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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

It always seems impossible until it is done



The RAINS team have spent the last 11 weeks working in the Nelson Mandela Development Centre, in Tamale, so feel that the quote ‘it always seems impossible until its done’ by the famous South African president, helps sum up our placement nicely.

The team has had some significant setbacks along the way to get to this point. However here we are 11 weeks on, stronger than ever! We have achieved a total of 6 Children’s Community Clubs in 3 different communities in which we have talked about a variety of sexual health related topics, such as personal hygeine, puberty, STIs and teenage pregnancy. We have done some serious research, wrote report after report after report, a Peer Educator and Non-Traditional Condom Distrbutor Training and a whole community sensitisation.

It is fair to say that 11 weeks ago, all of this would of seemed impossible. Three months really does fly by and before we knew it, we were reaching the end of our journey. We are now all looking forward to returning home, whether it’s somewhere else in Ghana or the UK. Our Accra volunteers are looking forward to arriving on the beach while the UK volunteers are really just looking forward to some chicken nuggets.
To say good bye on the final blog post of this cohort we have decided to reflect on our placement together.

What have we learnt? How will this help us when we return home?





One thing we can all agree on is that we have had a great time and will miss each other so much! A trip to Ghana 2018 is definitely on the cards for this team RAINS, we just can’t seem to live without each other!

Although it seemed impossible at times, we have done the work we needed too to help make our mark on our communities so it’s a good bye and a pat on the back for us!

Written by Beth Crawford


Monday, March 20, 2017

Stars of Radio Savanna!

Kingsley, Katie, the radio host and Latifa

As part of our mission to spread knowledge about sexual/reproductive health team RAINS decided to do some radio sensitisations. Radio is a wonderful way to start a discussion on a topic not often discussed openly in Ghana and get much needed information out to people and answer questions!

On Tuesday the 7th of March, 2017. Team RAINS embarked on our first radio sensitisation on ‘Safe Choices’ at Savanna Radio in Tamale. We had a very interesting  and educative discussion on teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 
Ibrahim, Katie, Latifa and Kingsley


Four members of team RAINS were at the radio sensitisation. Team leader Ibrahim, Kingsley and Latifa were able to deliver the sensitisation in the local language of Dagbani so that our audience could who could not understand English could still understand what we were saying. Katie Mullen also attended and the four of us spent an hour having a wonderful talk with the host and answering questions.


Our message to those who were listening to the radio program was that as a young person and being in school you should abstain from any sexual act. It is important to finish your education and do well at school and to abstain from sex until marriage. Northern Ghana suffers from one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates and this is a huge focus of the Safe Choices program. The more knowledge we can spread and people we can inform on these issues, the better things will be. Many people do not know that the condom is the only contraceptive that can prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.  

Our other message was to urge parents of small children and teenagers to take care of their children and pass on this essential information. Lack of sexual and reproductive health information is what leads to a lot of the teenage pregnancies and spread of STI's. So if we can help educate parents then they can educate their children and the information is shared more. Its a lot of work and things do not change over night but every little bit counts.

Overall the experience at Radio Savanna was wonderful. None of us had been on the radio before so the experience was new and exciting and the host could not have been more wonderful. We got to answer his questions and explain all the great work our team is doing. We cannot wait for another radio sensitisation and the spread more knowledge to people.

Written by Kingsley

Friday, March 3, 2017

Making a Difference


Team RAINS volunteers with the students in Zokuga



One of our main focuses in the Safe Choices Project with RAINS is Children. We know how important it is to teach them things that they might not have learnt yet and give them access to knowledge about sexual health. We do this through Children's Community Clubs. So far we have established these clubs in 3 of the 5 communities we work with and hope to establish them in even more communities as time goes on. Our sustainability goal is that one day the Peer Educators in each community will learn how to run these clubs on their own.

Team RAINS made the first trip this cohort to Zokuga last Thursday. We were holding a Children’s Community Club where we would discuss STIs and teenage pregnancy. A number of clubs have been held in Zokuga by previous cohorts.

We arrived at a beautiful school where we were greeted by the Headmaster and the Community Volunteers. The children, who all looked around 15 years old, were waiting for us under a tree so we began right away. We began with a drama and a presentation on STIs.


