COCO celebrated International Women's Day at Newcastle University Business School with our Head of Partnerships Oswin Mahundi, Susan Wear and Louisa Rogers. 82 people attended to listen to our key speakers, visit stalls and to discuss what is preventing #BalanceForBetter across the world. In total, attendees fund-raised £380 which will go to support our work with women and girls in East Africa.
COCO’s Lucy Kendall kick-started the event by detailing her experiences of studying at the Newcastle Business School, in which were only two female graduates in her class. This gender imbalance is evident across the business sector, in which there are more CEOs called Steve or Dave in the FTSE 100 companies, than there are women or minorities. Louisa Rogers later expanded this point further, arguing that despite women spending three times more money on clothing, only 14% of the fashion companies have female executives. This is particularly shocking considering that many big clothing companies have been founded by females.
Our first key speaker Oswin Mahundi shared his truly interesting and motivating life story. "Born in a bush" in rural Tanzania and unable to start school until he was 8-9 years old, Oswin faced numerous difficulties in his early life. Wishing to empower other young and disadvantaged people, Oswin founded the Hoja Project. With the support of COCO Oswin built the first School For Life, which remains the best school in the entire region out of 192 schools, for 6 years running.
After this inspirational speech, Oswin and Jess Hamer discussed what COCO is doing to promote gender equality and equal opportunities in Eastern Africa. COCO works in the most remote parts of East Africa where help is often needed the most, yet is often missed by charitable organisations and government bodies due to logistical difficulties.
Jess and Oswin discussed the huge gender imbalance in Africa, which is often a result of inequality, cultural barriers and lack of opportunities for women and girls. Many women are financially dependent on their husbands and boys' education is often prioritised above girls'. Furthermore, domestic expectations of girls means that boys do far fewer household chores than girls and have more time for doing homework. Consequently, girls achieve lower grades and period poverty may stop girls accessing schooling altogether.
Oswin and Jess outlined the many ways COCO works to improve gender equality. COCO's partner Schools for Life provide dormitories for girls, so that female students are not walking long distances in the dark. Girls also have access to separate toilet blocks to ensure they can attend school whilst on their period, in addition to receiving sex education within classes. These initiatives ensure girls have the same educational opportunities as boys.
COCO also supports wider community projects which aim to empower and protect women. Jess shared a horrendous real story about how women in one of the areas COCO works in are forced to have sex with fishermen before being able to buy fish. To address this, COCO funded the construction of a fish pond at a partner School for Life so that the women can safely buy fish, whilst also providing the school with additional profit.
In the future COCO plans to open education centres for girls and women in who are not attending COCO’s partner Schools for Life. Oswin is also taking a stock of 'mooncups' back to Tanzania, to distribute amongst female students.
Without your continuous support, COCO’s work to support women and girls in East Africa would not be possible. If you like what we do and would like to help us, you can donate to COCO here!
Lastly, big thanks for Harambee Pasadia, African Tulip, B Collective and Clear the Clutter for coming and holding stalls in the event. And thanks for all the people who came to celebrate an important matter with COCO.