opportunity to send their children to school and lead happier, healthier lives.

71-year-old Margaret has participated in sustainable agriculture training and now spends more time at home, works in her own garden and has food and income. She said: “Now that I am no longer working on contract and can generate my own income here in my garden, I can support my children through education. Now they aren’t chased away from school because I am able to save money and pay the fees for a whole term at once.”

Lucy Kendall, CEO at COCO, said: “We are raising funds around this year’s International Women’s Day to ensure sustainable agriculture training can continue improving lives in Bwayi, by empowering more women like Margaret.  Sustainable agriculture techniques are largely simple but are very effective, increasing incomes by as much as 300% and allowing community members to enrol their children in education, provide healthcare to their family and put food on the table, all of which are essential to a good start in life.”

Showcasing the wider work that the COCO team is undertaking to support women in East Africa, the charity has once again teamed up with Newcastle University Business School to host a special event to celebrate International Women’s Day, on Friday 6 March.  #EachforEqual will bring together a panel of inspirational women who will share their experiences and promote discussion around equality regardless of gender, race, ethnicity and background, both in the North East and across the globe.

During the event guests will hear from Salha Kaitesi, a British-Rwandan gender equality and female empowerment champion and founder of Beauty of Rwanda, a social enterprise set up to economically empower women and girls in Rwanda, and Teakisi.  Also on the panel will be Naz Demir, international trade manager for the North East England Chamber of Commerce, a strong advocate for women in business, and menopause educator Sharon MacArthur, who works with  public and private sector companies to encourage men and women to talk about the subject in the workplace, supporting women through this time in their lives.  In addition, 19-year-old Wambui Hardcastle will perform a reading of her poem, Mayonnaise Girl..

COCO’s partnerships and communications manager Jess Whitaker will complete the line-up and will talk about some of the strong females that the charity is working with in remote communities in East Africa, and how they are changing perceptions around gender and making a difference in their communities.

Lucy adds: “We ‘re thrilled to team up with Newcastle University Business School once again for another special event to mark International Women’s Day.  Each for Equal promises to be a fantastic celebration of women here in the North East and around the globe.”

To make a donation to the Planting Future appeal visit the Virgin Money page:

The free #EachforEqual event will take place in the Partners Room at Newcastle University Business School from 3.30pm on Friday 6 March. To register visit: https:/****31AJTyw 

To find out more about the work of COCO visit, find the charity on Facebook or follow @COCO_Charity on Twitter.

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