Every February thousands of women gather together in New York City to explore the critical issues facing women globally. Thanks to a sponsorship from Anglican Women’s Empowerment (AWE), I traveled from my home in Pokuase to New York to speak on a panel at this year’s gathering, the 56thSession of the United Nations’ Conference on the Status of Women. The event confirmed for me that women’s empowerment is not a destination but a lifelong journey.
This year’s conference focused on rural women and their role in eradicating poverty and hunger across the globe. Being born a woman in a rural village automatically puts a lot of obstacles in your path. But I’m certainly not alone on the journey. I was able to personally meet with women leaders like US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice; Melanne Verveer, UN Ambassador at Large for global women’s issues; Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee; and Pan-African Women Parliamentarians’ President Gertrude Mogela. I returned to Pokuase inspired and ready to work harder than ever in solidarity with other rural women. I thank the AWE – and all its sponsors and supporters – for making the dream of this rural woman come true.
Sophia. Patience. Gifty. Beatrice. Grace. Forgive. They are among about two dozen girls who gather each afternoon during the week in a makeshift classroom in Pokuase, where they spend the next two hours learning about computers.
The class is a program of WomensTrust, whose mission in part is to empower impoverished girls in Ghana through educational scholarships to help them stay in school, and extracurricular classes like health education and computer training. The computer class was first offered in 2009, through a generous donation that allowed WomensTrust to purchase 20 PC laptops and hire a local instructor. Since then more than 100 girls have received computer training--girls who otherwise would have no exposure to what we take for granted as a staple of modern life. Most public schools in Ghana can't afford computer labs, and though cell phones and ipads seem ubiquitous, these gadgets are still out of reach for many families, especially those in rural villages like Pokuase.
One recent afternoon I drop by the office of WomensTrust just as the computer class, which is conducted in an adjoining room, is getting underway. The girls, ranging in age from 9 to 16, come straight from school, still dressed in their uniforms that identify their grade and where they attend -- green dresses with yellow sashes or brown jumpers with yellow shirts for the grade schoolers, yellow shifts with blue or white trim for the junior high and high schoolers. They wear their hair closely cropped; school dress codes are strict and prohibit the elaborate plaited styles that are so popular here.
The girls sit quietly. A few have open books perched in their laps; others jot notes in notebooks. Their teacher, Dominic Osei, and a few of the girls make several trips carrying in a dozen laptops from the storeroom, and set them up in two rows on the long table. The girls take turns sitting in front of the screens, hands poised over the keyboard as Dominic guides them through the basics: turning on the computer, creating a password, logging in.
The girls are rapt and completely engaged--the kind of students every teacher hopes for. But there are other challenges. Power outages occur on a daily basis; sometimes there is no electricity for hours at a time, and computer batteries have a short lifespan. There are only 20 computers for 24 girls; and the waiting list for the class is long, since it's open to all girls who receive a scholarship from WomensTrust, more than 700 to date. And the computers themselves are more than 3 years old now--senior citizen status in computer-time.
Want to make a difference you can witness with your own eyes? Make a donation to WomensTrust to support its computer-training program for girls in Pokuase.
Why Education is Important to Me, by Margaret Saanuo, WomensTrust Scholarship Recipient
My parents are from the Dagaartis tribe, a marginalized group in regard to education and wealth in the Upper West Region of Ghana. However, they migrated to the Central Region of Ghana in search of “greener pastures.” Traditionally, female education is relegated to the background. It is considered a waste to invest in their education because they will marry and have children. Instead, parents send boys to schools because of the patrimonial system of inheritance. This culture of discrimination against female education has a negative impact on the socio-economic development of women, and the society as a whole. As a result, women remain economically disadvantaged and men capitalize on this to infringe on their fundamental human rights.
Despite the tradition, my father has decided to give an equal education to my three siblings and me. He believes that the only legacy you can leave behind for your children is quality education, not the amount of wealth you have acquired. He tells me, ”If you think education is expensive you should try ignorance.” Ignorance is like a disease in Ghana, and I have set forth to change the mentality of my community, proving that, “What a man can do a woman can do equally well.” Education can transform Ghana and it is time women are acknowledged in the society in which they have been despised.
I have a strong desire to help those in need, especially children who are less fortunate. There are many children in Ghana who need someone to love and care about them, someone to look up to, who will assist them when they are in trouble. One of the ways I would like to help the children and my country as a whole is by studying medicine. I want to be the first renowned female cardiologist because the few cardiologists I know are men. My dream of being a role model will be an example to women in Ghana. In short, my experiences in life, combined with a rigorous academic education, will enable me to pursue a successful career in future.
I am highly indebted to WomensTrust and appreciate all their effort and the impact they have on my life. I will continue to make you proud in many endeavors because saying THANK YOU cannot describe what you have done for my family and me.
Dear Friends,As 2011 comes to a close, we want to thank you - our supporters, donors, volunteers and advocates. You are the driving force behind our movement and the lifeblood of our mission. We are proud to share with you the WomensTrust 2010 Annual Report. We've made great strides over the past eight years toward fulfilling our mission: to empower women and girls in Pokuase, Ghana - through microenterprise, education, and healthcare - and to inspire others to do the same elsewhere. Our report highlights the results of our work over our last fiscal year and the positive impact we've made in the lives of thousands of women and girls in Pokuase. Below is a quick glance at some of the news highlighted in this year's report. To view the full report, please visit our website www.womenstrust.org or click the link provided below. We cannot make progress without your help. Please empower women and girls to build better futures for themselves by donating to WomensTrust today. With Gratitude, The WomensTrust Team Microfinance Last year we introduced you to Sarah Ankrah, WomensTrust EntrepreneursClub member and owner of Phipha's Bakery. We are happy to report this past year Sarah was able to acquire a vehicle thanks to her loan through WomensTrust. Sarah has been an exceptional client, and through her growing business has been able to hire and mentor several other women within the community. Education How a WomensTrust Scholarship Helped Me, By Rita Nyadzro When I had the opportunity to benefit from the WomensTrust scholarship, it helped me in many ways. I thought I would have to halt schooling because my father passed away and my mother would not be able to support my education. Today, I am a Senior High School graduate, because of the kind courtesy of a WomensTrust Scholarship. Healthcare A native of Ghana's neighboring country Cote d'Ivoire, Healthy Living Skills Program (HLSP) Coordinator Magbe Savane developed a health education program for WomensTrust. Magbe did extensive interviews with practitioners and local residents to identify the community's primary health concerns. Based on that research, Magbe focused the Healthy Living Skills curriculum on nutritional counseling and family planning.
A photograph can lock a moment, thought and experience into a single image. It can tell an entire story without whispering one word.
Three of WomensTrust’s photos were chosen as finalists for GlobalGiving’s annual photo contest, and we now have the opportunity to win $1,000 and appear on GlobalGiving’s homepage. We believe these images share the significant stories of the women and girls WomensTrust impacts on a daily basis. We can describe our successes, reiterate our mission, and reinforce our personal passion for this movement, but nothing can convey quite so vividly and honestly the truth behind our work as the three photographs you see here.
We appreciate your incredible support and advocacy and hope you will consider helping us to win this contest! All votes must be cast by noon on Wednesday, August 17th.
Thank you again for your continued commitment to our organization. These pictures tell stories, and your votes will ensure they continue to be heard.
The WomensTrust Team
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.