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Human rights students' Africa trip to empower women and girls

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Students, graduates and staff from Sheffield Hallam University are taking part in a life-changing trip to Africa to help women and girls living in some of the world's poorest communities.

The group of 20 from the University's Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice are visiting Lesotho in South Africa in June as part of a Human Rights project which will see them introduce the Wonderbag to impoverished communities.

The Wonderbag is a thermal cooking invention which can be used to free up the time of women and girls, who often spend up to eight hours a day cooking over open fires so that they can be educated or earn money.

In Lesotho women’s life expectancy is just 54 and according to the World Health Organisation more than four million people die prematurely due to smoke inhalation by cooking on open fires.

Smoke damage is also the main cause of blindness in the developing world.

The Wonderbags act like slow cookers, so women can use them to cook food for up to seven hours after initial preparation, meaning that they no longer have to cook over open fires for lengthy periods of time, also reducing time gathering and cutting wood and fetching water.

This enables them instead to spend time with their children, or take part in work or education.

Sue Bulley, principal lecturer in Human Rights at Sheffield Hallam University, who is leading the project said: "At the Helena Kennedy Centre at Sheffield Hallam we aim to provide our law and criminology students with life changing opportunities to experience human rights work with real impact. We hope to offer this opportunity on an annual basis and to develop a long lasting relationship with the communities in Lesotho."

Sheffield Hallam has partnered with Africa’s Gift, a South Yorkshire-based charity which works with rural communities in Africa for the trip.

The students are also collecting school shoes for distribution in the community.

The group is currently busy fundraising for the trip and running monthly stalls selling handmade crafts, jewellery and cakes. The team also held a fundraising evening which collected £500.

In April a group of students will also be taking part in a skydive to raise money for the trip.

It costs £15 to buy a Wonderbag at the factory in Durban and the team wants to buy as many as they can.

They have also applied to Sheffield Hallam's GoGlobal Fund for financial support for the trip.

They have set up a Just Giving page where donations can be made.

Sheffield Hallam University is committed to building stronger communities both in the UK and worldwide.

For press information:Polly Mosley in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 3224 or email