From our experience in other communities, we expected them to already be fairly knowledgeable on the topics we were discussing. Therefore, we were very surprised that most of the children could only name one STI (HIV) and many didn’t know what a condom was. We realised then that we could teach these children some very valuable lessons that could help them protect themselves from diseases and unwanted pregnancy.
 
RAINS volunteer Latifah speaking to the students
When we moved on to teenage pregnancy, the children were much more knowledgeable on this topic. They discussed issues such as peer pressure, girls having to drop out of education and the health issues which can occur when someone young and not fully developed becomes pregnant.

The girls were very concerned about what they call ‘Kayayee’. This is when a girl is sent to the city to work with the expectation that she will send money home. Work is hard to get and badly paid so many turn to prostitution and fall pregnant. Some of the girls from Zokuga are forced to do this by their family while they should still be in school.

We also conducted some interviews with the community volunteers who take on the roles of Peer Educators and Non-Traditional Condom Distributors (NTCDs). Peer Educators are the go-to people for anyone who has questions about sexual health. The NTCDs are people who distribute condoms to the community. They often work as barbers or seamstresses or other roles where they regularly interact with the general public. This is so people can go to them discretely. 


We found that the community volunteers here are very pro-active. Providing people all over the community with essential information about sexual health. The NTCDs are even providing condoms beyond Zokuga to people in the surrounding communities. We were really pleased to hear about the progress they have made so far. This only shows us how a little bit of hard work can pay off and bit by bit we are helping make changes in these communities. We cannot wait to continue our work with Zokuga and more communities so that we can keep making changes and educating people!
Volunteers Linda and Rebecca speaking to the Peer Educators in Zokuga
Written by Katie Mullen

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Every day is an Adventure!




Kingsley and the students in Gbimsi 

The weeks of research and hard work that the RAINS team have carried out has really started to pay off now that we are visiting new places and holding educational clubs with rural communities.

Our first outing was to Nanton Kurugu, where we were greeted by the chief in his mud-hut palace and welcomed into the local community. We held a constructive session in the local school in which we built on previous cohorts’ efforts in educating the children about teenage pregnancy and STIs. The children were very warm and engaged, especially after taking part in perhaps the UK’s finest export - the hokey pokey! It was really encouraging to see how much information they had gathered from previous cohorts, and gave the RAINS team a clearer idea of how to take real steps to reduce the risk of teenage pregnancy and STIs in Nanton Kurugu.

The following week, after a jarring 4.30am wake up, we set off to Gbimsi. Apart from a miscommunication over timings which meant our session had to run on super-speed, the community club went very successfully. The children were open and inquisitive about issues to do with puberty and personal hygiene, and because of all the cumulative effort of the RAINS cohorts, we are reaching the stage where the local peer educators are becoming empowered and trained enough to run the sessions without us.
The RAINS team playing a game with the students

 
Not everything has been plain sailing for the RAINS team, with many trips to the hospital and many malarial absentees. But to witness the positive progress such as that in Gbimsi is made more fulfilling by how much blood, sweat and tears our cohort have put into it! We have so much more scheduled in the calendar, so the remaining half of our trip should be an intense but thoroughly rewarding experience!

On top of our project work, the RAINS team has enjoyed learning sessions on topics such as the contrast between the chief system in Ghana and the royal family in the UK, and the difference in how we celebrate Valentine’s Day (14th February is also National Chocolate Day in Ghana, much to our pleasant surprise!). When we’re not working hard, the RAINS team love to relax and bask in the cultural richness of Tamale. This involves wandering around the local market while trying not to get lost, shopping for fabrics at the cultural centre, or testing just how much more fried rice we can tolerate. The difficulty of our work has definitely had the benefit of bringing us all closer together - the friendships between the UKVs and ICVs will remain long after we’ve had our last plate of fried rice and flown back home!
Alice and Beth at the Gbimsi Childrens Community Club



Written by Dylan Caines

Monday, February 6, 2017

Settling into RAINS


For the first few weeks we have been getting to know all the volunteers on the ICS programme. We are beginning to learn and understand Tamale as a city as we try to navigate the city to find the best fabric shops, the best Indomie cafes, and the cheapest oranges.

