My name is Gloria Acquah. I live in Kokrobite, a poor community that’s very much like the one I grew up in. I was born in Cape Coast but was raised by a single mom in the nearby town of Agona Swedru. My mother was a community health nurse. Her salary was meagre. There were days when we didn’t know where the next meal was going to come from. She often had to go on treks, and my sister and I regularly found ourselves at the mercy of neighbors. My dad was totally missing from the picture. The first time I met him, I was 28 and about to get married.
Stories of tough childhoods and poverty are quite common in these parts of the world. My story in that sense, is not peculiar. What is extraordinary, though, is what I like to call divine interventions: The many times neighbors, teachers, friends, and strangers became the conduit to my blessing, to an open door, to good advice, to a morsel of food, to a new book. These bits and pieces of support I received may not have cost my angels much, but they made all the difference to me. So, against the many odds, I got a college degree in Educational Psychology and a Masters in Human Resource Development, both from the University of Cape Coast. I married my university sweetheart, and today, we have three children and two boer bulls (South African mastiffs), and we think it’s our time give back.
Moving to Kokrobite with my family five years ago was a wake-up call. I found myself in an environment very similar to the one I grew up in, but with even more challenges. The local population is very, very poor. They’re mainly fisherfolk, but because of the beautiful beaches, Kokrobite attracts a lot of tourists. Prostitution and drug abuse lurk in the shadows of all tourist destinations around the world, and in a community that is poor, it is the young adolescent girls who are most vulnerable.
I formed Dignity+ Foundation with the goal to protect, preserve, and restore the dignity of our people. It is a thousand-mile journey, but we had to begin with our first steps. We decided to start Girls’ Clubs in schools, even though we had no prior experience. Fortunately, Maame Afon Yelbert-Obeng, Board Chair of African Women’s Development Fund, connected me with WomenStrong International Executive Director Susan Blaustein, who gladly shared with me a copy of WomenStrong’s Strong Girls Make Strong Women Handbook, with its Start-Up Guide for creating Girls’ Clubs. Reading the PDF was like someone throwing a beam of light down a dark path. It brought so much clarity for us on exactly how to progress.
We now have a framework for our Girls’ Club. We find it to be such a useful reference material, for every step of the way. We often refer to the curriculum and check if we’re on the right path and whether we’re addressing the most important issues. We tweak it a bit here and there, to suit our specific needs. Kudos to the team for creating such a powerful, empowering resource. With the WomenStrong Handbook, we’re equipped to pursue our goal of encouraging the adolescent girls in the school to dream big, and we are equipping them with the necessary skill sets and helping to create a conducive environment in which they can thrive. As much as we encourage the girls to read a lot and work on their ICT skills, their reality is that their school has neither a library nor an ICT Lab. They started constructing one, but the project stalled eight years ago. We hope to raise funds to complete and furnish these facilities for them.
In truth, “dignity” is the most fundamental of all rights. In some worlds, though, it is a right that must be fought for every day. Join us, and organizations such as WomenStrong International and African Women’s Development Fund, in our fight.