Empowering marginalized girls: the STAGE project leads the way
Paulina Lanjado, a resident of Montanaya, in the southern Nanumba district of the northern region, was 10 years old when she dropped out of school.
At the time, she was in the fourth grade and was young when her mother passed away. His father is not doing well either. Surviving as a child and without any support, things got tough for Paulina as she struggled to make ends meet.
In the process, she got pregnant and now a mother of a child at the age of 18. In 2020, she heard about a project, which aimed to train vulnerable young girls in professional skills.
She expressed her interest in the training and was selected as a beneficiary.
As part of the training, she learned how to make soap for six months, after which, in May 2021, she received starter kits such as quantities of chemicals for making bar soap and liquid soap, cutting boards for bar soap and hydrometers to start making your own soap for sale.
In June 2021, she put her newly acquired skills into practice and produced soap, which was well patronized by members of her community.
She told the Ghanaian News Agency that this marked the start of a change in her life for the better. She said she enjoys her new business and plans to become a major player in soap production in her community over the next two years.
Another young woman, Pona Ngemabi, 20, mother of a child from Knyinkpa in the Kpandai district of the northern region, did not attend school due to financial problems.
Life was hard for her and her situation was made worse by the fact that she had no way of making money. Pona, like Paulina, also heard of a vocational training project where some vulnerable women in her community were selected as beneficiaries. She joined and learned to make sandals. After six months of intensive training, she received starter kits such as different types of beads, needles, sandals and pliers in May 2021 to start her sandal manufacturing business.
In June 2021, she made 10 sandals and sold them in her community. She said it marked a turning point in her life. His plan now is to expand his business and own stores in Kpandai Market to sell his sandals.
Paulina and Pona were not the only vulnerable girls in Nanumba Sud and Kpandai districts, whose lives had changed for the better.
A total of 554 other people in the two districts were also trained in various trades and received starter kits to start their own business as part of a project called: Strategic Approaches to Girls’ Education (STAGE), and they make good use of their newly acquired skills.
The STAGE project
In Nanumba Sud and Kpandai Districts, there are high levels of extreme poverty, with deep-rooted traditional and social norms regarding gender roles, including early marriage, teenage pregnancies and a basic burden. raised.
The poverty mapping report released by the Ghana Statistical Service in May 2015, stated that 76.9% of the inhabitants of Kpandai district representing 82,712 people were poor while 17.6% of the inhabitants of the southern district of Nanumba representing 30,569 people were also poor. .
The result is a negative impact on the ability of girls to advance in education and obtain decent employment. Girls from both districts have a limited voice in the community, which exacerbates these problems.
Subsistence farming is the backbone of residents and many families struggle to meet basic needs, let alone invest in their children’s education.
It is in this context that the STAGE project was initiated. The project, which started in 2018 and will end in July 2022, is implemented by the Regional Advisory Information and Network System (RAINS), a non-governmental organization, in partnership and in a consortium led by World Education Inc and funded by the UK Commonwealth and Foreign Development Office.
The project includes two streams for marginalized girls: a formal stream for girls aged 10 to 14 and a non-formal stream for girls aged 15 to 19, who are in transition to employment after six months of employment. literacy, numeracy and job skills.
A total of 554 girls graduated from Cohort 1 and 701 girls from Cohort 2 are at an advanced stage of their literacy and employment journey.
A third and final cohort will include a total of 682 girls who will benefit from the project. A total of 1,937 girls will benefit from the project in 75 communities in the two districts.
The STAGE project so far
So far, a total of 554 girls in the two districts have completed six months of accelerated literacy and numeracy learning as well as life skills training as the first cohort beneficiaries and have been supported in their transition to the world of work.
They received starter kits that included matching combs, matching hair extensions, scissors, hair food (for hairdressers), different types of beads, needles, sandals, clips, threads. peach (for bead makers), chemicals for making soap and liquid. soap, soap bar cutting boards, hydrometers among others (for soap producers) to start their own business.
In addition, a total of 701 beneficiary girls from the second cohort of the project attended various vocational trainings in the areas of soap production, sandal making, hairdressing and bead making in the two districts for women. provide independent skills.
Testimonials from key stakeholders
The main STAGE stakeholders, during a recent engagement in Wulensi in the southern district of Nanumba, shared their observations and expectations of the STAGE project.
The engagement was to integrate the structures at the district level for sustainability even after the life of the project in the two districts, to discuss the challenges on the ground and to seek support for the project, including through interventions underway at the district assembly.
Mr. Zakaria Tahiru, Deputy Director of Coordination of the Southern District of Nanumba praised the STAGE project and said that the high number of girls benefiting from it showed that the Assembly had made progress in terms of creating economic opportunities for its people. .
Mr Tahiru said the girls needed the project to be empowered to have a strong voice in society and earn a decent income to take care of themselves and their dependents.
Mr. Yaw Sarfo, Director of Education of the Southern District of Nanumba, congratulated RAINS and its partners for the implementation of the project in the region and said that the vocational and life skills taught to girls would have an impact for a long time. positive about their life.
Mr Sarfo suggested the need to also present beneficiaries with agricultural investment opportunities such as onion and tomato production, which were in high demand in the region, to supplement their sources of income.
Mr. Bruce Hammond, Director of Social Protection and Community Development of the Southern District of Nanumba expressed the need to link the STAGE project to the interventions of other NGOs and existing structures at the local level to make them sustainable and more effective.
Challenges faced by beneficiaries / the project
For any good intervention, there are bound to be challenges and the STAGE project is no exception. Few of the beneficiaries selected on the first track have given up.
This means that they may no longer have the opportunity to acquire employable skills and it has been observed that some beneficiaries, who have acquired vocational skills, sometimes find it difficult to obtain raw materials to exercise their skills.
The raw materials used to produce soap and sandals are not readily available in stores in the two districts. Beneficiaries depend on people who travel to city centers such as Tamale to purchase these materials for them, which sometimes takes a toll on their work.
The path to follow
In this era of global competitiveness, without formal education and strong professional and technical skills, one cannot make ends meet, let alone assert himself in society.
Not only did the STAGE project come to secure the future of the girls in the two neighborhoods, but also to break down the barriers of marginalization against them.
There is a need for all stakeholders from both districts and the country as a whole to support the project to be successful.
All beneficiaries should regard the project as their last hope and take seriously its approaches to improving their lives. In this way, the country will be on the right track to tackle issues related to violence and marginalization of girls by empowering them to take their rightful place in society.