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(!) Help African girls to get to surf-therapy by joining this ride for change (!)

WHO ARE WE? - let’s introduce ourselves first
SOMA stands for Surfers Proud of African Women, and it is a non-profit association that promotes gender equality and female empowerment in São Tomé island, through a method of intervention internationally recognized as surf therapy (proudly a ISTO member).

SOMA was the 1st surf therapy program on the African continent, and the 3rd in the world to work exclusively with girls in under-served communities.

It was founded in October 2020 and it all started when Francisca Sequeira, went door to door to seek parental permission before the big day when, for the first time, local girls were challenged to surf. Those efforts turn up the page of gender equality inequality and SOMA is now on a mission to encourage, nurture and inspire African young girls through an evidence-based surf therapy method.

WHAT DO WE DO? - work work work work work
Surf therapy is our DNA. However, in order to disrupt cycles of gender inequality, we need to address the root cause. If we want women to become independent, productive citizens, leaders in the community, and champions for change, a holistic development approach is mandatory.

Addressing the saying “It takes a village to raise a child”, SOMA works not only with girls from 10-18 years old, but also with their families and the boys from the community where these girls live. We have build a strong foundation for impact by supporting holistic community development, with 3 complementary programs that work collectively across our surf therapy core program:

SOMA core program: SOMA surf therapy is a year long after-school program for girls, where surfing is complemented with psycho education, women empowerment and academic support. These 4 subjects provide a holistic support that looks at each girl as a whole person, not just their mental health needs. It also considers their physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing.
Each one of our Gliders (10-13 years old) and Riders (15-17 years old) are provided with:
  • 1 daily snack;
  • Scholar tuition fees and supplies;
  • Menstrual kit (reusable pads and underwear);
  • Surf gear (board, leash, fins, wax) + swimwear and towel;
  • Transportation to and from activities;
  • Access to computers and the internet for academic purposes;
  • Activities material (yoga mats, stationary, etc);
  • Birthday cake and celebration;

SOMA Family: an inclusive, gender-responsive parenting-friendly program that runs parallel to the core program and involves the participation of our girls guardians. Caring for caregivers, ending harmful practices at home, addressing gendered norms relating to childcare and encouraging fathers engagement, is the foundation of this positive parenting.

SOMA community club: An emotional and physical safe space that aims to create sisterhood circles to all the girls of the community (6-18 years old). Here they can gather and use the facilities of the library (books and computers), the play room, the surf club and the study room. Once a week, boys are invited to gather with girls and together, as a collective community, they can transform gender norms by exploring their identity/s, discuss challenges and strengths, and explore the needs of women in different spheres of life.

SOMA Pro: this intensive program connects girls (aged 18 or above) to knowledge and opportunities.The program creates an ecosystem of opportunities for girls to excel by empowering them with soft skills and personal and social competences so they can become active participants in the society and succeed as intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs and business owners in the tourism and surf industry.

WHY DO OUR GIRLS NEED A RIDE? - to take them to waves of therapy, parity and union
São Tomé is the second smallest country of Africa and one of least visited countries in the word. In the middle of the Atlantic sits a nation where a heavy load of household duties are expected for most women on the island and a society suffering from considering gender disparities:
  • Girls are only 5.8 years in school compared to 7.1 years for boys;
  • Only 31.5% of women aged 25+ have secondary education compared to 45.8% of men;
  • There are only 24.4% of women in management positions (2021, UN Women);
  • 27.9% of women aged 15+ have experienced domestic violence (2019, UNDP);
  • Although 93% of SOMA beneficiaries would like to go to university, none of them have the means to pay tuition fees;
-> Furthermore, adolescent pregnancies reach around 27%, one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.
-> Although being a country surrounded by the ocean, 48% of girls don’t know how to swim and are scared of the sea.

We need you to join our ride for change! Numbers and realities can change, when strong riders come along!

HOW FAR HAVE WE GONE? - “If you wanna go fast go alone, if you wanna go far go together
Since October 2020, we successfully graduated and empowered 90 girls, provided 384 hours of surfing lessons and spent 432 hours in the SOMA classroom (psycho education, women empowerment and academic support).

