Self-Help International

Self-Help International (SHI) devotes its efforts to alleviating world hunger and poverty by providing opportunities to rural citizens that ultimately lead to self-reliance. Since its inception, Self-Help has served as a vessel; training, education, and opportunities are provided to rural citizens and whole communities in developing countries so that they can have better lives. MISSION STATEMENT: To alleviate hunger by helping people help themselves. SELF-HELP'S INITIATIVE Educate: We educate the people of the United States to understand the problems of life in developing countries particularly the awareness of the perpetual struggle by millions to produce and distribute food to batt...
Feb 13, 2017

Is it safe to eat eggs when you have your period?

My period won
My period won't make me skip school anymore

That was one of the genuine questions asked during the women's health training session we held in Timeabu last September. I was visiting our team in Ghana, and was lucky to have a particularly talented group traveling with me to teach teen girls in Ghana about women's health and inaugurate the new Teen Girls Clubs in three villages.

Karen Skovgard and Margy Towers, both retired educators, had taken the Days for Girls online training course in women's health, as had our local staff, Victoria and Elizabeth. We arrived to Timeabu village that morning and found more than one hundred teens girls from three villages gathered with their mothers (and a few grandmothers) to learn about about puberty, what happens in a woman's changing body, what to expect, and how to manage monthly menstruation in a safe and hygeinic way.

Together, the four women taught the lesson in both English and Twi, the local language, Twi, to ensure that they fully understood the information being shared.  Women of all ages listened attentively.  No one had ever taught them about their bodies before.

A little while into training session, a rain storm came through and the noise from the drops on the tin roof made even yelling the training informatin futile, so we took a lunch break. Once everyone had eaten, we began a review of the morning's lessons, and the girls stood and repeated back to us all they had learned - they didn't miss a thing, and we had covered a lot!  

They concluded the health training portion of the program, highlighting strategies for girls to stay safe from sexual violence (such as walking in groups), while emphasizing that if a girl is attacked while walking alone, it is not her fault. Studies indicate that women in Ghana are most at risk of sexual violence between the ages of 10 - 18 years old, and that for 20% of women in Ghana, their first experience of sex was against their will. If that trend continues, it means that 25 of the girls in that room have had or will have an involuntarily first sexual experience. Experiencing sexual violence is not the victim's fault. 

Then the girls (and several mothers) began asking questions. Is it safe to eat eggs when you have your period? Should you drink charcoal? Is it safe to bathe? They were eager to learn scientifically based knowledge about their bodies, how to manage cramps, how to stay safe and healthy, what does and doesn't work.

When all questions were answered, we introduced the Days for Girls kits.  Each kit contains panties, two reusable, waterproof shields that snap around panties, and washable inserts that together function as reusable pads. They come in a cute backpack that the girls can carry to school each day, so no one needs to know what's inside - sanitary supplies, school supplies, or anything else they may need that day. They also include a washcloth, soap, and plastic bags so you can soak and soiled inserts without any mess. They've been designed and re-designed with comfort and practical use in mind. These particular kits were made by volunteer sewing groups from Des Moines and Cedar Falls, Iowa (special thanks to Kay Hertz and her whole team for their countless hours of kit construction!).

We taught the girls how to use and care for the kits. Kelly, a 16-year-old volunteer from California, demonstrated how to snap the pad around the panties in a particularly comical way. She stood on the stage, stepped into the panties, "realized" the girls wouldn't be able to see the demonstration with her long skirt on, and dropped her skirt! It took a moment for the girls to realize she was wearing shorts underneath her skirt and then the laughter erupted! She pulled the pad and panties up over her shorts and laughter continued - and the girls made a connection. Anywhere in the world, 16-year-olds aren't so different. She was a hit the rest of the week. 

After the demonstration, we sorted the kits into panty size, and as each girl came up to get her kit, we sized her and she was given a kit.  Each kit was a different color of fabric, and the girl's name was written inside so she wouldn't lose it.  This was hers, not anyone else's. I was amazed that not one of the girls asked for a different color - they were just so grateful - and eager to return to their seats and look through the kits themselves.

We'd taken enough kits that there were several left over at the end of the distrbution, even factoring in the ones that would be distributed to girls who would attend a "make up session" of the training and get the kits later in the week. The mothers and grandmothers present - may of whom serve as leaders of the teen clubs - asked if they would be able to have a kit, and we were glad to be able to offer the kits to them too.

