A Ban Against Neglect (ABAN)

To transform an environmental epidemic into hope by empowering young and impoverished women in Ghana, and providing them with the tools necessary to practice a trade, make a living, and become self-reliant leaders of their community.
Dec 15, 2015

Our Biggest Transformation Yet

Joyce and Christopher
Joyce and Christopher

Dear Friend,

ABAN has always prided itself on being an act of transformation. Transforming plastic waste into beautiful products. Transforming the lives of neglected young women into hopeful futures. Transforming the landscape of Ghana into empowered communities.

Forty-three women successfully graduated our women’s empowerment program! Some of those women went back to high school. Some are working in hotels. Some are pursuing a career in sewing or hair dressing. Some have dreams of becoming teachers! Thirty-seven babies came through the doors of our preschool and received a jump start on their education. All their mothers saved money while participating in our program to pay for their school fees.

Fourteen seamstresses and tailors in our community have been given employment through our sewing center. They recycled over half a million plastic bags into useful products sold in Ghana, the UK, and the United States! Ten of our surrounding communities now collect the plastic bags instead of discarding them on the street.

Now, we are facing our biggest transformation yet. We are shifting all managerial and programmatic decision making to our capable staff in Ghana. With that shift, comes the shutting down of ABAN’s US operations. We are confident and excited to see where our leadership in Ghana takes ABAN through this next transformation.

We could not have accomplished all that we did in the last five years without your support. We value the selfless contributions you have made to transforming the lives and communities in Ghana.  While our program activities are suspended, we will not accept donations in order to ensure the integrity of your gift. We hope you will be open to receiving program updates in the future!

Thanks for all your support!

Sep 14, 2015

A Bigger Stage

Felicia and her son, Prince
Felicia and her son, Prince

During our recent graduation I was standing at the side of the stage listening to one of our young women, Felicia, talk about the impact that the ABAN Women’s Empowerment program has had on the students’ lives. Felicia’s talk was unscripted; she simply stood up to share her views, and she looked out over the sea of familiar faces of family and community members, and she told them “It is hard! We work hard.” I liked Felicia’s honesty.

Felicia’s name is often at the top of the list when we rank our graduates. Unlike most of our students, her story has more positive elements. At 22, Felicia came into ABAN with a higher level of education than her peers. She had the support of her family – both parents. Felicia even had a job in Tema once. And that’s where her story goes awry. Because that’s where she met a man who made promises, got her pregnant, and then deserted her. The premature birth of her son added to her predicament, having to meet his special needs.

Living in poverty and without prospects, Felicia felt a sense of hopelessness. But in her ABAN recruitment interview, we could see that beyond the hurt, the disappointment and the frustration, Felicia also had a resolute determination to make her life better, and to make sure that baby Prince could survive his first year.

After six months at ABAN, we could see a difference in Felicia’s life. Most important, little baby Prince began to recover and flourish. And Felicia was freed up to focus on learning. Sometimes we had to prompt her to push herself in class, to take on the more complex case studies, and to demand more of herself. But she showed herself to be a capable leader, helping the other young women around her to tackle their class assignments.

Felicia also thrived in our learn-to-earn initiatives. As soon as she found out that she would be paid to collect and wash sachet bags, Felicia enlisted the help of her family members who were unemployed back at home. While she studied, they helped gather sachets for her. In April alone she managed to earn over $100 – money that went back into supporting her parents and siblings.

It was therefore a logical choice for us to ask Felicia to join one of ABAN’s sales events. In May, we were invited to showcase our products and program at the TEDxSpintexWomen event that was being held at the British Council in Accra. To our mind, this represented a wonderful opportunity for Felicia to see a different side of life, to engage with other young women who have succeeded in business and the arts, who could potentially serve as role models.

On May 30th, just over a month from when I had watched Felicia on our graduation stage, I stood next to her at the TEDx event. We were outside the auditorium, looking through the windows as they set up the stage for a young speaker. I asked Felicia to come into the hall to listen to the TED talk. In that moment I noticed her awkwardness, her shyness… and I understood. It was the fear of that bigger unknown stage on which we are expected to perform in life. Felicia, who had boldly taken the stage at the ABAN event, felt uneasy to walk into the midst of other young women at this event who represented a higher level of achievement, a stage of greater success in society and in life.

I urged Felicia to join me, and she came and sat beside me quietly, and together we watched Amina Ismail Daru take the stage. Amina told her story. How she had escaped a forced marriage at the age of twelve, and how she had set up the Achievers Club to help other young girls like herself in the slums of Nima in Accra, to change their future through education.

At the end of the talk, I told Felicia, that’s the stage I want to see her on one day, where she is telling her story of how she has impacted the lives of other young women in our ABAN program. Because if there is one thing I believe firmly about Felicia, it’s that she has within her the resolve to overcome fear and to step out onto center stage when her time comes.

May 26, 2015

Brains on Fire

Janine presenting to ABAN
Janine presenting to ABAN

Dear Friends,

Once our Business 101 course began, it became clear that interesting business ideas are taking shape in a small group of young women on a dusty compound in the rural communities of Ghana’s Eastern Region.

On the first day of the course, I realized it was going to be a challenge. One of the young women said to me, “Madam Janine, you are speaking big English to us. Please can you speak small English?” Luckily, I have an amazing team of ABAN trainers and volunteers – Gabriel, Doris and Joshua – and they put unreserved passion and energy into making these “big English” business concepts accessible to our students.

On Day One, we learned how business works. Instead of the proverbial lemonade stand, we had Vida and Augustina set up a mock pineapple juice stand. The women learned words like products, expenses, profits, employees and salaries.

On Day Two, we brought the concepts to life. Augustina brought some huge pineapples from her family farm, and we made our first batch of Happy Pineapple Juice. The women learned about equipment and what happens when your juicer breaks! Mercy brought in her own product, mixing passion fruit with pineapple juice. Then the class discussed her supply chain, because Mercy only knows one person who grows passion fruit.

We also discussed how the women currently earn money. Patience said she could sell cabbages next to the road and make about $5 – on a good day. She spoke about being tired for class and how her body ached from fetching produce to sell at market. When I asked whether she wants her daughter to grow up to earn money the same way, her response was a very strong “No!”

Eunice described how she would take her cloth to market and everyone would tell her to make her prices cheaper and cheaper. When she got home, she often found she had not made money at all. So we ended up talking about bargaining and pricing strategies, and the students learned about the profit/loss equation. Complex topics, but each day these words and concepts became clearer to the students.  

All of this was inspiring, but the best was yet to come. By late Friday, the students were beginning to come up with more business ideas of their own. This in itself was profound. When we started our program in October, the women thought of their futures in limited terms: become a seamstress, sell things by the roadside or work on a farm. Now we could see their minds working. We could sense a change in the questions they asked, and we could witness their inspiration as we talked about angel investment and incubating good business ideas.

Eunice was the most eager. She kept jumping up and asking us to let her try to explain. She gave great examples that showed she understood. My favorite moment was at one point where she was bouncing up and down eagerly, talking in Twi, and I asked Gaby what she was saying. And what he said blew me way. “Eunice is saying her brain is on fire!”

If there was ever proof that we are igniting even the smallest of sparks in the minds of these young women, then this is it. Their heads are starting to burst with activity and ideas. Maybe that should be our new name for our course – not Business 101, but Brains on Fire!

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