Creating Opportunities in Rural Ghana

By Meg Hall

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Known colloquially as simply “Bolga,” the large town of Bolgatanga is the crafts center of Ghana’s Upper East region. The open-air Bolgatanga Market, open every third day, provides a livelihood for many residents—from woven baskets and hats to wooden stamps, the market affords space and opportunities for artisans of all sorts. However, apart from craftsmanship, Bolgatanga supports few other vocations, leaving many without a sustainable way to make a living and provide for their families.  

Priscilla, one such young woman, left her hometown of Bolgatanga in favor of Accra, the nation’s capital city. Her decision is not uncommon—many young people looking to create a livelihood are pushed towards cities in search of opportunities unavailable in their hometowns. However, Priscilla’s move to Accra did not provide the life she had hoped. Without the training to perform skilled labor, Priscilla primarily washed dishes and performed other such unskilled labor, earning less than $2 a day under difficult and demanding shop owners. She remembers sleeping in the street without food or water, sometimes for days at a time.

When she heard about Sherigu vocational training center, a program available in Bolgatanga, she realized she could move back home to get an education that would lead to a better life. The Anglican Diocesan Development & Relief Organization (ADDRO), with support from Episcopal Relief & Development, runs the training center that offers a dressmaking program for local women. The program seeks to supply the tools necessary for participants to emerge stronger and prepared to build a business of their own. Upon graduation, participants can enroll in ADDRO’s micro-finance program and receive a small loan with which to start their own enterprises.  

It was an alumna of this program who told Priscilla about the opportunities it provided. This woman’s success story impressed Priscilla, and she decided to move back home with her family so she could enroll. Now Priscilla is on track to graduate with flying colors, and even plans to pursue further training so she can earn her certificate as a master seamstress.  “Now I realize how bright my future can be,” said Priscilla.  “I am going to start my own business, so I can be independent and care for my family.”

Remembering the woman who led her to this exciting opportunity, Priscilla decided that she wanted to do the same and spread the word to other women. Seasonal migration to Accra and other major cities is a widespread issue in Ghana; many young women leave their homes in search of work, but they return home sick, overworked and, despite their efforts, empty-handed. In response to this problem, Priscilla now speaks to school groups about her experience and the realities of migration. Eventually, she wants to go back to Accra to encourage those who have already migrated to seek more empowering options, like those available from ADDRO and Episcopal Relief & Development. “One day, I want to open a center like the Sherigu center,” she says, “to teach girls skills and offer them the same opportunity I was given.”

 

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Meg Hall is the 2014 Sewanee Summer Intern for Episcopal Relief & Development

 

Images: Top, Middle 1 and Middle 2, Photos taken from a vocational training center in Ghana. Last, Image of a young Ghanaian girl. 

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