Steinhardt junior Gabrielle Henoch is completing a for credit internship at the Ghanaian nonproft Street Girls Aid, an organization created to help keep young women and their families of the streets. Gabby helps take care of children during the day so their mothers can work. She loves working with the children, and she said it feels good to tell them that they can achieve their dreams.
Steinhardt junior Amanda Joa interns at Legon Hospital, by the University of Ghana. There, he responsibilities include taking anthropomorphic measurements and reading laboratory results to assess medical conditions. She also makes informative posters and sheets about nutrition and shadows dietitians throughout the wards and during consultations. She takes part in the journal club, where she edits diet sheets used in consultations.
CAS junior Red Ali is doing a non-credit internship at the creative agency Creátures. She works on the company’s Afreetune project, which provides a platform for their audience to invest in music artists. Ali writes articles, manages social media, and plans events such as Kente Kink’s ArtBeat and Afreetune’s After6. Her favorite part of the internship is getting to plan events.
There are dozens of opportunities for students to volunteer while at NYU Accra. Students tend to participate in volunteer opportunities involving children. Getting to know the youth of Accra has served as a way for NYU Accra students to gain a unique perspective on specific slices of life in the city, and it allows students to give back to the community they call home for the semester.
SPS sophomore Arik Rosenstein is a huge football (soccer) fan. In fact, he decided to study abroad in Accra because he wanted to understand how the sport serves communities here. When Arik arrived, he quickly worked with Victor Yeboah, NYU Accra’s community service director, to find a school in the neighborhood of Labone whose soccer team he could coach on Fridays. He balances this with an internship at the professional football team, Accra Hearts of Oak.
CAS junior Natasha Roy volunteers at New Horizon Special School, a school for special needs people in Accra, twice a week. New Horizon Special School is located in the nearby neighborhood of Cantonments and serves children and adults with learning disabilities by providing both education and workshops for vocational skills.. NYU has a tradition of students volunteering at New Horizon, and Natasha helps the teachers in a classroom for 11-16-year-olds.
On February 8, NYU Accra hosted a Symposium on Chronic Kidney Disease. Working with NYU College of Public Health, the symposium brought together scholars and researchers from the NYU community, the NYU School of Public Health, University of Ghana, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Ghana’s Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Services, Midwives and Nurses Council of Ghana, the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons as well as public health practitioners to deliberate on the prevalence of chronic kidney disease.
The vision for the symposium was to focus on the social, cultural, and public health aspects of the growing burden of chronic kidney disease in Ghana and West Africa. It has been suggested that the increase in the incidence of this disease is due to untreated hypertension and some lifestyle choices. All this sounds frightening considering the local context of limited availability and enormous expense of dialysis – the current mode of treatment for kidney failure which currently plagues about 10-15% of people with high blood pressure in Ghana. NYU Accra has a tradition of local and engagement and the question NYU Accra posed was: How can NYU, a global university with a presence in Ghana, assist in reducing the rate of incidence and in finding alternative treatment options if there are any? Particularly, how can we put heads together to understand the social determinants of this growing burden, its impact on families, the relevance of health-seeking behaviors as well as the role of culture in understanding the growing burden of this disease?
The awareness of local needs and a desire for constructive engagement was the foundation for this symposium, but it also allowed diverse NYU faculty to build relationships with each other as well as with local peers. NYU faculty in the College of Global Public Health and the School of Medicine have been involved in research and training of local medical staff and faculty in West Africa, particularly in Ghana, for several years. This event leveraged their existing networks and strengthened those relationships. It also allowed the second cohort of Cross Continental MPH students from the College of Global Public Health currently at NYU Accra and the local NYU Accra public health faculty to deepen their connections and strengthen their networks.
The symposium involved a full day of discussion and the dynamic exchange of ideas. The participants found it to be a great success.
CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE SYMPOSIUM
Thursday 8th February 2018
8:30am – 3:30pm
J.H.K. Nketia Hall,
Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon
8:30 – 9:00am
Arrival and Registration
9:05 – 9:30am
PROF. AKOSUA ANYIDOHO (Director, NYU Accra)
Purpose of Meeting, Goals and Objectives
PROF. OLUGBENGA OGEDEGBE (Global health/Population Health, NYU)
Overview of non-communicable disease burden, including but not limited to chronic kidney disease, in Ghana and in Sub-Saharan Africa. Understand the human experience, the critical issues for population health, and the professional and societal needs to define and advance new approaches here.
DR. SARI SOGHOIAN
(Emergency Medicine, NYU/KBTH)
DR. VINCENT BOIMA (Nephrology, UGSMD/KBTH)
PATIENT PANEL – WHAT IS IT LIKE TO LIVE WITH RENAL FAILURE?
CLINICIAN PANEL – WHAT DO NURSES AND DOCTORS EXPERIENCE?
Topics for Larger Group Discussion:
§ What is the health system and societal burden of CKD?
§ What are the consequences for individuals, families, communities and institutions?
§ What are the challenges in developing diagnostic and treatment plans?
HEAR THE STORIES: PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCES OF CKD MANAGEMENT IN GHANA
Purpose: Describe the impact of the CKD crisis on health and healthcare in Ghana from patient and hospital healthcare workers’ perspectives.
DISCUSS THE MAJOR ISSUES: WHAT ARE THE KEY CHALLENGES THAT COUNTRIES IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA ARE FACING AS THE PREVALENCE OF CKD INCREASES?
Purpose: Analyze current challenges and strategies from broader existential, organizational, and public health perspectives.
2:00pm – 3:15pm
LOOKING FORWARD: What can we, as a multidisciplinary group of stakeholders, do to strengthen health and healthcare systems for CKD management?
Purpose: Foster discussion on short and longer term outcomes, objectives, and strategies
PROF. AMA DE-GRAFT AIKINS
(Population Health, UG)
PROF. OLUGBENGA OGEDEGBE (Global health/Population Health, NYU)
DR. KAJIRU KILONZO (Nephrology, KCMC, Tanzania)
DR. CHARLOTTE OSAFO (Nephrology, UGSMD/KBTH)
DR. KAREN YEATES
(Nephrology, Queen’s University, Canada)
Topics for Larger Group Discussion:
§ What are the strategies to improve prevention, detection, and management of CKD?
§ What ethical and operational concerns need be considered?
§ How have the financial and policy implications and debates been developed?
12:30pm – 2pm
PROF. LEWIS GOLDFRANK
(Emergency Medicine, NYU)
PROF. C.C. MATE-KOLE (PSYCHOLOGY, UGSMD/KBTH)
Topics for Larger Group Discussion:
§ What is most needed now to advance CKD management and health in Ghana?
§ What can be done to enhance early detection and risk mitigation in the population?
§ What can be done to enhance quality of life for patients, and their families, who have progressive and/or late stage disease?
3:15pm – 3:30pm
Students from around the NYU global network get a unique opportunity each year to participate in an internship in Kumawu, a small town in Ghana, where they work with the local population on technology to help improve their lives and livelihoods. The internship is organized by the Center for Technology and Economic Development (CTED) at NYU Abu Dhabi.
On Thursday, April 27, NYU Accra students had the opportunity to engage in a lively discussion via the NYU Accra Conversation Series. The topic for the event was “Inside out: Conversation with a Contemporary Ghanaian Musician.” The lead discussant was Reggie Rockstone, one of Ghana’s finest rap artists who is often referred to as the ‘Godfather of Ghanaian Hiplife’. He is believed to have pioneered the Hiplife Art form and has played an important role in the development of this uniquely African genre. He raps both in English and in Twi. Both Reggie and the students enjoyed the opportunity to connect and converse.
