Welcome to the Friends of Bonou

We are a small Oxford-based charity composed entirely of volunteers and friends who have worked for the last 10 years in direct partnership with the local community in Bonou, a small village in the south of the Republic of Benin in West Africa, with the specific goal of educating local girls and combat the dangers of domestic slavery and human trafficking when they go to neighbouring Nigeria in search of income.

The charity was set up in July 2003 by Laurence Lalanne, formerly an Africa correspondent with the BBC following a visit to the village; the plight of a seriously injured girl who had been to neighbouring Nigeria to find work and had been attacked there prompted Laurence to start identifying with the village Elders and other contacts in Benin a possible solution to the problem of girls leaving the village to go to Nigeria. Proper education and income generating skills was the answer and the Sonagnon Training Centre is the result. Click here to know more about the Sonagnon Centre.

At the beginning of 2013, after 10 years of intense involvement in the funding and running of the Centre which resulted in the graduation of 2 cohorts of girls, the charity felt that it was time to let the village take full responsibility for the Centre. Consequently in May 2013, while a new cohort of girls, the third, begun their training, it marked for us the start of a phased withdrawal of our involvement by tapering down our funding over the next 3 years.

Good development practice informs that progressive withdrawal as since the start, two principles have been at the heart of what we have done: the first principle was concentrating our main resources on one main project in order to create a critical mass and therefore avoid the "sprinkling" of resources, putting a bit of money here and there on many different projects because we are convinced that it is inefficient and cannot make a real difference. The second principle was not to stay too long as this, we believe, creates a new dependency culture. We have now arrived at a "natural" crossroads as we have achieved our goal to help local people do what they could not do on their own, e.g. build the Training Centre and the magnificent dormitory facility adjacent to it and help setting up a local management structure in the village, therefore empowering them to do what they needed and wanted to do. We strongly feel it is time for us to let go.

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