Sixty years ago this week, on March 6, 1957, the British Gold Coast became the first colony in Sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence from European colonial rule.
In honor of the ancient empire from which some of its people migrated, the newly independent nation chose a new name: Ghana. The Soninke word for “warrior king” is a fitting tribute to the region’s rich history and to the fierce persistence that led its people to independence.
The stories that follow prove that Ghanaians have more than lived up to that legacy. This week, the YALI Network celebrates independence with Ghana, our #CountryoftheWeek!
Our first featured member, Amdiya Abdul Latiff, calls herself a “champion” for “a girl’s right to education.” She started an organization in Kumasi called Rural Girls Education to ensure underprivileged girls — “especially teenage mothers and school dropouts” — have access to education, mentorship, and support.
Amdiya’s community-building efforts started with a #YALILearns event, where she taught a YALI Network Online Course on Understanding the Rights of Women and Girls to students, parents, and local assembly members in her community. “This was the beginning of amazing progress in my advocacy,” she says.
By “embracing the learning opportunities YALI provided,” Amdiya says, “I helped friends access the Network and take their pledge, recruited volunteers, and built a team.” She launched a partnership with local schools and organized community cleanup exercises, sports activities, and gatherings to raise awareness about the importance of girls’ education. Then, she piloted the “RuGirlz Back to School Scholarship” — which covered tuition for 120 girls from rural areas.
Now, Amdiya takes her “RuGirlz Stay in School” tour to schools in rural communities “to teach the YALI Network Online Courses” to the students. She provides life skills training “to improve girls’ academic success and broaden their aspirations to stay in school.”
“The amazing thing about my work with the YALI Network,” Amdiya says, “is that there is always something new to learn… and always room for all to share ideas and projects” on the face2face Facebook Group. She says, “I’m working fervently on my new #YALIGoesGreen project to raise awareness and support the use of renewable energy in my country.”
“With YALI on my team, I’m hopeful for a better future for the underprivileged girls living in rural communities,” she says. We’re all on your team, Amdiya!
Our next featured member, Nadia Owusu, is from Ghana’s capital, Accra. She says, “Joining the YALI Network has been one of my greatest milestones, because it opened my eyes to see Africa in a whole new light — a rising light!”
Nadia says the seven YALI Network Online Courses she has taken “fully equipped” her to start an organization, STA AFRICA, which seeks “to give young African artists the exposure and platform they need to get the recognition they deserve.”
With the Network’s help, Nadia started an awareness campaign “to encourage young girls to pursue arts, just like any other career.” The entrepreneurship and leadership skills she has gained have also put her “in a more comfortable position to collaborate with other agencies” in areas like helping children with HIV.
“It is the norm of this Network to encourage us to share with our communities,” Nadia says. “As a young undergraduate and a budding entrepreneur, I have benefitted diversely from the YALI Network, and I will continue to hold this prestigious network in high esteem!”
Our last featured member, Theresa Anafi, comes from Tema, where she works as a Community Development Officer for the Tema Metropolitan Assembly.
“Poor sanitation, resulting in related diseases like cholera and diarrhea, is a challenge in my community,” Theresa says. “I visit school children in their classrooms to educate them on washing hands with soap as a simple and effective way of reducing diseases.”
YALI Network Online Courses have helped Theresa increase her impact. “I work in public service, and government funds are usually limited,” she says. “The YALI courses on fundraising and public-private partnerships have given me the necessary skills to write proposals and solicit external funding to successfully implement my community projects.”
With that funding, Theresa says, “I have initiated a handwash campaign for schools and communities in Tema, engaging school children and community members in activities such as film showings, hygiene talks, clean-up exercises, health floats… and classroom sensitization exercises for children in public schools.”
Next on Theresa’s list? Women’s rights, elections, and civic leadership. “I also hosted a #YALILearns #Africa4Her event on International Women’s Day 2016 in Tema, on the theme ‘Pledge for Parity — Participation of Women in the Electoral Process of Ghana.’”