On 28 March, NYU Accra hosted Former President John Dramani Mahama as a Guest Writer to a Special Interactive Session with students taking writing classes. Organized jointly with the English Department at the University of Ghana, the program allowed students in the NYU Accra classes Creative Writing and Colonialism and the Rise of African Literature to participate along with writing students from the University of Ghana.
The focus of the special session was on President Mahama’s book My First Coup d’Etat: Memories from the Lost Decades of Africa, which was a required or recommended reading for students in the participating classes this semester.
Former President Mahama did a reading of selected stories from the book and also responded to questions and comments from the audience. It was an engaging and successful event.
As a Senior Research Scientist and the Director for the Center for Continuing Nursing Education, I understand that you oversee the College of Nursing’s portfolio of continuing education programs for practicing nurses in addition to focusing on bridging the worlds of research and practice in order to design and teach leadership and organizational development programs for nursing and general management audiences. How did you come to work in this field and come to NYU?
My education and experience is focused on executive education for clinician managers and I have an academic background in organizations and leadership. I was recruited to NYU in 2011 to work on a portfolio of projects including directing the College’s Center for continuing nursing education.
You have been described as “a thought leader in the areas of organizational change and health system effectiveness” and have experience working in various countries. How does your background inform your approach at NYU?
The design for the Ghanaian Nurse Leaders Program (GNLP) program draws on my prior experience with designing and implementing leadership programs for clinician managers. The program draws on a number of evidence-based practices to develop leadership capabilities and skills. My prior work in continental Europe has given me a greater appreciation for the challenges that healthcare leaders face and the range of innovative solutions that exist to solve common problems. Additionally, I came into the GNLP with an understanding of the British professional nursing model that is used in Ghana.
I understand that you are the director of the Ghanaian Nurse Leader Program (GNLP) at the College of Nursing, part of Ghana Wins!, which aims to advance participants’ access to evidence-based science and training in leadership and performance improvement. Can you describe how the vision for GNLP developed?
The goal of the Ghanaian Nurse Leaders Program was to improve the management effectiveness of mid-level nurse managers working in the Ghana Health Service. Nurse managers play an important part in organizational performance and quality improvement. In many instances, skilled clinicians rise through the ranks into management and leadership roles, yet they may not have formal education or training on how to be effective managers. It was with that insight in mind, that we set out to develop the GNLP. The GNLP examines leadership at the levels of the self (know yourself as a leader), be a leader of teams, and a leader of organizational change. The basic design for the GNLP was drawn from my prior experience with developing leadership programs for clinician managers. An important component of the GNLP is a 12 month action-learning change project. The participants/nurse managers designed and implemented a change project on their units. Projects focused on foundations for quality like documentation systems or physical assessment skills; improving hand-washing rates; to nurse-led family planning clinics. The change projects developed participants skills in change management and quality improvement/tracking skills. Projects were mentored by faculty at the University of Ghana School of Nursing and the NYU Meyers College of Nursing.
The Ghanaian Nurse Leaders Program began in 2013 and we just completed phase 1 in the summer of 2016. Thirty nurse managers and three faculty from the University of Ghana School of Nursing participated in the program. Our partners in the program include Professor Ernestina Donkor, Dean University of Ghana, School of Nursing and Mrs. Patricia Avadu, Program Coordinator, U of G, School of Nursing; George Kumi Kheremeh, Chief Nursing Officer and Mrs. Eva Mensah Program Liaison, Ghana Ministry of Health, Nursing and Midwifery Directorate. And at NYU, Dr. Yvonne Wesley served with me as the program co-director from 2013-2015 and more recently Dr. Robin Toft Klar has served as the program co-director and faculty lead. GNLP offers cohort-based programming for Ghanaian nurses at the College, involving mentoring, seminars, and tours of labs, and clinical care sites.
What kinds of goals do program participants and organizers have? How does the programming help participants realize their goals?
