Stop 125 Teen Girls in Ghana from Missing School

by Self-Help International Vetted since 2009 Top Ranked Effective Nonprofit Site Visit Verified
Boiling the water
Boiling the water

“My science teacher told me it is dangerous to drink water from River Offin. He said that if we consume the water we will fall sick, and possibly die, if left untreated. I don’t understand, my parents and all my siblings drink from Offin, and we have never felt sick.” That was Dora, a fifth grade student Bedabour Primary School. Dora is not alone; many of her friends and peers from rural communities in Ghana shared the same mindset. It is important to educate students about clean water to break this cycle of superstition and misinformation, and improve overall community health.

At a glance, one can see that the murky water from River Offin was not as clean and clear as the water from the boreholes at Bedabour.  However, Dora and her friends used to believe that the color of the water was simply determined by the source, with clear water coming from the ground and murky water flowing from the valley. Many adults in Dora’s community also shared this conviction. Some even believed the color of the river water contained properties that could cure common diseases such as malaria, typhoid, and rheumatism. For others, the river water was simply more convenient to access, so they would use it as drinking water, rather than hauling water from the borehole since they didn’t understand the health benefits of drinking from the borehole.Because of the color difference, they would always haul clear water from boreholes to wash their white clothes to keep them bright, rather than the murky water from the River Offin. They didn’t realize that the color was also an indicator of the quality of the water, and that the murky water was less safe to drink.  

In March, the Teen Girls Club embarked on a campaign to educate over 100 teenage girls from Beposo, Timeabu, and Bedabour about the importance of drinking purified water, how to protect water bodies, and protect our environment. They also planted mango, orange, and acacia seedlings to improving the vegetation and nutritional status of their communities.

Though there are many ways of purifying water, we began the training by teaching the girls about boiling and filtering since both are affordable and sustainable for the families in these communities. Most of the items needed were readily available in the rural communities, with the exception of the filtering materials, which we purchased in the city.

At the start, the girls were invited to hypothesize which source of water would be better to drink. They observed that the water from the borehole was much clearer than the water from the River Offin, but were unsure which was safe and which was dangerous to consume.

To start the experiment, the girls collected water samples from River Offin and one of the boreholes, boiled both for 30 minutes, and allowed them to cool. The girls eagerly watched as the samples were poured onto their respective filters. Murmurs began to fill the room when the Offin River water filter gathered residue, and the borehole filter did not. At first, some of the girls doubted the source of the residue, for they had been drinking from River Offin for many years unharmed. In order to prove that it was not a false positive and alleviate all doubts, we repeated the process several times, and the girls became convinced that River Offin contained substances that may be damaging to their health.

One of the girls asked the trainer, “Madam Patience, are we going to see this each time we boil and filter water from River Offin?” The response was yes.

Dora was inspired! For the first time in many years, she understood why her teacher always cautioned her against drinking untreated water from River Offin. From that moment, Dora promised not only to stop drinking untreated water, but also to inform her friends and family of the risky practice. As time passes, future generations will be better off due to the knowledge spread by Dora and the Teen Girls Club.

Millions of people from developing countries suffer from preventable water borne diseases such as bilharzia, river blindness, and guinea worm infection due to inadequate information and poor water management practices.

It may be difficult to change the minds of the adults in rural Ghana, but gradually we are making advancements in the lives of the teenagers we serve. These communities now possess a better understanding of the need to purify water before consumption to prevent common water borne diseases and to produce a healthier nation.

Offin River water filter gathering residue
Offin River water filter gathering residue
quality of the water collected from the river
quality of the water collected from the river
process of filtering the water
process of filtering the water
Farida at school
Farida at school

Six months ago, Farida, 18, started her first day of high school. It was a dream come true.

Though she did her best, studying hard in Junior High and listening to counsel from her elders, teachers, and leader of the teen girls club, going to high school seemed like a pipe dream for a girl from a rural village like Bedaabour. “Her grades had always been the best,” her junior high teachers testified, yet Farida never let herself hope that she might actually gain admission to T.I. Ahmadiya Senior High School, one of the best senior high schools in the region...even after the day she did.