Now as we enter our fifth week, we have established ourselves and have begun integrating into the community. Last week we have met with the staff of Marie Stopes to learn more about sexual health in Ghana, and how they deal with the legalities and social complications of their support. Also, on Thursday morning we met with the chiefs of Tamale to receive our welcome into the community, and discuss the chief’s passion for development. “In my ancestor’s time,” the chief told us, “we chiefs would fight each other for land and goods, but in this modern time we have to work together to fight poverty and ignorance.”

With this encouragement in mind, we are optimistic about the RAINS project and what we can achieve. We decided to use the chief’s wisdom to talk to our diverse team about why they chose to join the ICS Rains project.


“After working in S.E. Asia for a year I realised I wanted to see more of the world and try to make a change. This programme enables me to make a change and work with an amazing NGO. It also gives me the opportunity to learn more about myself and conquer personal and professional challenges. Also I get to learn how to manage a team and learn skills that will help me get a job in this sector in the future. The ability to get out of your comfort zone and experience a new culture is one of my favourite challenges and Ghana is not disappointing so far.” – Katie B (Team Leader)


Katie B


“To improve my leadership skills and also be an agent of change in our rural communities” - Ibrahim (Team Leader)

IB

“I choose the ICS programme because I want to understand and know exactly what charity is all about and I also want to bring sustainable development to my community and to improve my confidence and my computer skills” – Linda

Linda

“I wanted to be a part of an organisation who is working towards worldwide equality. I also wanted to gain a greater understanding of international development and would be interested in working in this field in the future” – Katie M
Katie M


“I choose to do ICS because I want to work to change the world and help teenagers understand more about their sexual health and human rights” – Latifa
Latifah


“I choose to do ICS because I wanted to build my confidence and improve my communication skills as well.” – Kingsley
Kingsley

 “I wanted to be culturally immersed in a community that was very different to my own, to challenge my own personal limits and make a positive difference in the process.” – Dylan
Dylan

“I wanted to gain more confidence and learn more about myself and what I’m capable of. I also wanted to learn more about a different culture and try and make a small but substantial change in the hope I would impact at least one life.”- Beth
Beth

“I choose ICS to put a smile on the faces of people outside my community while demonstrating that someone somewhere cares about them. I also wanted to explore my career as a care-giver further” – Rebecca
Rebecca

 “I joined ICS because I wanted to make a practical difference after feeling powerless to help stop poverty and suffering that seemed to fill news stories and current events. RAINS was particularly exciting due to my commitment to feminism. Being able to live in another culture emphasises the importance of cross-cultural feminism in a world that often feels divided and detached.” – Alice
Alice

“I choose to do ICS because I wanted to explore the world more since it’s about going out of one’s home community and being fixed in a new one. I also wanted to challenge myself to change my world and to make the things that seem impossible, possible. – Anaamlie
Ana

“I choose ICS because I recently graduated in Anthropology and I thought ICS would provide me with experience to consider a future career in international development. I also particularly wanted to come to Ghana because I was so interested in the culture, in particular the fabrics for making dresses! I have also enjoyed meeting people from the UK and Ghana and overcoming personal insecurities and gaining new skills through the challenges on the programme.” – Elisabeth
Elisabeth


Despite our varying backgrounds and cultures, we are all clearly combined in our passion for our new lives in Ghana and our project’s development goals. We all look forward to getting more immersed in our communities and setting our plans into action!

By Elisabeth Gray and Beth Crawford

Monday, January 23, 2017

Welcome to Ghana!

Team RAINS!

If you ever get the chance to visit Tamale, be sure to bring a camera to take pictures of the cute goats as you wait in the hospital, have a huge amount of energy to traverse the market without wandering into the path of a motorbike, and remember to pack a spare change of clothes in your hand luggage. Or at least that would be our advice after our first week in Tamale, spent largely on frequent meetings with the brilliant and kind doctors of Tamale Teaching Hospital, getting lost, and surviving a week with nothing but hand luggage.