A central feature of the GNLP is a mentored, nursing practice change project. Each participant was coached/mentored by a faculty member from the University of Ghana, School of Nursing and a faculty member at the NYU Meyers College of Nursing. The faculty contributed their expertise in both clinical care and best practices in organizational change. The GNLP is a year long leadership development program with two weeks of in-person leadership development and a year-long change project. The first week of the program takes place in Accra at the University of Ghana, Legon and the second week at the NYU Meyers College of Nursing, in NYC. The generous support from the Women for Africa Foundation (Mujeres por Africa) and Banco Santander, made the week in NYC a reality.
A second unique feature of the GNLP was a Nurse Manager Shadowing program created in collaboration with the nursing management team at Harlem Hospital Center, that is part of the Health and Hospital system, one of the US largest public hospital systems. Many of the nurse managers at Harlem Hospital Center are of Ghanaian descent or African, so we had a unique opportunity to capitalize on cultural similarities and create a learning opportunity to compare and contrast the nursing management practices in the US and Ghana.
The GNLP is designed for mid-level nurse managers working in the Ghana Health Service. Thus, those in public hospitals only. Participants are identified through the regional nursing hierarchy as high potential leaders. The 30 nurse managers selected for the program have been in a management role for at least 5 years and must have 15 career years left in their careers in the health service.
Do you maintain contact with participants after the completion of the program?
Yes we have created a “ What’s Up” app platform for the program where the alumna and faculty can connect and maintain their network. The program is designed in three cohorts and we gathered all of the participants in June of each year in Accra. This design feature served to connect the cohorts to share learning and best practices. We have also built strong relationships with our colleagues at the University of Ghana, School of Nursing, NYU Accra and the Ministry of Health Nursing and Midwifery Directorate. And we get an occasional Christmas or Easter card from the participants, which is really wonderful.
What have been some of the best examples of change or growth that you have seen as a result of GNLP?
Many of the change projects delivered improvements in nursing practice or expanded access to quality care in the participants units. I think that all of the participants have grown or learned something about themselves, their leadership styles and their plans for their careers as a result of participating in the GNLP. Over the last three years, many of the participants have received promotions, advanced their education, were invited to participate on regional advisory boards, joined a professional nursing association or were selected to serve as leaders in professional organizations.
Two participants from Cohort 1 stand out in my mind. They are Bernice Mensah and Mavis Torgbor. Ms. Mensah and Ms. Torgbor worked on a project to introduce standardized nurse charting across a large percentage of the nursing units at Korle Bu Hospitals, the largest teaching hospital in West Africa. Based on the success of this project, Ms. Mensah and Ms. Torgbor were selected as members of the founding leadership team for the new teaching hospital at the University of Ghana that opened in September 2016.
Although this is a grand example of the career successes of the GNLP participants, I think that the overall experience and opportunity will have lasting effects both for the individual nurses and for the units that they managed because of the connections to the international nursing literature and best practices we were able to share and discuss throughout the program.
Do you think this program is replicable elsewhere in the world? Or is Ghana especially suited to this type of program?
Ghana was particularly well suited for this program because a number key factors that led to our success. First is the strong partnership that we developed across the Ghana Wins programs to share program designs and best practices, including our partnership with the Banco Santander and Mujeres por Africa teams. Second, the excellent team at NYU Accra under the leadership of Professor Akosua Anyidoho, played a key and invaluable part in supporting program logistics. Third, our nursing partners in Ghana were deeply committed to the success of this program. Nursing in Ghana is undergoing a transformation as more nurses gain bachelor’s degrees and the Health Service develops expertise in clinical quality improvement and population health. A strong nursing management workforce is key to achieving clinical outcomes.
I think that nurse manager leadership development programs can be replicated in other parts of Africa. We learned a lot about nursing practice, the realities and ingenuity that comes with working in a resource-constrained environment, and the ways that the US model of nursing management is similar to and different from the Ghanaian model of nursing management.