As more people learn about the kits and there is a greater demand for them, we plan to offer a sewing training course to teach local seamstresses in Ghana how to construct the kits themselves. That will both create a new income source or enterprise for local women and ensure that all women and girls in the area have access to the kits and aren't dependent on Self-Help to bring them over.

Before we left for the day, the girls shared with us the Teen Girls Club slogan: “Girls stand for education, empowerment, and fairness!” Check out the Instagram link below to see for yourselves.

When I asked Victoria and Elizabeth about the slogan, they said, “We want the girls to focus on their education, and to know that men and women can equally do their best wherever they find themselves...We talk about fairness in the sense of gender fairness.  Girls should not think of themselves as lower than boys. They are special too and they should feel free to shine wherever they are!”

They should indeed.  Stay tuned for the story of the official program launch that took place a few days later!

Victoria and Margy discuss women
Victoria and Margy discuss women's health
Kelly demonstrates amid laughter and applause
Kelly demonstrates amid laughter and applause
Checking out their new Days for Girls kits
Checking out their new Days for Girls kits
Even the mothers of the teens wanted kits!
Even the mothers of the teens wanted kits!
Building goodwill and better friendships
Building goodwill and better friendships

Links:

Feb 7, 2017

Got your period? No more school for you.

How the Teen Girls Clubs came to be...

In September 2015, Self-Help International hosted our first ever Leadership Summit to celebrate the strongest leaders in our women's micro-credit program.  We expected that it would enable women to celebrate one another, make market linkages across the value chain, and exchange ideas - and it did! But it also highlighted a challenge for us: we realized that while we're meeting women where they're at, we're not always preventing them from being in that situation.

We know that offering training and micro-loans are helping women start up and expand their businesses. The women we serve don't have access to any other banking or credit facilities, so we're providing an important service. With the profits they earn, they're able to afford the school fees to keep their children and grandchildren in school. We've seen it time and again (read some of the success stories here). Yet many of the women (like Sandra's mom) joined the micro-credit program after their daughters were already adults or had already dropped out of school. 

It's not that their daughters don't want an education - they want one badly!  But they face many challenges, even if they are among the lucky few whose parents or relatives are able to gather together sufficient funding to cover the school fees.  Because the ability to afford school fees alone is not the only factor that causes girls to drop out of school before completing junior or senior high school.

You see, in the traditional Ghanaian home, girls perform most of the household chores while the boys are always idling about, making it difficult to keep pace with their male colleagues. This heavy chore load, such as fetching water, preparing meals, and caring for younger siblings drains girls’ energies, making their participation and contribution in class lower than that of their male counterparts. Girls go to school tired, doze off in class and become laughing stocks among their peers.  

As girls enter puberty, insufficient knowledge about the changes the female body undergoes during adolescence is a major cause of teenage pregnancy. More than 13% of girls in Ghana give birth between the ages of 15 – 19 years old, a time when they should be completing junior or senior high school, but are instead dropping out to start a family.  Most young girls do not fully understand that the new feelings and changes in their bodies are normal. Neither parents nor teachers spend time educating young girls about puberty, in part because the subject is not discussed and in part because they may not have ever learned about the biological changes at puberty either. Girls easily fall prey when any man gives them little attention or care in dealing with these changes. 

Beginning menstruation adds to the challenges girls face in keeping up at school. It is common for girls to miss one week of school each month due to her period, because she lacks funds to buy sanitary towels to manage her menstrual flows. While girls are working on household chores without any form of allowance or compensation, young men have time to engage in income-generating activities to earn spending money for themselves. They in turn deceive young girls, giving the girls paltry sums of money to finance such needs as school supplies or sanitary supplies, and then take advantage of the girls, leading to teenage pregnancy.

On top of these challenges, some parents, especially fathers, believe that no matter how enlightened a woman is, she will be given in marriage to a man, breed children and that will be the end of her education, so there is no need to educate a girl child. Some marry off their female children at school-going age to rich men for money. Ironically, they justify the practice by saying that part of the money is used to educate their male children.

How do we know all this (aside from having grown up in Ghana ourselves)?  We asked the girls. From January to August 2016, we met with girls, mostly the daughters of women in our micro-credit program, to learn about the challenges they face to staying in school and help them craft solutions to address those challenges.  They have shared with us the difficulties they go through such as inadequate parental guidance and support; parents’ refusal to provide school supplies; and lack of funds to buy to sanitary towels.

The situation calls for a concerted effort. We began mobilizing girls of school going age in rural Ghana into groups - called Teen Girls Clubs - and educating them to stay longer in school and away from situations that are likely to lead them to start a family before they are truly ready. 

