Stop 125 Teen Girls in Ghana from Missing School

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

In rural Ghana, it is a common sight to see school children in torn uniforms. Some of the uniforms are torn due to aging, others by accident as the children play. Most parents struggle to afford two uniforms per child every year. This situation which has compelled the government to promise a free supply of school uniforms.

This pledge goes unfulfilled and students are often in tattered uniforms. It is embarrassing for the children and affects their self-confidence, especially the girls. Charlotte from Beposo told our Teen Girls Club Coordinator that she was absent from school last month because her dress was torn.


Finding a solution: helping people help themselves!

In June of 2018, members of the SHI Teen Girls Clubs in Bedabour, Beposo, and Timeabu were taught the art of sewing. For most of the girls, it was their first time learning to stitch, but they caught on quickly and were successful in their handiness. The girls threaded their needles and practiced different patterns and runs of stitching. At the end of the lesson, every one of them could sew a running stitch and star stitch on their own. The pride on their faces showed just how much they cherished these newly acquired skills.


Sherifa, a JHS1 student from Timeabu, showed exceptional interest in the exercise. She enjoyed learning the stitches and told the instructor, “This will help me in life.


A few weeks after the training, Sherifa noticed a small hole in her school uniform and stitched it up immediately. She told the Coordinator “In the past, this hole would grow bigger. My mother would be very upset with me and pay a seamstress to mend it.” Sherifa is proud of her work and so happy to be able to do it by herself. Since then, she has helped friends and neighbors stitch their clothing. She hopes to continue to pass on her knowledge and skills to others, contributing to both her household and community’s income.


Sherifa’s generosity shows! As she shares her knowledge, more students will be able to mend their torn clothes and feel proud in their uniforms. They will no longer be teased and can concentrate fully on their education. And, valuable family resources which would have been spent mending torn clothes can go into more productive ventures, improving their income and providing better care for the children.


Teaching young girls life skills like sewing creates a self-reliant generation, equipped with confidence, talents, and gifts to offer to the world. These qualities will help lead them along a successful life path.

Example of a torn uniform
Example of a torn uniform
Sherifa mending clothes
Sherifa mending clothes
A mended uniform
A mended uniform


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

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Organization Information

Self-Help International

Location: Waverly, IA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @SelfHelpIntl
Project Leader:
Nora Tobin
Waverly, IA United States
$17,700 raised of $18,750 goal
526 donations
$1,050 to go
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