This Thursday, March 8 is International Women’s Day, and here at CREATE! we’re celebrating the powerful women in our international community who are working together to make our world a better place from the village level. The United Nations’ theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.” We are honored to know a great number of women in our partner communities in rural Senegal who are uplifting each other and creating lasting change in their communities.

Agricultural Technician Codou Gadji works alongside the women in Fass Koffe, one of CREATE!’s graduated communities, encouraging them to continue working hard and independently to maintain their garden site.

One of these women is our very own agricultural technician, Codou Gadji. When she was first going to school for Horticulture, she said there were no other women in her class, but she was determined to follow her dream after being inspired by her father’s work as an agricultural engineer when she was a child. “People used to say, ‘this job is for women, or this job is for men,’” says Codou, “But now, women can do almost any job. Today, what men can do, women can also do.” By the time she graduated and became a part of the CREATE! team in Senegal, there were more women than men in her program, reflecting the social changes taking place across the country.

A young student in the village of Dahra watches as cooperative members water their garden site. CREATE!’s technicians hope that by leading by example, they can encourage more girls to stay in school and build skills that will help improve their communities and livelihoods on the local level.

In many rural villages however, a lot of girls still don’t finish school, and many adult women have never even been to school, so Codou hopes that she can lead by example in her role as an agricultural technician. “The women are very motivated when they see a woman doing this kind of work,” she says. “They realize that it is possible to do this work because they have a woman technician, and now they can see that there are many women on the CREATE! team.”

Throughout our partner communities, we often see firsthand how women in rural areas are disproportionately affected by climate change, so it’s inspiring to see how much Codou’s leadership has influenced the women in these villages. The presidents of the cooperative groups follow her example and offer guidance to the other beneficiaries, encouraging them to work hard and support each other. The great pride they take in caring for their vegetable crops, running their VSLA groups, planting trees, and managing their poultry sheds is evident in their thriving garden sites.

Training women to manage their own finances through the VSLA program, as seen here in Diender, has been an incredibly effective way to help empower them in their communities.

This year on International Women’s Day, we share our gratitude for the women leaders on our team and in our partner communities who are paving the way for future generations. We are so inspired by their commitment to achieving sustainability in their villages, and the great enthusiasm with which they take on the tasks and challenges at hand.