Today's guest blog is from YES (Youth Empowerment Synergy) Ghana, an NGO that we met when we first arrived in Ghana. YES-Ghana is a highly esteemed organization that shares our passion for empowering youth. As we started our program here, they provided us with lessons learned from their experiences working with youth in Ghana. They also helped connect us to some of our amazing Change Agents. We would not have the program we have today without them. They are truly an organization we aspire to be like.
We are thrilled that they agreed to be a guest blogger asked them to write write about why they think is so important to empower girls in Ghana. Check it out:
EMPOWERING GIRLS FOR A DEVELOPED GHANA – THE YES-GHANA APPROACH
by James Anquandah, Communications and Mobilization Manager YES-Ghana
Ghana has had its fair share of celebrated women who have beaten the odds and left their indelible marks in their chosen paths. Indeed, their impacts have been so great that, in some instances, several years after leaving the public stage, when their applause was loudest, their names have metamorphosed into adjectives that are forever linked with their former institutions. Examples include Mrs. Gifty Afenyi Dadzie’s Ghana Journalist Association, and Dr. Joyce Aryee’s Ghana Chamber of Mines.
Other trailblazers include Professors Ama Ata Aidoo, Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, Esi Sutherland Addy, Justice Bamford Addo, Mrs. Georgina Theodora Woode, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, Madam Lucy Quist. Even the Ghanaian flag we salute was designed by Madam Theodosia Okoh. Countless numbers of women have played integral roles in every sector of the Ghanaian economy, helping to propel Ghana up the development ladder.
However, despite these achievements, thousands of young girls in Ghana still face many obstacles. Poverty, an over emphasized patriarch system, and other factors contribute directly or indirectly to preventing them from realizing their full potential. Worse, these unlucky girls find themselves in the unending cycle that compromises generations, making them vulnerable to become school dropouts, ending up homeless, and in some cases, forced into prostitution or taken advantage of by unscrupulous well-to-do men.
This is why it is imperative that we empower girls at all levels to strive to go beyond their perceived potential. Empowerment, in this case, simply refers to the conscious effort to make girls realize their full potential, to believe in themselves, and to provide the provision of a level playing field for both girls and boys to succeed. For example, at home empowerment simple means parents giving both their sons and daughters the chance to advance in education rather than seeing their sons through school while daughters are left behind to learn housekeeping skills.
Several interventions have been instituted over time to empower girls nationwide. Numerous Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) programmes designed solely for girls have brought girls closer to science and math.
In the development sector, several girl empowerment initiatives and steps have been in practice for some time. Youth Empowerment Synergy (YES-Ghana), the nation’s foremost and most extensive youth-focused organisation, has over the years empowered girls through the implementation of several youth-focused initiatives. At YES-Ghana, projects are seen as avenues to provide equal opportunities for both young men and women to learn and acquire life-long skills to improve their employability, social and life skills, and overall, make them more active and responsible partakers of the national governance process.
The Young Peace Ambassadors’ Programme is an example of how girls can be empowered to be active players in the peace building process. The programme recruited 28 young people, 14 boys and 14 girls, from the Northern and Upper East regions of Ghana from a pool of over 300 applicants. The final 28 participated in a week-long peace camp where discussions centred on peace building, conflict resolution, social and life skills, project implementation, monitoring and evaluation, action planning, development of impactful messages, and effective use of social media.
Emphasis was placed on involving at least an equal number of girls to act as peace brokers in creating a peaceful atmosphere in the two regions before, during, and in the immediate aftermath of the December, 2016 polls. This was needed as gender disparity is quite common in the two selected regions and in most cases, girls, women, and children are disproportionately affected when violence and conflict erupts, despite the face that they play almost no roles in starting such situations.
After completing the Peace Camp, our empowered girl Peace Ambassadors visit communities, places of worship, media houses and people of all age groups to preach the message of peace to ensure the Northern and Upper East regions are violence-free this year.