Is there anything else you want to share about this program, Ghana Wins!,or working in Ghana?
Working on this program was an awesome experience. I have enjoyed learning more about a new healthcare system and the challenges and opportunities for nurses. I also cherish the professional and personal connections that have emerged throughout the 4 years of the program here in New York and in Accra.
As a director of the Ghanaian Women’s Social Leadership Program (GWSLP) supporting Wagner Leadership in Action at NYU Wagner, how did you come to work in the leadership field and how did you come to Wagner?
I am originally from Colombia, South America, where I studied law and political science. I came to the United States to attend graduate school in the doctoral program in sociology at NYU. I was interested in advancing research that was grounded in the community, participatory, and focused on vulnerable populations.
My first full time job after graduate school was at Alianza Dominicana, a Community Based Organization that provides services to the Latino immigrant in NYC. I directed a Job Readiness Training program for People Living with HIV/AIDS. Later I joined a team from Columbia University School of Public Health as the director of the HATS program, a comprehensive HIV/AIDS research and social service intervention for People living with AIDS at the Harlem Hospital of Columbia University.
My interest in social change and participatory research brought me back to Wagner/NYU in 2002. Wagner obtained support from the Ford Foundation to advance research on social change leadership in the USA. This initiative was the Leadership for a Changing World (LCW) Program. LCW aimed to better understand social change leadership in American communities and change the conversation about leadership in the USA to recognize leadership from grass roots community organizations. We were the research and documentation component of the project. For more than 7 years, using participatory research approach, grounded in organizations and the communities we worked with more than 150 leaders from 92 social change organizations. LCW yielded practical knowledge for academics and practitioners on how social change leadership happens and how organizations and leaders are able to tackle issues, engage others and obtain concrete results as they face serious constraints.
Two years after the implementation of Leadership for a Changing World, the Research Center for Leadership in Action was created at Wagner, with financial support from the Ford Foundation. RCLA mission was to partner with public service leaders, organizations, and scholars across sectors to uncover new thinking about how leadership works. We explored leadership as a collective achievement. As RCLA deputy director, I managed the social change and international areas. I advanced several research, training and evaluation projects that supported women, immigrants, grass roots organizations and leaders in the USA and globally.
I understand that you are the director of the Ghanaian Women’s Social Leadership Program (GWSLP) at Wagner, part of Ghana Wins!, which aims to strengthen the capacity of Ghanaian women as leaders in healthcare, education and civil society. Can you describe how the vision for GWSLP developed?
The interests of the Center in leadership development combined with our interest in working internationally and focusing on women and leadership, made the development of GWSLP a natural progression. We wanted to apply the research we had done to practical leadership programs in areas that needed them. Mujeres for Africa Foundation from Spain developed the idea of starting a program on leadership in Ghana. Believing that women must play a central role in shaping the future of leadership in Africa they proposed Ghana as an ideal location. NYU’s site in Accra was a real asset. In collaboration with Mujeres for Africa, Wagner, the Nursing Department and the Steinhardt School, together we created Ghana Wins! with support from Banco Santander Foundation in 2012. Our aim was to support Ghanaian women working in civil society organizations and in the education and healthcare sectors. The need for these programs in Ghana is immense. Women still suffer terrible discrimination in society and there are very few women in high positions, even in the social change arena.
Wagner’s GWSLP offers a one-year, cohort-based leadership development program for women in mid-level positions in Ghanaian civil society organizations, offering opportunities that better enable participants to realize transformational change in their communities. What kinds of issues are program participants working on? What kinds of programming do you provide to help them realize their goals?