Farida grew up in Bedabour with her grandmother who is a farmer and trades her produce to make ends meet.  After completing the Basic Education Certificate Examinations that would decide her fate for high school, Farida labored on the farm every other day with her grandmother. On days she didn’t work on the farm, Farida assisted with chores at home. On the day the results came, Farida checked for the school she had gained admission to. She was overjoyed, but immediately had a pit in her stomach. She had gained admission to one of the best schools in the region, plus free tuition and meals!  But it didn’t include accommodation. The school was 25 miles away from her grandmother’s home. Commuting daily was not an option. Her grandmother could hardly provide basic necessities like toiletries to enable Farida go to school, let alone afford her transport fare on daily basis. Farida worried her dream to pursue higher education had come to a halt before they began. She needed to be admitted into the boarding house.

She shared her joys and concerns with Self-Help during the teens club meetings, and we visited the school and explained Farida’s situation and appealed to them to change her admission status from non-residential to residential. After several meetings and discussions with the school authorities, Farida was finally admitted to the boarding house. It was all joy for Farida when she got the news. Farida was able to make it to senior high school at last.

Young girls who live and school in remote areas like Bedaabour rarely make it to high school. When they do, it can be lonely since parents are rarely able to visit them due to transportation challenges. It therefore came as a welcome surprise to Farida when we paid a surprise visit to her at school and brought along gifts of notebooks and a backpack to encourage her in her studies, and enough money for transportation to go home for the holidays. She was so happy to have visitors, and assured us that her dedication to her studies will continue!

Farida’s triumph is worth celebrating, and even more exciting is that she is not alone. All ten young women from the Bedaabour Teen Girls Club who completed JHS 3 and took the Basic Education Certificate Examination passed and gained admission into various senior high schools. SHI has visited all of them at their various schools to encourage them and rekindle their can-do spirits.

Your financial support is the reason that Farida is in school today. From offering extra academic help and books through the teens club, to ensuring skilled trainers have the transportation necessary to intervene on her behalf, to school supplies that offer continued encouragement as she continues her education so far from home, thank you for your support of Farida and so many young women like her to obtain the best education possible, no matter what community they come from.

We’re competing to win $10,000 to support dozens more young women who hope to follow Farida’s example, and we need your help.  The top four projects with the most unique donors between March 1 - March 15 will win a $10,000 bonus!  Will you help us get off to a strong start by making a gift of $10 today?

Encouraging high school students in teens club
Encouraging high school students in teens club
Asking questions during women
Asking questions during women's health training

By August 2017, Self-Help International Teen Girls Club had been operational for a year with a goal helping teen girls stay in school and complete their formal education. Unplanned pregnancies are a leading cause of girls dropping out of school, and often dooms them to a lifetime of rural poverty. Self-Help has been leading workshops for the Teen Girls Clubs including such topics requested by the participants, their mothers, and community leaders such as reading, community clean up, citizenship, and reproductive health education. The basic education initially offered was insufficient for some young women, and women of all ages in the villages we serve began asking for more comprehensive family planning services. We knew that women’s health was critical to the health of the whole family - particularly if they’re the only breadwinner and only earn income on days they’re healthy enough to work - yet the technical knowledge required was beyond our areas of expertise. We needed a partner who could offer high quality education and affordable services by trained health professionals.

Despite determined efforts, initial inquiries to potential local collaborators were fruitless. In Ghana, efforts by local community development organizations with similar goals to partner each other are often met with skepticism and yield few results due to a perception that the organizations are competing rather than complementing each other’s role. Yet against the odds, today we are pleased to be partnering with a professional health body in Ghana to deliver the needed health services to our cherished communities.

In August 2017, while visiting Ghana, our executive director called a meeting of Self-Help International and Marie Stopes International staff. At the meeting, she laid bare the mission and vision of Self-Help International, and listened to the vision and mission of Marie Stopes International. The team at Marie Stopes International (MSI), led by Stella, was already well aware of the numerous connections between women’s health and the health and financial well being of the children and family. They came to the conclusion that if MSI could offer health services in villages where SHI was already actively supporting women’s micro-credit groups and teen girls clubs, we would both better achieve our ultimate goals of a healthy and hunger-free world. MSI graciously accepted the invitation to partner and indicated their readiness to work with Self-Help International.