The Voices of Youth’s People’s National Youth Policy project is yet another way YES-Ghana has empowered young women to become active partakers of the governing process. The project involves capacity building in action research, data collection, analysis and presentation on topical issues pertaining to youth development. The first workshop in May 2016 saw some 10 young women trained as action researchers. This number rose to 12 during the second workshop in July 2016. At the second workshop, participants analyzed and presented data collected from their respective community-based action research activities, reviewed the current National Youth Policy of Ghana as well as that of other countries. The identified best practices are going to be integrated into the final document, the People’s National Youth Policy, which is expected to be representative of the views of young people for consideration into any National Youth Policy.
In all, despite conscious efforts to bring parity to everyone regardless of gender, there still exists a need to empower girls in all facets of our national development. The numerous achievements of some distinguished women proves that girls are more than capable of reaching the pinnacle. Removing stereotypes, both mentally and physically, providing equal opportunities to both girls and boys, as well as an enabling environment for girls is the starting point for success that will eventually lead to a brighter future for Ghana.
Over the past couple of weeks we have visited Berekuso primary school and Berekuso junior high school to deliver our curriculum. Berekuso is a small community about two hours outside of Accra where the majority of adults work in agriculture. The school's modest classrooms are arranged in two long parallel rows separated by a grassy field in the middle. Headmistress Margaret explained to us that teen pregnancy is a big problem in this community and last year alone five girls (one fifth grader, one sixth grader, and three junior high students) dropped out of school after becoming pregnant.
We have so many great photos from these schools that we decided to share them in one giant post. We hope you enjoy them and get a better idea of what our program looks like on the ground.
Above: Eva teaches her first Power2Girls class to the Berekuso fourth graders.
Above: Adam and Eva work with the Berekuso fifth and sixth graders.
Above: Joyce filled in for Eva to teach Berekuso's junior high students along with Adam.
We are pumped to announce that next Wednesday, October 12, we will be participating in the Day of the Girl Child Expo hosted by USAID Ghana at theUS Embassy Ghana . It is an honor to be included in the event which will also feature organizations like Camfed, Girls Education Initiative of Ghana,Levers in Heels, TECHAiDE, World Education, and threesixtyGh. We look forward to sharing our story with these organizations as well as learning from them.
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of excitement, overcoming challenges, and long hours of work. Between meeting with communities and working with our staff to adapt our curriculum and develop our monitoring and evaluation plan, we have fallen behind on keeping you all updated on what we are doing.
Since our last posting, we hired an amazing staff: Eva, Adam, Joyce, and Sam (you can read more about them on our “Meet our Staff” blogs). They have been working diligently with us to take the UNICEF developed sugar-daddy awareness program and localize it for Ghanaian youth. This means making big decisions like determining how to approach the topics of sex and condom use with elementary and junior high students, as well as small decisions like figuring out that it is more appropriate to use the word “age-mate” when referring to a classmate or peer.
Last week we finalized the list of schools that we will be working in. Over the next month, we will be visiting 7 schools in 3 communities to deliver our curriculum to more than 1000 students. We chose these schools and communities for two reasons:
- We have established local partners who work in these areas. These partners have been vital to us and, as a new NGO with limited time and funding, we could not have done it without them. They have helped introduce us to the head mistresses, assemblymen, school district directors, and, in the case of Berekuso, the Chief.
- There is a need. We recently received updated data from Ghana Health Service stating that older men in Ghana are 9X more likely than younger men to be infected with HIV. In addition, because of the power imbalance between a young girl and an older man, the girl is unlikely to be able to negotiate to use a condom with her partner, leading to higher risk of HIV and pregnancy. In a focus group we conducted at Berekuso, 4 of the 7 junior high school girls we spoke with knew age-mates who were dating older men, whose ages ranged from 24 to 48. This is the reason we are here.
The need to a provide sugar-daddy awareness program was confirmed for us last week when we had our first PTA meetings at Berekuso primary and junior high schools and Fidelity Juvenile School. While many parents agreed that sugar-daddies, HIV, and teen pregnancy is a problem in their communities, most said they did not talk with their kids about it. We hope that by providing our curriculum to the parents and teachers as well as the students, we can change that.