The women who participate in the GWSLP program come from civil society organizations in Ghana that are tackling very serious issues related to social change – lack of reproductive health education and services, lack of education and leadership opportunities for women and child welfare, issues related to public health, including HIV/AIDS, lack of social services, especially for women, and lack of political participation or representation, among other issues. We target middle-level managers, specifically coordinators or managers with a high potential who need a boost so they can aspire to better positions within their organizations and help their organizations achieve their goals. Through leadership trainings, participants learn leadership skills and capabilities, enabling them to become better leaders. The training curriculum incorporates best practices and knowledge from our research from needs assessments and feedback received from women and leaders in Ghana. The GWSL program promotes a sense of collective leadership, focusing on not only in supporting the individual participants but creating opportunities for them to bring that knowledge to their organizations and communities. GWSLP so far has work and graduated two cohorts (each with 15 women who have implemented 30 Action Learning Projects in Ghana) and have recently started a new cohort of 12 women.
Through the program’s leadership development, individualized coaching, and networking opportunities, participants develop the skills and support needed to lead transformational change in their communities and society at large. We challenge the idea that you are born a leader, or that leadership is a heroic or charismatic trade. For us, leadership is not a heroic act, but is a collective endeavor, which results from the capacity to build direction and commitment working with others towards a common goal. We teach that leadership skills can be developed, that anyone can be a leader, and that organizations can better achieve their goals when individuals are empowered.
The program activities are both based on our research and responsive to local needs. We have facilitated evaluation and assessments with women and leaders in Ghana at the start and throughout the program to better understand their specific needs and goals and assess program results. In collaboration with leaders and leadership development providers in Ghana and the USA, we run two leadership development institutes, one in Ghana at the beginning of the program and another one in NYC half way into the program Throughout the year, the participants work with coaches in Ghana to achieve specific leadership goals and advance Action Learning Projects. The coaches meet with the entire cohort of participants once a month, which is an opportunity for participants to connect, share challenges and successes, and learn from one another. The coaches are also regularly in contact with individuals between these monthly meetings. There is a fairly seamless flow of information with the participants, coaches and NYU.
The flow of information and support will improve this year with our third cohort as we introduce new communications platforms to better enable direct contact between participants and NYU and build a strong network with the GWSLP alumni, collaborators and key stakeholders. We have established WhatsApp and Facebook groups, and we are developing a newsletter to highlight successes. We are now determined to advance an alumni network in Ghana and create ways to sustain GWSLP towards the future.
Participants send a proposal for the Action Learning Project (ALP) when they apply. The idea behind the projects is that it should enable them to tackle a critical need in their organizations and communities and apply what they learn through GSWLP in their communities and organizations. We work with participants to refine their projects after they have been accepted to GWSLP, and together with the coaches, we support the ALP’s implementation. We initially did not anticipate that the Action Learning Projects would become so central to the program, but most of the projects not only enable participants to practically apply the ideas and skills they are learning, but they have tackle important needs and produce impressive results in the organizations and communities. Through the projects, participants learn how to develop a theory of change and how to monitor and evaluate results. They learn how to deal with issues of strategy and management as well as deploy skills such as public speaking and team building and management. The constant feedback structure and the collaboration with other GWSLP participants and organizations are also critical to the success of the Action Learning Projects. Participants have undertaken some amazing projects. Many have been sustained after the conclusion of the GSWLP program. We have seen projects become institutionalized and participants successfully obtaining funding to continue their projects, which provides participants with greater self-confidence in addition to practical skills.
Do you maintain contact with participants after the completion of the program?
Yes. We remain in contact with participants from previous cohorts and are now establishing an alumni network so that these women can continue to support one another. This year, we will also have alumni from previous cohorts speak to the new participants as part of the program activities.
One of our graduates, Bashiratu Kumal, recently spoke on behalf of her cohort, highlighting the program’s impact on women’s leadership: “The GWSLP has helped us elevate our leadership,” Bash said “”Because of GWSLP, we are now bold, proactive, and confident. We are ready to continue working together towards building a better Ghana with decisions made by men and women.”
What have been some of the best examples of change or growth that you have seen as a result of GWSLP?
