Inès Rodrigues created the NGO EducAfrica. The goal? To find sustainable solutions to improve living conditions for villagers in Guinea-Bissau.
Inès Rodrigues is a language teacher at the CICCOPN vocational training centre, and lives in Maia in northern Portugal. It was through chatting to her African students that she became aware of the difficulties these boys and girls were experiencing on a daily basis. In 2011, something in her shifted, and she decided to set up EducAfrica. This NGO brings teachers and students in Portugal together to find sustainable, long-lasting solutions to improve the living conditions of villagers in eight villages in Guinea-Bissau.
In Guinea-Bissau, 70% of inhabitants have no access to electricity and this has a direct impact on families’ everyday lives.
In Guinea-Bissau, 70% of inhabitants have no access to electricity
Inès’s objectivesare two-fold: to focus on the real needs expressed by local communities, and to come up with sustainable, inexpensive solutions in response. In Guinea-Bissau, 70% of inhabitants have no access to electricity and this has a direct impact on families’ everyday lives. Women are particularly affected by this situation, as they are forced to cook and care for their children in complete darkness when night falls. At the maternity centre, women are forced to give birth in the dark at huge risk to their health and that of their newborns.
Beacons of light
The “Gouttes de lumières” (“Drops of Light”) project was established to banish this darkness. The concept was to set up solar lamps made from recycled water bottles. Each individual lamp provides 40 watts of light per day, which is enough to light up one health centre or home. Two other projects have emerged since 2011. The first involves fruit dehydrators, allowing villagers to preserve and sell the fruit they harvest abundantly throughout the year (such as mangoes and bananas) in order to generate extra income for their families. The second aims to collect waste for recycling.
A project spearheaded by one woman
Inès admits that it hasn’t always been easy to get her voice heard in a country where women aren’t always entrusted with responsibilities. But things are changing, and Inès is now the go-to contact person for many of the villages’ men and women.
EducAfrica chose not to export materials from Portugal, but to work instead directly with local raw materials and capacities.