On August 11, a team of health workers from MSI provided education and screening on reproductive health for SHI micro-loan beneficiaries during a leadership summit held in the village of Bedabour. During the leadership summit, the village and religious leaders present learned about MSI and the requests of their community members to access quality health services, and pledged to support of such endeavors.

On Thursday, October 19, a team of four health workers led by Stella organized a talk program on reproductive health and teenage pregnancy for thirty (30) students who are members of SHI Teen Girls Clubs and their parents at Timeabu.  Stella, a midwife, spoke to the girls about teenage pregnancy; how teenage pregnancy occurs and the dangers in childbirth as a teenager.  She advised the girls to stay in school and focus on their studies so as to have a brighter future. Stella also advised the parents that, should the unexpected happen and their teenage daughters get pregnant, they should bring them to the hospital and never neglect them. The parents were receptive and took advantage of the occasion to advise their children to pay attention to everything they are taught.

Stella and her team repeated the education and training on Friday, October 20, in Bedabour. Teenage girls from Bedabour and Beposo converged in Bedabour for health training.  In all, ninety-five (95) women and girls attended the training at Bedabour. The talk was on teenage pregnancy and its effects on young mothers. Unlike girls from Timeabu, the girls from Bedabour and Beposo said they felt pressured to have amorous relationship with the men for financial rewards. It came up that some parents in the community have taken their daughters to local chemical sellers and herbalists for unsafe abortions. A bit shocked, Stella and her team advised about the dangers of unsafe abortion which can lead to the removal of the womb and leave a woman barren, and shared resources where the girls and parents can turn to for help if faced with such a situation. After the talk, Marie-Stopes offered free screening services to ten (10) women who requested further attention.

It was clear from listening to the mothers and daughters in these three villages that access to ongoing health services and advising from medical professionals was a previously unmet need that was in high demand by the rural communities. A series of such education and screening services are planned for 2017 and Marie Stopes has requested that we submit plans to continue to partner with them for health education and services in 2018. 

No doubt, this partnership will go a long way to ensure that mothers are able to receive financial support to start and expand their businesses, generate income so they can take good care of their families, invest in educating their daughters as well as their sons, and enable their girls to be mindful of manageable family sizes, avoiding diseases, and well prepared to welcome a child when the time is right. 

Thank you for your support of women and girls in rural communities. You are truly creating brighter futures for generations to come!

Gifty smiling as she tells her story
Gifty smiling as she tells her story

I am thankful to SHI for the gift of national health insurance. With this I can visit the clinic and have my body examined,”  said Gifty with a smile.

Gifty is twelve years old and in fifth grade at Timeabu Municipal Area Basic School. She is an excellent student and at the top of class. Like many families in Timeabu, Gifty lives in a one room home, which she shares with both of her parents and all five of her siblings. Outside of school, Gifty spends her time helping out on the family farm and helping her mother’s business, which involves producing and selling brooms.

Gifty is one of the pioneers of Teen Girls Club in Timeabu. Mabel, the Coordinator of the Timeabu Teens Girls Club, tells SHI, “Gifty is hardworking and respectful anywhere she finds herself.” The girls have confidence in Mabel, a well-respected mother in the community who provides them guidance and counselling.

During one of the Teens Club meetings, Gifty confided in Mabel, “I wake up every morning feeling tired and weak. Sometimes, I feel pains in my entire body.”  Mabel kept a close eye on Gifty after that conversation, and upon seeing that Gifty’s health was deteriorating, she had a discussion with Gifty’s parents. The parents admitted they were aware of Gifty’s deteriorating health but were unable to help due to financial difficulties.  

Touched by the plight of the girl, Mabel took up her cause and appealed to friends and family members and Self-Help and was able to mobilize GHC 30.00 (US $7) which was used get Gifty national health insurance coverage for twelve months. Gifty has since visited the hospital, where she was able to get the needed treatment and is now recovering.

Gifty is happy not only because she is receiving medical treatment, but also because it means she can stay in school and her dream to become a nurse is still alive. She wonders, “What would have happened to me without the health insurance?” and gives thanks that the Teens Club has come to her village and offered her support. 

The Teen Girls Club not only guides and counsels girls to concentrate on their schooling but also provides protection and voice for teen girls in rural Ghana. Thanks to your support of the Teens Club regular activities - and extra support like in Gifty’s case - many teen girls will not only survive, but thrive, complete their education and become tomorrow’s world leaders.

