Upper East is one of the regions in Ghana that is engulfed with poverty, especially among women. The population of the region is over one million with 72% of this rural people engaged predominantly in peasant farming with climate change threatening this lifestyle due to changing rainfall patterns. The lives and livelihood of 1 million people are in danger of food shortages, increasing the pressure on women to provide for their children but, in communities like Anafobissi and countless others, 15 out of 20 girls do not finish high school due to poverty and teenage pregnancy, maintaining the unequal poverty slant and forcing them into marriage.
The Region is also plagued by poverty, disease, conflict (over land and Chieftaincy) and political ramifications that has retarded the progress of this region. This is just but a few of the challenges that has made my region the poorest in Ghana.
As a young woman who has witness the devastating effects of poverty among women in my region, I have a passion to lead the journey of change, a change that will see women drive the vehicle of development and sustainable peace in Ghana. I believe that breaking the cycle of poverty among women requires a pragmatic effort to create skills-based training centers. This belief and my dream to contribute towards this agenda for women empowerment pushed me to form a NGO known as Advocacy for Social Inclusion and Girls Education (ASIGE).
Our vision is to break the cycle of poverty through sustainable livelihood empowerment initiatives for women and young people in Ghana. Our goal is to work towards SDG 1: No Poverty; Goal 2: Zero Hunger, Goal 4: Quality Education; Goal 5: Gender Equality and goal 13: Climate Change Actions. ASIGE therefore developed a ten-year multi dimensional approach to poverty reduction through women and girls’ education, agriculture, peace, governance, HIV/AIDS education, prevention of teenage pregnancies, economic empowerment, sanitation and mitigating the effects of climate change on the lives of rural women.
For the past four years, ASIGE has trained women to acquire skills in turning waste rubbers into plastic bags as well as in basket weaving and the ASIGE’ Basket Weaving project is a strategic long-term project to eliminate poverty in Ghana, allowing the women to work in groups to take advantage of potential synergies. Besides the technical capacity, women are trained in business support programs such as savings, customer care, market access information, record keeping and how to start businesses.
ASIGE has been able to increase the number of women we work with from an 30 to 219 and has also encouraged and supported 68 women to open savings accounts with Access Bank, through a partnership between the two organizations. We have also begun an initiative to raise funds for the construction of weaving centers for rural women with an objective of making these centers a hub for training and production of high quality baskets.
We also work towards Sustainable Development Goal 4, which is to provide quality education for girls and our focus is ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for disadvantaged rural girls. In this regard, our focus for the past year has been to provide basic material support and counseling services to rural girls. With support from Days for Girls, a partner in the USA, we were able to distribute sanitary pads to girls in deprived schools in our community and impact the lives of over 2000 adolescent girls on issues related to menstrual hygiene, menstruation and sexuality. Sexuality and Menstruation in particular, are issues that are not discussed in homes or public and we work to get adolescents to freely take decisions on sexuality without fear and societal barriers.
We have undertaken several community service projects since 2014, and have been visiting schools to sensitize parents, opinion leaders and girls on the importance of girl-child education. Education has given me knowledge, skills, and a heart to love people beyond my community, bringing about change and empowering women and I believe educating a girl has a multiplier effect on reducing poverty from the individual level to national level.
ASIGE has started the expansion of our initiatives by setting up a shea butter extraction and processing centre to equip and empower other women who are not part of the basket making group. With over 200,000 unemployed graduates in Ghana, ASIGE also offered entrepreneurial, business advisory and mentoring support to young women in the districts of operation. These customized support initiatives, tailored to suit the local context, have so far reached more than a thousand young women.