Finally now, it feels as though we can breathe a sigh of relief as we start to enjoy the rhythm and bustle of the city and get stuck in on our project work. Moving into our host homes has been a huge part of this, and it’s thanks to the amazing hospitality of our host parents that we have all started to settle in so quickly. Navigating the line taxis (the main form of transport in Tamale) has been a steep learning curve for UK and Ghanaian volunteers alike, and while initially it was a scary experience, we all feel like we are now seasoned line taxi-commuters.

Our team here at RAINS is split evenly with five volunteers from the UK and five from across Ghana, along with our UK and Ghanaian team leaders of course. From the start, our team has really bonded. The countless ice breakers and team building exercises were fun, but perhaps the best part of bonding as a new team has been the diversity we all bring. Despite some differences in opinion on food – I think all UK volunteers can– agree the food has taken some time to get used to- the cultural exchange that inevitably takes place is definitely one of the most rewarding parts of our time here so far.
Tamale Market

 Of course there are many differences between British and Ghanaian culture (UK volunteers constantly melting in the heat, craving a slice of pizza now and then, feeling jealous of the incredible colours and patterns found in Ghanaian fashion), but every day we seem to discover more similarities between us: we all love fried yams, we are all deeply invested in the Bollywood drama Strange Love, and we all want to contribute to sustainable development in places where it really makes a difference.


                Now with all of our luggage safely arrived in Tamale, a better knowledge of getting around, a stomach full of fried yams and a full understanding of our projects we are ready to go. Next week we will begin work in the communities and it’s safe to say all the volunteers could not be more excited! It has been hard adjusting but this is the new normal and we cannot wait to see what happens next!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Remember that saying ‘time flies when you’re having fun…?’

No words seem more fitting when trying to sum up three months of your life in northern Ghana! Throughout the last twelve weeks we have kept you up to date with all the happenings: the highs and the lows, the experiences had, and the friendships made. You have listened as our volunteers recapped project progress and told you stories about what is important to them, be it peace in politics, the importance of consent, or the wonders of cross cultural working. But none of what we have achieved would have been possible without the support of RAINS. Although Safe Choices is just one of many rights based projects they run, this amazing team have always been ready to listen to us, to help us, and with a smiling face!

Last week we spoke with perhaps the most familiar face at RAINS, our wonderful programme manager Madam Wedad. Responsible for overseeing the progress of the Safe Choices project (amongst others), she is truly a wonder woman! She was kind enough to answer our questions about her role at RAINS, and explain the impact the ICS volunteers and Safe Choices project have had on the communities we work in. So what better way to end our blogging reign then with some final words from her #overandout

Name & role of interviewee: 

Madame Wedad, Programme Manager

How long have you been working here? 

8 years

What is your role here and what are your duties?

As programme manager I am responsible for overseeing our numerous projects, staff and volunteers. I’m also responsible for the design and implementation of the projects.               
                                                                           
What do you think are the key issues affecting the community?

There are a lot of challenges within our communities. But the key issues are poverty, and a lack of information and awareness. They do not have enough access to quality information that would improve their welfare. This is particularly true for women and girls and their access to information on sexual health. In this part of the world issues surrounding sexual health are thought of as private and are not to be discussed in public. We have to strive to move it from the private to the public.

Secondly people in rural communities have a lack of information about human rights. They are not even aware that they have them, let alone who is responsible for upholding these rights!

What is the project [Safe Choices] doing to address these?

Safe Choices is providing the opportunity to empower communities with sexual health information and access to services such as contraceptive providers. It bridges that information gap!
What is the role of ICS volunteers here?
They become part of RAINS and work on the Safe Choices project. They provide information and a means for communities to have the right kind of services, ultimately to empower their rights
What have you achieved with ICS volunteers?
Over the years, the volunteers have helped RAINS to reach out to five of our rural communities. They have incorporated creativity and innovation into their strategies and thinking. This has made a significant contribution! One of the key stand outs from this cohort is the idea of developing a referral system between our peer educators/NTCDs and their local health facilities. This would be fantastic if implemented; it would help connect community members with the right health services

Can you tell it’s making a difference long term?