Mark your calendar: Three weeks from today, on Thursday, October 5, all donations to this project will be matched all day long! The match runs from 8am - 11pm Central and will apply to gifts of up to $1,000 per person! See complete terms & conditions here. 

Gifty proud to show her insurance
Gifty proud to show her insurance
Gifty with her family
Gifty with her family
Gifty happy and healthy
Gifty happy and healthy
Smiling Timeabu teen girls posing with their books
Smiling Timeabu teen girls posing with their books

Since officially launching the Teen Girls Club in September 2016, the 150 teen girls we serve have been receiving reproductive health guidance and counseling, re-usable feminine hygiene kits thanks to our partnership with Days for Girls (DFG), and have acquired important skills, training, and school tuition. Each member of the clubs now understands her menstrual cycle, a concept that is rarely discussed here in Ghana. Each young woman knows how to use and maintain their DFG kits so they will last three years.

Adisa, a club member from Timeabu, shared, “I no longer stay away from school during that time of the month [due to my period] because I have it covered.” A leader of a Teens Club, Alimatu, said, “Providing sanitary towels for my two daughters each month was heavy on my income. Thankfully, that burden is lifted now due to the DFG kits.”

The financial gains in using the kits have made them attractive to parents in the communities. In fact, in February, a group of volunteers from the US trained our local seamstresses on how to stitch their own feminine hygiene kits here in Ghana, and now several mothers are making and selling the kits as their business to support their family with additional income.

In the community of Timeabu, the girls have taken it upon themselves to volunteer once a week to clean the town, and this has attracted the attention of the community elders. The Chief of the community, Nana, has promised to donate a parcel of land for any developmental project the group desires to undertake to show his support for and appreciation of the ways the girls are contributing to the community.

He shared, “I am marveled by the sudden change in the behavior of our girls since the launch of the Teens Club. They sweep the town every weekend and it has improved sanitation in our community. I am in full support of your group.”

The girls have also been innovative in helping their communities and generating income to support their activities.  The girls at Timeabu produce beads necklaces and other handcrafts which they sell to support their group. They use the funds to embark on educational tours to visit the local water treatment plant or airport, to buy reading materials, to donate to sick community members, and also buy tools with some of the profits.

 In working with the girls, it has become clear to us that there is a clear need to invest more in their education. This year, Self-Help International is undertaking efforts to help these girls improve their English reading, writing and speaking skills. English is Ghana’s official language, and it is important that they have the literacy skills they need to accomplish all of their endeavors. Thanks to the funds raised during the GlobalGiving Girl Fund Campaign in February, SHI has supplied 150 assorted reading and textbooks to the girls. Each girl has access to one book at a time. The girls have told staff that they are so excited about this recent change in their lives, and eager to continue to learn and develop to achieve their dreams.

 Individually, we have also been offering extra tuition to girls in need to help the girls to improve their English language skills and seize every opportunity that comes their way. The girls are gradually coming to understand that education is the key. Their parents have also admitted the fact that their daughters are learning new things, especially about their reproductive health and other life skill activities.

 Zenatu, a mother of two members of the teen girls club in Timeabu, testified,“The creation of the teen’s club has brought about tremendous changes in the moral behavior of my children and I am exceptionally happy about that.”

Now, thanks to your support, Self-Help is not only impacting the lives of the rural women in Ghana but that of their young daughters as well. We, the SHI Ghana team, are humbled by the donations from across the globe to support the girls of the three different communities.  The teen girls will truly and forever remain grateful for this impact on their lives.

 

Mark your calendar! GlobalGiving is having a GG Rewards Bonus Day on Wednesday, July 12th, beginning at 8AM CST/ 9 AM EST. The funds are limited, so donate as early as possible to ensure your gift is matched!  Increase your impact so that more girls in Timeabu can acquire important skills and the training they need to succeed in school!

Teen girls of Bedabour pose with their books
Teen girls of Bedabour pose with their books
Zenatu posing with one of her daughters
Zenatu posing with one of her daughters

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Organization Information

Self-Help International

Location: Waverly, IA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.selfhelpinternational.org
Project Leader:
Nora Tobin
Waverly, IA United States
$17,110 raised of $18,750 goal
 
514 donations
$1,640 to go
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