A food production company, which stocks Asda’s shelves, is helping empower its Senegalese employees by teaching basic education and by providing equal opportunities.
"It’s small little steps, but great giant leaps out there"
The 8th March marks International Women’s Day. The influential day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women - along with marking a call to action for accelerating gender equality.
And one company which is helping its wonderful women achieve all of the above, is specialist vegetable grower Barfoots of Botley.
Together with Asda's sustainability team, who work with women in poorer countries to help them earn an income and learn vital skills, Barfoots runs a women’s empowerment project for its 3,000 employees in Senegal, who grow sweetcorn, sweet potato, green beans, courgette and chilies in Saint-Louis.
There, the Asda funding is put into educating women, who are taught basic and vital skills surrounding reading, writing, budgeting and health education.
Keston Williams, who is technical director at Barfoots of Botley, said: "There are only a privileged few who have been to school. It’s changed significantly now (for children) but obviously the generation that’s working there as adults didn’t have the opportunity to go to school.
"What we are trying to do is catch them up on very basic education.
“It’s about everybody having the opportunity to have that basic level of reading and writing, plus specific training for their job.
“And on top of that we have been educating women about women’s health issues. There isn’t an appreciation of that.
"It’s small little steps, but great giant leaps out there."
The company is also big on providing the same job opportunities to men and women, as beforehand women would pick everything in the field and only the men would drive the tractors.
“It’s all about whether they are a good tractor driver," Keston said, "not whether they are a man or woman. It’s about breaking down the old mentality of working."
Around 320 to 330 training sessions, some funded by Asda, have been held where anything between 3 to 150 people attend. And it’s thanks to these training classes that there’s been a number of promotions in the last six months including two female farm managers, a female tractor driver and a female fork lift driver.
"With the training that we’re giving, we have been able to build a team for the future which is our future managers and the next generation," Keston said. “It’s also giving hope for the local youngsters that are coming along and joining us and paving out their careers.
"It’s very simple but it’s things like that which can help empower women and help increase work production.
"And it does allow people to really follow their dreams and be where they want to be in the future.
"They are doing their own thing in the local area, spending the money they have earned on our farm and building the local community. Out of everything that’s the most amazing thing."
Click here for more information on Asda sustainability projects.