-> Before the intervention started, 65% of the girls agreed that a woman has an obligation to do all the household chores and take care of the children even without help, by the end of the intervention just 23% agreed on this idea.
Before SOMA I would do everything alone, I thought it should be like that, now I ask my brothers for help” - Celina, 18 years old

-> Before attending SOMA, 100% of girls didn't know how to identify emotions such as happiness, fear, disgust, sadness or anger. After intervention, all girls knew.
SOMA gives me the power to do things on my own” - Letviana, 20 years old

-> Before SOMA, 26% of the girls were afraid of the sea and now only 4%.
In the beginning was a place of fear, now its a place of joy” - Daniela, 19 years old

We have also achieved some important step stones for women in São Tomé:
-> We can proudly say that we have organized the first two national surf championships (2021, 2022) with a female participation in the country's history and with equivalent prizes for the two categories, which was another achievement for SOMA in the fight for gender equality and development through sport.

-> Together with the Olympic Solidarity, the Olympic Committee and ISA (International Surfing Association) we’ve organized, in 2022, an intensive surf training program where 15 local boys and girls became official judges and surf coaches - another step for SOMA that went beyond its own mission to help develop the surfing industry in order to create job opportunities for the whole community.

-> Some more magic happened this year (2023), when for the first time ever, a local female surfer represented her country overseas. With the support of “Provide the Slide”, SOMA took the female national champion to attend a surf conference and to participate in the10th Liberia National Surf Championship taking place in Robertsport, Liberia. A moment that had a tremendous positive impact on how girls are perceived in São Tomé and have inspired more local girls to pursue their dreams!

WHERE DO WE SEEK YOUR SUPPORT? - We're sharing the coordinates with you
The last few years have been particularly challenging in many ways and despite our hard work and efforts, we see our bills rising at a very fast rate not only because of the global social-economical crisis but also because of unexpected costs and needs: São Tomé and Príncipe inflation rate is reaching 24% (the highest in 15 years), and the national economy is projected to grow below 1%. As a result of this overlapping of crises, coupled with the country’s economic, financial and social vulnerabilities and the implementation of the VAT, the situation is looking difficult on the island.

On October 2023, we are starting the 4th annual edition of SOMA, engaging more 40 girls in the program. Each girl represents a cost of approximately 916€ per year:
  • 396€ - 1 daily snack;
  • 150€ - Transportation to activities;
  • 90€ - Surf gear (board, leash, fins, wax) + swimwear and towel;
  • 90€ - SOMA activities materials (yoga mats, stationary, etc);
  • 70€ - Scholar tuition fees and supplies;
  • 70€ - Menstrual kit (reusable pads and underwear);
  • 30€ - Access to computers and the internet for academic purposes;
  • 20€ - Birthday cake and celebration;
Excluding operational and logistical costs (rent, salaries,etc.) and without considering the complementary programs (SOMA Family, SOMA Community Club and SOMA Pro), the annual cost for just the main surf therapy program for 40 girls amounts to approximately 36,640€.

One of our biggest costs is the girls transportation to the beach (where surf therapy waves break 7km away from our girls community). Until last year we were using a truck borrowed from the Cantagalo district City Hall in São Tomé but it got broken and we needed to assume this unexpected cost on our annual budget. For the upcoming intervention our finantial scenarios are indicating that it will cost us, at least 6000€ a year, taking in consideration the inflation rate and constant gas shortage in the country.

Yet, without your financial support, we see the project’s future compromised, and the hope of these girls will once again be shattered, negatively impacting their personality development.

UNTIL WHEN WILL WE DEPEND ON DONATIONS? - in a blink of an eye this will change!
We dream a lot. We dream big and we work hard to pursue those dreams. Our small team is working like a multinational corporation to become financially sustainable through a social business. The idea is to cover the major SOMA costs with our own revenues.

SOMA will start, by the beginning of 2024, to organize surf trips, surf & yoga retreats and travel experiences to São Tomé. By working closely with local partners and training local communities, we will develop responsible and sustainable surf tourism, while supporting the local economy and hopefully in the future, creating job opportunities for graduated SOMA girls.

Slowly but surely we are on our way to become sustainable!

Donate to get these brave girls to surf therapy and together we can change the narrative of African women, through waves of therapy, hope, and empowerment!

-> To learn more about our program, activities, reports, and how to get involved, visit our website and follow us on instagram


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