A Young Peace Ambassador administering the peace pledge to a group of young people
Ghana has had its fair share of celebrated women who have braced the odds to leave indelible marks in their chosen paths. Indeed, such has been the impact of these women in their chosen fields that, in some instances, several years after leaving the stage, obviously when the applause was loudest, the names of the prominent women have either metamorphosed into adjectives or possessive for their former institutions.
Talk of Mrs. Gifty Afenyi Dadzie’s Ghana Journalist Association, and Dr. Joyce Aryee’s Ghana Chamber of Mines. Other trailblazers include Professors Ama Ata Aidoo, Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, Esi Sutherland Addy, Justice Bamford Addo, Mrs. Georgina Theodora Woode, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, Madam Lucy Quist among others have occupied seats hitherto dominated positions hitherto unfairly seen as male territory. Even the Ghana flag we salute regularly was designed by Madam Theodosia Okoh of blessed memory. Countless number of women play integral roles in every sector of the Ghanaian economy to thrust Ghana up the development ladder.
Despite these achievements, thousands of young girls with the potential to possibly match or surpass the achievements of our celebrated national heroes abound. Poverty, an over emphasized patriarch system and other factors contribute directly or indirectly to hinder the progress of a greater number of girls, preventing them from realizing their full potential. Worse, these unlucky girls eventually become the starting point of an unending cycle that comprises generations bound to become school dropouts, homeless, street-bound and in some cases, end up in prostitution or being taken advantage of by some unscrupulous well-to-do men.
This is why it is of the essence to empower girls at all levels to strive to go beyond their perceived potential. Empowerment goes beyond taking affirmative steps to give girls some advantage to encourage them outperform their peer boys. Empowerment, in this case, simply refers to the conscious effort to make girls realize their full potential, to believe in themselves and also, the provision of a level playing field for both girls and boys to succeed. Hence, in our various homes, empowerment simply means parents giving both sons and daughters the chance to advance in education rather than seeing their sons through school while daughters are left behind to learn housekeeping skills.
Several interventions have been instituted over time to empower girls nationwide. Numerous Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) programmes designed solely for girls in different parts of the country have brought girls closer to the hitherto dreaded science and math phenomenon.
In the development sector, several girl empowerment initiatives and steps have been in practice for some time. Youth Empowerment Synergy (YES-Ghana), the nation’s foremost and most extensive youth-focused organisation, has over the years empowered girls through the implementation of several youth-focused initiatives. At YES-Ghana, projects are seen as avenues to provide equal opportunities for both young men and women to learn and acquire life-long skills that overall influence their employability, social and life skills and overall, make them active and responsible partakers of the national governance process.
The Young Peace Ambassadors’ Programme is an example of how girls can be empowered to be active players in the peace building process. The programme recruited 28 young people, 14 boys and 14 girls, from the Northern and Upper East regions of Ghana from a pool of over 300 applicants. The final 28 were camped in the Brong Ahafo regional capital, Sunyani, for a week-long peace camp where discussions centred on peace and peace building, conflict resolution, social and life skills, project implementation, monitoring and evaluation, action planning, development of impactful messages, and effective use of social media.
Emphasis was placed on consciously involving at least an equal number of girls to act as peace brokers in the process of creating a peaceful atmosphere in the two regions before, during and in the immediate aftermath of the December, 2016 polls. This was rightly so as gender disparity is quite common in the two selected regions. An attempt at empowering 14 young girls as peace ambassadors was a bold step to emphasize the important role of girls in the peace building process. In most cases, girls, women and children are mostly affected when violence and conflict erupt, although they play next to no roles in starting such situations.
At the post Peace Camp stage, our empowered girl Peace Ambassadors are currently visiting communities, places of worship, media houses and people of all age groups to preach the message of peace to ensure the Northern and Upper East regions are violence-free this year.
Young Peace Ambassadors discussing peace building on different radio programmes
The Voices of Youth’s People’s National Youth Policy project is yet another way YES-Ghana has empowered young women to become active partakers of the governing process. The project involves capacity building in action research, data collection, analysis and presentation on topical issues pertaining to youth development. The first workshop in May, 2016 saw some 10 young women trained as action researchers. This number rose to 12 during the second workshop, the Youth Data Analysis and Presentation Workshop organized in July, 2016. At the second workshop, participants analysed and presented data collected from their respective community-based action research activities, reviewed the current National Youth Policy of Ghana as well as that of other countries. The existing youth policies of Botswana, South Africa, Egypt, South Africa, Japan, Australia, the United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Finland, among others, were reviewed for best practices. The identified best practices are to be integrated into the final document, the People’s National Youth Policy, expected to be representative of the views of young people for consideration into any National Youth Policy.
In all, there is every need to empower girls in the midst of some disparities despise conscious efforts to bring parity in relation to gender in all facets of our national development. The numerous achievements of some distinguished women worldwide go to prove that girls are more than capable of reaching the pinnacle. The removal of any stereotypes, both mentally and physically, providing equal opportunities to both girls and boys as well as an enabling environment for girls is bound to reap immeasurable success for girls and eventually build a brighter future for Ghana.
A group picture of YES-Ghana’s Young Researchers
Blogger Information: James Anquandah is the Communications and Mobilisation Manager at Youth Empowerment Synergy (YES-Ghana)