A Wantage volunteer 4,000 miles from home is helping to change the lives of poverty-stricken women in west Africa.
Casper Dawson, pictured, a former King Alfred’s Academy and Oxford City College pupil, is encouraging other young Brits to join him in making the trek across the globe to Réo in Burkina Faso to help women and girls make a fair living.
Casper has been working with a team of fellow British and Burkinabé volunteers on a project to increase women’s economic empowerment, enabling them to run profitable and sustainable businesses.
The team from international development charity International Service and its partner organisation UGF CDN are working to improve women’s literacy.
The charity is also helping to increase financial independence for women and raise awareness of their rights.
Nearly half of Burkina’s population live below the poverty line, while in rural parts of the country, many women have no means of earning an independent income.
Life expectancy for women in the African country is 20 years below the UK, at just 60 years old.
UK Aid funded Casper’s travels to Burkina Faso through the International Citizen Service programme.
Casper said: “Many people here don’t have a full education and job opportunities are scarce.
“Lots of people here live in serious poverty and gender equality has a long way to go.
“Our project is focussed on raising awareness on human rights and social justice in member organisations of UGF CDN, reaching hundreds of people in the process.
“We also help women of the UGF fabricate and sell their products so the organisation continues to have a profit and the employees can receive their income.
“We’ve also run a peer education workshop to teach women how to make other oils from fruits, to widen their knowledge base and skill sets.”
Casper and his team have been working with UGF CDN members to produce and market their shea butter, and deliver awareness sessions on HIV/AIDS, FGM and sexual and reproductive health to the wider community.
When Casper returns home on March 23, he will take on an Action at Home project to make sure his new-found skills also benefit people in the UK.