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Focus on Ghana: Ghana Wins!

In 2012, NYU, in collaboration with Fundación Mujeres Por África, the University of Ghana, and Banco Santander launched The Ghana Wins! Project, a major initiative designed to develop and promote leadership skills in Ghanaian women. Through the project, a select number of Ghanian women receive training and assistance from the NYU College of Nursing (NYUCN),the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, to help address Ghana’s critical needs in healthcare, education, and strengthening of its civil society. In a series of posts, we’ll explore the experiences of The Ghana Wins! Project.

Background and Project Structure 
“The needs in developing countries are great, but the more health resources that are developed, the better off the country will be,” said NYUCN’s Yvonne Wesley, co-director of the project, at the project’s launch. The project’s director, NYUCN’s Mattia Gilmartin, added, “Ghana is dealing with increases in diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as we are here. One goal of our program is to teach the participating nurses skills to improve the quality of care in their local settings.”

The College of Nursing began first, launching the four-year Ghanaian Nurse Leaders Program, which addresses a fundamental need of the Ghanaian nursing profession—the development of a corps of nurses that can improve health system management and clinical practice —in Ghana.

The Ghanaian Nurse Leaders Program is based on the frameworks of both the seven-year-old Leadership Institute for Black Nurses (LIBN)—an annual fellowship program held at the College—and the more recent Global Health Scholars Program. Three cohorts of 10 Ghanaian nurses, in staggered groups, will join activities that advance their access to evidence-based science and training in leadership and performance improvement. Each will be assigned a mentor and take seminars led by College of Nursing and other faculty as well as tour NYU Langone Medical Center, simulation labs, and dental and clinical care sites.

The three cohorts of nurses will be recruited from across Ghana. Organizers are seeking to interest a mix of experienced nurse managers and less experienced nurses with great potential from both public and private hospital settings.

Principal Investigator, Kristie Patten Koenig, associate professor at NYU, along with Rose Vukovic, Co-Principal Investigator and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, direct Steinhardt’s Ghanaian Institute for the Future of Teaching and Education (GIFTED) Women’s Fellowship Program in collaboration with Sakina Acquah and Priscilla Yaaba Ackah at the University of Education, Winneba.

“We know that education is key to economic development, stability, and equality in developing countries, especially the education of girls and women,” says Koenig.

GIFTED provides professional development, on-going support, and leadership training to three cohorts of 12 educators through collaboration with the Ghana Education Service and the University of Education, Winneba.

The program began recruitment in January 2013, kicking off the program in Accra in that summer. Teachers who are selected for this program identify, develop, and implement a project that supports education in their school communities.

“Programs that are implemented with success in our public school systems inherently have a strong professional development component that not only values, but provides the time and supports for quality on-going teacher development. This is central to the GIFTED program and will enable the women leaders to make the changes they envision in their communities,” Koenig adds.

The Wagner school Ghanaian Women’s Social Leadership Program (GWSLP) offers a one-year cohort-based leadership development program for mid- to senior-level women leaders from civil society organizations in Ghana. GWSLP selects three cohorts of 12-15 women each working in public service organizations across the nation. The program offers two week-long Training Leadership Initiatives, one in Ghana at the beginning and one in NYC midway through the program. At the start of the program, women leaders identify a pressing organizational or community need and design a public service action-learning project to address it. They spend the following year implementing their projects, aided by ongoing expert local coaching in Ghana, feedback from Wagner’s GWSLP staff, and support from peers.

“In the half century since gaining its independence, Ghana has developed a strong and vibrant civil society to support its social, political, and economic growth,” noted GWSLP  Director Amparo Hofmann-Pinilla. “As Ghana enters this next phase in its history, the continued strengthening of democratic institutions will be crucial to realizing greater prosperity, and NYU Wagner is honored to be identifying, nurturing, and equipping visionary women leaders as central to that effort.”

The Ghana Wins! Project builds on the collaborative relationship between NYU and the University of Ghana, which includes NYU’s study abroad site on the university’s campus in Accra, the country’s capital and largest city. For more than three years, the two universities and two medical centers—Korle Bu in Accra and Bellevue in New York City—have been working together and learning from each other.

“The philosophy of this program is that leadership can be learned,” says Wesley. “What we have learned from our Leadership Institute for Black Nurses is that, if we can help nurses to think about health care from a leadership position, they’re more likely to initiate projects in their own communities and really go out and make positive changes.”