Our evaluations shows that after a year into the program participants learn how to move an idea to action and how to network and collaborate with others in their organizations and communities using a collective leadership approach. Participants increase their public speaking ability, their capacity to reflect and balance work and self-care. They leave with strong project management and evaluation skills, which they learn through the trainings and the ALPs implementation. The GWSLP provides multiple opportunities for participants to get to know themselves, through assessments, reflections and feedback from coaches and peers. As they complete their leadership goals and ALPs they start to see results and they feel a sense of self-efficacy and accomplishment and their self-esteem increases. By the end of the program they realize their potential, their capacity to bring change and produce results with others. They really start to feel and act as leaders.
I understand that you have also researched and worked in Latin America (and of course the United States). Do you think this program is replicable elsewhere in the world? Or is Ghana especially suited to this type of program?
Absolutely! This program can be replicated in Latin America and other parts of the world. I recently had the opportunity to visit Colombia, my country of origin, and travel though different regions in Peru. I found myself dreaming with the idea of implementing a similar leadership program for women in civil society organizations in Colombia and Peru. Women’s inequality and violence against women is an endemic problem in Latin America and other parts of the world. Giving women the opportunity increase leadership skills and to realize their potential would help tremendously to tackle inequality and other systemic issues.
The third cohort of participants in GWSLP is just about to start. What do you see as the future of the program as the number of alumni grows and as it has a greater influence?
In May we held a graduation ceremony for the 2015-2016 cohort. The ceremony also welcomed the third GWSLP cohort—12 Ghanaian women who represent civil organizations advancing human rights, youth leadership development, children rights, accountability and transparency, and women’s and girls’ rights, among other critical issues facing Ghana. As with the previous cohorts, these women will be busy in the coming year. The new participants will attend a week-long leadership development training in October 18-24. IN the summer they will come to NYC to attend a one-week leadership institute in NYC in the coming summer. After the October training, They will start to implement their Action Learning Projects throughout the year through the support of coaches who accomplished Ghanaian women leaders and feedback and support from our Wagner’s GWSLP team. The new cohort has already written proposals for their ALPs which are very meaningful. We look forward to working with this new fabulous group of Ghana women.
By focusing on an alumni network, we hope to foster lasting connections among all GSWLP participants that will benefit their work on social change in Ghana.
More information about the women participating in the program and their Action Learning Projects can be found on our website (http://wagner.nyu.edu/leadership/ghana). All participant bios are available here.
GIFTED, part of the larger Ghana Wins! project, is a professional development program that aims to build capacity in women leaders in education. GIFTED began in June 2013 and is a partnership between New York University, University of Minnesota, the University of Education Winneba, and Mujeres for Africa, sponsored by Banco Santander.
GIFTED’s mission is to strengthen the leadership capacity and visibility of female educators as leaders within the Ghanaian education system. In doing this, GIFTED Fellows are better positioned to produce a systemic change in the local schools and at the regional education office level. The GIFTED curriculum seeks to provide these leadership skills so that GIFTED Fellows can actively participate in the decision-making processes, act as role models for other women and girls, and mentor other women.
GIFTED provides professional development, on-going support, and leadership training to cohorts of 12 women educators. Teachers who are selected for this program participate in a year-long transformational leadership curriculum and they develop and implement action projects that support education outcomes in their schools.
I hail from the Volta region of Ghana and am the youngest of four. I now have two children of my own with my husband Johny. I have always had a passion for teaching, starting when I was little. I find great personal satisfaction and comfort in teaching and enjoy being able to share what I have learned with people and having an impact. I now teach home economics and social studies at the New Winneba Junior High School located in the Effutu municipality of Winneba.
I first heard about the GIFTED program from my headmistress who was looking for a partner to attend a workshop when the program was introduced to our municipality. I was interested because the program focuses on women and girls. I am a strong feminist and have a passion for programs concerning girls.
Can you describe your project to me? How did you come up with it? What were or are you hoping to achieve?
