THREE Chester school friends who reunited after three decades to improve the lives of African women have earned an international award for their work.
Carol Cunningham, Ingrid Strawson and Fiona Hirsig, all former pupils at The Queen’s School, have been working for the Gambia Women’s Initiative (GWI), a project founded by Carol to help women living in rural Gambia.
Despite pursuing careers in the UK, the US and Switzerland, they have stayed in touch and more than 30 years after leaving the City Walls Road school they now work together on the Initiative.
Their work won an International Women’s Award, presented in Washington DC to the local leader of the projects.
Over the past four years, the three friends have worked together to set up a number of projects through local women’s groups including the introduction of solar food dryers to improve nutrition, milling machines, soap manufacture and solar ovens.
Through their work, the Gambian women also learn business skills like marketing, pricing, packaging and finance which they then pass on throughout the community.
In the future Carol hopes GWI will expand to help other women across Africa.
She said: “We’ve achieved all of our expected outcomes and more. The villages now have an increased sustainable income which benefits everyone, the women are empowered, they participate in decision-making within the village and they have more time to concentrate on growing good crops.
“All three of us all believe the initiative’s success is owed in part to our education at The Queen’s School where we were taught to be culturally curious, help others and give back.”