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Bringing the artisan program to Ekumfi-akra

Brooke Breazeale, Associate Director, talks about her visit to Ghana

WPMarket has had the opportunity to be connected to a wonderful local organization in Ghana and the local community they work with. Within the community, there is a group of women interested in forming an artisan program. As a result, the local organization reached out to us.  

Wanting to learn more about this potential project and how we might work together, I was excited to be traveling to Ekumfi-akra. Three hours west of Accra, the capital of Ghana, it is a remote town located on the coast. While the town does have limited access to electricity, it is battling with pervasive poverty, lack of clean and running water, and isolation from larger cities or markets. In addition, the three schools nearby have been left understaffed and lacking in resources due to corruption and shifting government priorities.

This trip was focused on learning more about the community and seeing if an artisan program was something both needed and desired by the women. The goal of our training program is to women with not only the skills to make products but also provides them with valuable training in entrepreneurship and business management, and valuable life skills such as leadership, education, and health. In addition, women will be paid upfront for the products made, providing immediate income to them, often a 200-300% increase, in their normal daily wage. This holistic approach enables women to address the complex facets of poverty faced by the community.

The first step in gaining the community’s trust required meeting with the elders/ leaders in the community, to get their opinion on the program, gain permission and solicit a commitment from them to support any efforts to initiate an artisan program for women in the village, a requirement for us to be able to proceed. The town had had previous disappointing experiences and hence the leaders were justifiably cautious. I was cognizant of the fact that I had to do my best to convince them of our intentions as it would be important in being able to bring the program to Ghana and making the community see that the program will create a supportive community that would empower women, allow them to have a voice in the village, become self-sufficient, provide for their families and transfer their skills and knowledge to their children and other women in the community

On gaining approval from the leaders, the next step was to speak to women in the community and understand their aspirations and expectations from the program. My last day in Ghana, we asked to meet 5-8 women but were greeted by 30. On speaking to them, the reality of the situation for the women of the village was all but heartbreaking. Out of the 30 or so women attending the meeting, each woman had between of 3-7 children, most from different fathers; there is no family planning services or access to birth control. Most were between the ages of 13-18 when they gave birth, and only two had an actual partner who took responsibility for providing for them and their children. Only three women had an education and only 11 were able to send their kids to school. The amount of money they had to support all of their children was between $1 and 10 dollars a day, yet they have absolutely no source of income. The unspoken source of the little income they have is most likely from men with whom they might be presently involved that might be giving them enough to help them survive.

The women’s enthusiasm and desire for this program, to have the opportunity to earn an income and contribute to their communities, was both inspiring and encouraging. After we adjourned, I sat on the shore, catching the breeze coming straight from the ocean, watching the villagers head home down the main street, with Ghanaian music providing the perfect soundtrack as I watched the sun set over Ekumfi-Akra: the perfect ending to an unforgettable experience in this little village that captured my heart.

Stay tuned for updates!

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