Our project is basically about bringing girls of school-going age to school from and around the community in which the school is situated by using cultural performance – music and dance. We came up with this when we realized that girls in and around the school community were seen hawking goods and selling things nearby when school was in progress. Though many attempts were made to convince both parents and girls about the importance of learning, they proved futile. Parents preferred that their girls sell things to make money or take care of the family rather than go to school. Particularly the elders believe that the right place for girls is to be home, cooking and taking care of the home.
Therefore, when GIFTED was introduced, we picked cultural performance (music and dance) as a means to entice these girls to school. Basically our goal was to bring all girls in and around the community and even beyond to school. Also, we had a vision of girls outnumbering boys in the community school. We also had the dream of empowering girls in terms of academic performance as well as standing up for themselves when the need arises. We wanted to boost their confidence level.
What do you personally gained from the GIFTED experience and how has it influenced you?
The GIFTED experience has been absolutely amazing. Aside from working with knowledgeable and kind hearted people from NYU, I have come into contact with my colleagues from the same municipality who I was not very close to previously. We have become a big GIFTED family. Furthermore, I have: acquired great leadership skills from the NYU team; gained confidence in my dealings with people; become acquainted with a lot of people; gained exposure (traveling to NYU); gained so much passion for the education of girls or anything that concerns the welfare of girls.
I understand that you created and then have been able to maintain the Girls of Difference Club and that it has increased girls enrollment in your school 130%. Is that correct? What does the club involve? Beyond increasing enrollment, how else has it been empowering for the girls in your school?
The group Girls of Difference was created by Martha, my headmistress, and I. It started in June 2013 with 56 girls and grew steadily. As of June 2016 there are 186 girls and counting. This increase did not happen overnight. It has been a gradual process, involving lots of dedication and great moral and financial support from the NYU team, the University of Education, Winneba team, and the GIFTED family.
The club meets twice weekly after school to either learn new songs and dances or rehearse the old ones. Lately we have shifted from cultural dance to contemporary music and dance. This has set the school ablaze. The fever is just too much to handle. The club also does reading literacy on one of the meeting days. We focus then on teaching the girls how to read and they read very well.
The club also meets to discuss certain issues that pertain to girls and their wellbeing. This can be in any form – psychological, financial, moral, physical, spiritual, and can include discussion of abuse or other issues that trouble our girls. This gives the girls a sense of belonging and peace and better enables them to study. It has also given the girls a lot of confidence knowing that they have teachers on their side.
Not only has the Girls of Difference club empowered girls in our school, it has also empowered the whole community in which the school is situated. Here are our amazing testimonies:
- Because of Girls of Difference club, the school land which has long been in dispute between two towns and two chiefs has been resolved. This happened when we held a GIFTED durbar in our school inviting the chiefs. Using cultural dance, our girls communicated to the chiefs through cultural display telling them they need peace to learn and become responsible women. Since then, the two chiefs have united and settled their differences.
- Later, the chiefs told us that they were touched by school land by cultural performances hence they have extended our school land by several meters.
- The chiefs have also allocated parcels of land to teachers who are willing to build in the community at a whopping 50% discount.
- Because of the GIFTED program, the chief has connected the school with bore-hole water all the way from his house to the school reservoir.
- A big parcel of land has been given to the school to do a garden. The seeds and other materials have been provided by parents. Products from this farm are sold out to the community while the rest is enjoyed by the school children.
- Also the awesome way our girls passed their final examinations.
- The most awesome things ever – ready attitude of parents and the entire community to willingly support our school and this is all because of the GIFTED program.
In all, I can say the ripple effect of the Girls of Difference club is just so cool.
What do you see as the next steps for the Girls of Difference Club? For your school? For you personally?
- To be the most recognized and best school in the municipality in terms of academic performance;
- To have all girls of school-going age in and around the community in school;
- To have the best drama / dance group in the whole municipality;
- To generate funds to keep the club going by performing at functions or ceremonies.