These girls and their parents, especially mothers, are very excited about the program. They tell us, “Our communities shall know what we stand for and the message we preach,” and that, “More of our girls can go to school: this alone will keep the trouble makers away.”  

We will have the official launch of the Teen Girls Clubs in September 2016, and will surely update you on the progress toward helping girls stay in school every day of the month!

Girls in Timeabu discuss challenges, Feb 2016
Girls in Timeabu discuss challenges, Feb 2016
Mothers & daughters request new Teen Girls Club
Mothers & daughters request new Teen Girls Club

Links:

Feb 6, 2017

Nkontomire named the District's Best School in Agriculture at National Farmers Day

Emmanuel receiving his award
Emmanuel receiving his award

At Self-Help, we take an integrated approach to rural development. If we wish to improve nutrition for our people, we must teach them how to grow more and better food. So as part of the annual plan to train farmers, our Young Adult Training Center (YATC) team coordinates with the School Feeding Program team to schedule informational training sessions about the benefits of cultivating and consuming Quality Protein Maize for representatives of schools active in the school feeding program. Individual farmers from those same communities are also invited to ensure that the community is food secure and not dependent on Self-Help's interventions long-term.

So last March, more than a dozen farmers gathered at the training center to learn about conservation agriculture practices, particularly in the context of maize cultivation. Farmers were trained on land preparation (weeding and herbicide application), sowing, applying fertilizer, weed control, harvesting, and precautions on grain storage.

Emmanuel (pictured) was one of those present. He is a 34 year old teacher tasked with teaching agriculture at Nkontomire elementary and junior high school. He is from Abuakwa, and travels 14 km to school each day where he teaches, among other classes, the “Integrated Science” course at the junior high school level, and heads up cultivation of the school garden. For his efforts on behalf of the school, he received the prestigious National Farmers Day Award for Best School in Agriculture, Atwima Nwabiagya District in December 2016.

The Self-Help International Ghana staff have always known him to be an eager learner; he constantly researches new methods in farming at the YATC and shares his experiences with his co-farmers to all who are interested with the with new methods they put into practice. However, his story was of a different one before Self-Help International existed in his community.

Before starting this teaching position, Emmanuel had no previous background in agriculture, especially crop production. He had participated in a seminar organized by a group called Filicon Consult, where he was introduced to livestock production. The school had previously not been able to establish a farm, which made it difficult to teach methods through demonstration plots. In the past, another nonprofit had decided to initiate a school feeding program through acquiring land to grow the necessary ingredients, hoping it would provide the teachers with a way to experiment. However, the program failed to cultivate the land properly.

Self-Help International was invited to Nkontomire in hopes that Self-Help's school feeding program would succeed since it incorporated greater training for adults and youth on cultivation methods.  Self-Help’s school feeding program team supplied the school inputs such as maize seeds, weedicide, and fertilizer every cropping season to ensure abundant production, and the Parent-Teach Association members and junior high students began cultivating the school garden plots using conservation tillage practices.  

Fast forward to today, the school is now able to produce about 200 kg of grain per production. Because he demonstrated such dedication and motivation, Emmanuel was invited to participate in the agricultural training organized at the Youth Adult Training Center.  By applying the efficient and cost effective agricultural practices he learned at the training center, he enhanced the school's repuation and earned the distinguished National Farmers Day award.  When receiving the award, he credited his success to the Self-Help International team for their unflinching support towards young farmers.

This success motivates me and the rest of my team in Ghana to continually provide knowledge to young and new farmers and schools. To increase the number of the people we serve, YATC has decided to reach out to beneficiaries in several communities this year to teach conservation farming, which could lead to a reduction in production cost, and promote sustainable methods of food production to feed the growing world’s population.  Thank you for your ongoing support of the farmers we serve.

Emmanuel
Emmanuel's experimental production

Links:

 
   

donate now:

An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $20
    (USD)
    give
  • $50
    (USD)
    give
  • $65
    (USD)
    give
  • $100
    (USD)
    give
  • $150
    (USD)
    give
  • $240
    (USD)
    give
  • $300
    (USD)
    give
  • $1,000
    (USD)
    give
  • $20
    each month

    (USD)
    give
  • $37
    each month

    (USD)
    give
  • $50
    each month

    (USD)
    give
  • $75
    each month

    (USD)
    give
  • $170
    each month

    (USD)
    give
  • $420
    each month

    (USD)
    give
  • $
    give
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?

Reviews of Self-Help International

Great Nonprofits
Read and write reviews about Self-Help International on GreatNonProfits.org.
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.