Promoting the rights and living standards of disadvantaged people, Ghana
Grace Pengelly (2011, Politics Psychology & Sociology)
In July 2013, I was lucky enough to travel to Tamale, the capital of Northern Ghana. I went there as a participant of the International Citizen Service scheme, a DFID run programme that seeks the get young people more involved with development work. I was placed in community called Sogonalli and worked for three months at the Regional Advisory and Information Network Systems (RAINS).
RAINS is a non-profit organisation, that relies on the support of overseas grant to carry out local project work. It works with the marginalised in society, especially children and women, to promote female empowerment and education. I was a project worker and researcher for RAINS and spent my time working on three projects.
- Exploring ways in which young boys that often missed school to help on their parent’s farm could attend school more regularly.
- Exploring ways to communicate messages about reproductive health to teenage girls so that they could spend time in school.
- Encouraging RAINS to explore the benefits that Social Media might have on their organisation.
Day to Day Life
I lived in a large, modern house in a little village about five miles from the centre of the capital. I was lucky enough to have a cleaner, bodyguard and driver who looked after me very well! A standard day of work might consist of the following…
I’m woken up at around 5am thanks to the rooster and goats that always sit outside my window. I then proceed to have a cold shower and boil up some water so that I can have a cup to (Lipton) tea and porridge. My driver arrives at 7:30 to take me to the office, and I then would have a meeting to discuss what we wanted to achieve that day. We decide that we want to use our questionnaire to do some more interviewing of young boys that aren’t in school. After paying a visit to the “egg and bread” lady (bread, oil, eggs!) we then get in our Jeep and drive the three hours it takes to get the community we are working with. When we arrive, we have to wait another hour so that locals can round up some boys for us to speak to. Then we start our interviews, but only after a translator has explained why we are here. Interviews are carried out with the help of one (or sometimes two, if the local has an obscure dialect) translators. We spend three hours doing this, and then go off in search of sustenance – hopefully Jollof (tomato rice) and some fried chicken. After travelling back to Tamale, we begin to look at our results, and update the Facebook page that we are trying to promote. At around 5pm, we go home and spend our evening reading, or maybe at a Spot (bar) drinking Star (watery beer!)
The main achievements of my work were as follows:
- Young Boys project
After interviewing boys from a range of communities, we were able to establish a direct link between poor farming quality and the fact that boys stayed home from school. Parents were unable to afford the school fees if their farming was not successful, and in an area which suffered from unreliable weather and poor soil standards – this was a frequent occurrence. The outcome of our work was the penning of a concept paper entitled “Farming for Futures”. This paper laid out plans to develop an agricultural farming cooperative in rural Ghana that will subsidise crops/fertilisers and machinery costs in order to raise the profits of the farmers themselves.
- Young mothers project
We interviewed lots of young mothers about their experiences of sexual education and their knowledge of family planning. It quickly became apparent that the education they received was minimal, and if it did exist, it was often full of “folk tales” about the dangers of contraception and the pill. Abstinence was the primary method of contraception recommended by teachers. In order to combat this, we collaborated with a local group of traditional dancers who used our research to create a play which talked about the benefits of family planning through the medium of song and dance!
- Social Media Research Although Social Media is very popular in Ghana, organisations do not yet currently have the technical abilities to use it to promote their own interests. I spent a considerable amount of my time researching ways of utilizing social media, and wrote an information booklet designed to demystify various myths surrounding its’ use. We also created interactive style workshops which helped staff get to grips with basic IT skills.
- Travelling to Kintampo Waterfalls
- Going on Safari and walking with Elephants
- Visiting lots of craft markets
- Visiting Accra, the capital of Ghana and visiting a cocoa museum