November 21, 2017 —

For twenty years, Women Thrive has been supporting grassroots women’s leadership and advocacy, ensuring the most marginalized still get to voice their priorities, have a seat at the table and influence development policies and programs.

During a trip to Ghana in 2009, Women Thrive met Lydia Sasu, founder and Executive Director of Development Action Association (DAA). Lydia, a force of nature, lived by one  consistent motivation, “I am passionate about helping rural women.”

“Women Thrive came all the way from America to collect data,” she says. “I was out in the fields when they came. But they wanted to talk to me, so they came back.  And they helped me know how to make a big voice with the policy-makers.”

Lydia started DAA in 1999 “from scratch,” and today, she leads 16 community fishing groups and 52 groups of women working in agriculture. When Women Thrive returned to met her in 2013, she knew exactly what she needed to amplify rural women’s needs to national and global spaces where she hoped their voices can be heard and acknowledged: skills and opportunities. Women Thrive delivered both.

Shortly after undergoing Women Thrive’s advocacy training, Lydia started centering her work around advocating for rural women’s needs. DAA’s first success in “making a voice,” came when the flow of fish to the women’s fisheries ran dry.  Lydia went to the Fisheries Commission to protest illegal fishing that was draining the communities supply of fish and she asked for government control of the shoreline. And the government agreed. But Lydia did not stop there. “Whenever I learn something new, I take it to the women. I taught them how to address policy-makers with their needs. Many women are illiterate, and no program will accept them. But now they know how to make a voice for themselves. And people listen.”

“Women Thrive opened up the world to us, and we have not closed the door. They are always showing us where we should go, and always encouraging us to do more.” Lydia has thrived as a recognized international leader on rural women’s role in food security and rural communities empowerment.  For her unrelenting work, she has won numerous awards, such as a prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life at the Women’s World Summit in Geneva in the fall of 2011 and the 2015 Kleckner Trade and Technology Advancement Award at the World Food Prize. Not surprisingly, invitations to speak nationally and internationally constantly pour in.

In 2014, Lydia was a guest speaker at Women Thrive’s Economic Empowerment Summit in Washington D.C. Along with other Alliance members from Zimbabwe and Honduras, she shared her expertise with a room full of policy-makers, development practitioners, and donors. She also met members of Congress to deliver a simple yet important message: invest in rural women and girls.

To this day, Lydia continues to be an active Alliance member. She understands firsthand the power of global solidarity and collective power: “We have to work together to achieve. As a team, we can achieve. This is one thing Women Thrive taught us.”

DAA is currently an implementing partner for the Sustainable Fisheries Management Project, a 5-year fisheries food security project funded by USAID. As part of this project, Lydia and her team are starting a fish training center, the first of its kind in West Africa. To learn more about DAA or contact Lydia, please email membership@womenthrive.org