Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures
THP-Ghana Celebrates International Women's Day 2012
International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.
It is in this regard that The Hunger Project (THP)-Ghana marked the day with an inspirational forum for selected rural Junior High school girls. Girls attended from 22 schools in the three epicenter regions in Kwahu West Municipality namely; Nkawanda, Odumasi-Wawase and Nsuta-Aweregya respectively. Women leaders holding various key positions such as District Chief Executive, District Coordinating Director, the Country Director of The Hunger Project-Ghana, a medical doctor, heads of Departments among others addressed these girls. They shared various challenges they had to go through as women to reach the positions they occupy. They also discussed opportunities available to these girls and the task ahead: to grow into the women leaders of the future who help develop their families, communities, the country and the world as a whole.
A total of 327 people — 269 Junior High School girls, 41 women and 17 men — participated in the forum.
The forum started with Group Working Sessions during which participants were grouped to deliberate on thought-provoking questions to test their level of understanding about untapped potential and opportunities that await the future generations of women. Two teachers facilitated discussions in groups of an average of 25 girls and came out with career aspirations of the girls and the various impediments they face or envisage. The exercise sought to identify the various challenges girls face with regard to their health, in the family, at school, sociocultural practices and poverty issues. They also came out with various ways of addressing those challenges and who they thought could help remove the stumbling blocks to ensure a smooth and positive transformation.
Some of the results of that discussion are highlighted below:
- Future aspirations: nurses, doctors, engineers, pilots, radio presenters, teachers, hairdressers, evangelists, footballers, journalists, lawyers, police officers, soldiers, roman sisters, bankers, accountants.
- Challenges at home: broken homes, financial problems, teenage pregnancy, premarital sex, death of a parent, sickness, early marriage/forced marriage, peer pressure, loss of a parent's job/unemployment, disobedience/disrespect leading to neglect by parents, poverty, children being made to work for their keep, child labor by those who foster them, lack of electricity to study at home, lack of food.
- Challenges at school: Lack of textbooks, long distances to walk to school, lack of computers to learn, lack of science labs, teachers using students to work for them during instructional hours, teasing by peers which leads to low participation in class for fear of making a mistake, difficulty in reading due to visual impairment which is not diagnosed.
- Social-cultural issues: Sex roles placing undue pressure on girls' time, broken homes leading to children being sent to stay with grandparents, cultural practices eg Trokosi (ritual servitude of young girls), preference of boys' education over girls'.
- Economic/poverty issues: Early marriage, child labor, hunger, no money to buy textbooks, girls engaging in sex to fend for themselves and this leading to teenage pregnancy.
- Health issues: Sickness, poor management of menstruation-related issues leading to absenteeism from school, HIV infection.
- Ideas for solutions: Chiefs and elders can make by-laws to prevent school children from going out in the night; avoid bad company/friends; provision of text books by the government; taking advice from parents; irresponsible fathers must be taken to the Department of Social Welfare to be compelled to take care of their children; need for electricity to facilitate studying in the evenings; scholarships for rural girls; increase in number of educational activities by Women's Empowerment Program (WEP) animators on importance of education in rural communities.
In her welcome address the Country Director of THP-Ghana, Dr. Naana Agyemang-Mensah remarked that the day is to celebrate the achievements of women. She said development cannot be achieved or successful without the involvement of women. She indicated that THP had built the capacity of many rural women over the years — resulting in 48 percent representation of women in epicenter leadership. She said THP’s activities have not focused much on the youth themselves and saw the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day Celebration as a great opportunity to engage the youth in women’s development issues. For her, this opportunity to bring the students together was a good start to re-examine the challenges that prevent girls, and therefore women, from rising to the heights that they deserve to reach, and to find ways of dealing with the issues.
Dr. Naana further stated that the reason for the group work was to identify the challenges that affect their advancement. She was hopeful that, with determination, the students would be able to overcome these challenges. She also explained that most rural girls had nobody to look up to or model after and that was why she had invited high-ranking women from the community to the forum to inspire and motivate the young girls to not relent in their efforts to achieve greater heights in life.
In her brief conclusion, she wished the girls well with the hope that they were leaving the forum in high spirits. She urged them to take their studies seriously because with hard work all things are possible.
Read THP's Ghana full report of the celebration, including highlights from other inspiring presenters and more photos.