It’s making a big difference because they are giving out lots of information on sexual health, which is a powerful thing for people to use to help themselves [against pregnancies and STIs]. But their approach is sustainable because they are also making links between communities and service providers. Once that relationship is created then the difference made becomes much more sustainable
What do you think volunteers learn from working with you?
They learn a lot because most of them have never been to a rural community before; it is one important experience that they might not have otherwise got. Also, working with people from different backgrounds means they become exposed to multiculturalism and all its lessons and benefits
What do you think volunteers learn from working with each other?
Volunteers learn about each other’s cultures and traditions and learn to appreciate them. It also helps them to adapt to new work cultures; they can now work and integrate themselves anywhere in the world!
How do you see the next team of volunteers developing the work volunteers are currently doing?
Education and empowerment is a slow, long term process. So each cohort comes to continue the work of the previous cohort and contribute to the long term project plan. So for the next cohort it is important they read the debrief reports and handover notes from the cohort just gone; this will help them continue the good work done

What does the future look like now for the community?

It looks bright! You [ICS] have given communities relevant information for improving their welfare, and ensured that the progress made is sustainable

Interview conducted by: Sian Johnston, Fiona Cormie
Post written by: Sian Johnston

Friday, December 9, 2016

God Bless ICS!

I honestly can’t believe this… I have been in Tamale for over ten weeks! Let me introduce myself first; my name is Adindah Dominic and I am 20 years old. I am on placement with International Service, working in partnership with Regional Advisory Information & Network Systems (RAINS) on a project called ‘Safe Choices’. This project aims to help girls make the best sexual choices in order to prevent teenage pregnancy and remain in school.

THE RAINS-ICS TEAM

International Service has teamed up with four local project partners in Tamale. We are Team RAINS and we are the loveliest team of them all! In this cohort (ICS 2 Cohort 5). I have in my team Portia, Ghana; Sian, UK [Team Leader]; Dominic, Ghana; Anthony, Ghana; Aimee, UK; Sheila, Ghana; Fiona, UK and Adjoa, UK.


Not with standing some members of my team falling ill in the first couple of weeks, my team stood its grounds and kept pushing through. We have actively worked together on our projects making positive impacts in communities we work in.

Team RAINS!

MY HOST HOME

As part of the program, volunteers are placed in host homes within communities they work; in my case, Tamale. Host homes are mostly homes that have spare rooms with spare beds and volunteers reside in such homes during placement. Volunteers live with this new family throughout placement. I can 100% say I am happy in my host home, because my host home is the best. I wish I was going to stay here for a long time, and I really hate to hear my ICS placement is about ending. I live in my host home with my brother, Connor King from the UK and Mariam from Ghana. My host mother is the best woman I have seen in my life, she is kind in heart and she has a lovely family who are good to me, which is why it is the best home ever!

And hey, I can’t talk about my host home without talking about my new found friends in my host home, the three lovely dogs that always takes care of the house if everyone is not home. 









Project Opportunities
I have had the chance to visit the Tamale Chief. It was a great opportunity for me as I got to learn more about chieftaincy and leadership in the Northern Region of Ghana.



One of the challenging sexual health topics was the concept of consent. I realized that many people did not know what sexual consent was, including me, but being placed on the Safe Choices project over the past ten weeks has been an eye opener.

I can boldly say, during any sexual activity, consent is very important and that no always means no, it does not mean try again later or force the person.

My team and I have become very knowledgeable with the issue of consent and so we were able to host a refresher training about it; we shared our knowledge with peer educators from the communities we work in.

Having had all these nice experiences on the ICS project, I am confident enough to recommend it to my brothers and sisters between the ages of 18 and 25. I am also convinced now as to what to do for my action at home when I finish placement; I am definitely going to educate my community on sexual consent as well as peer pressure, because these two are very big issues in my own community.

I’ll update you on my progress!


Written by: Adindah Dominic
Edited by: Treve Portia

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Stand Up For Peace

We are in the last quarter of our 12 week placement and we’re getting ready to round up what we have been doing for the past 9 weeks. It’s been pretty exciting seeing how our collective efforts can go a long way to help others! It’s been an amazing experience so far and we are looking forward to enjoying the rest of our placement.

 But whilst our ICS adventure begins to come to an end, another begins. The December 7th elections are fast approaching and the countdown is on with exactly 8 days to the polls in what is considered one of the most fiercely contested elections in the history of our democracy. What are the factors that influence you when voting?  Some of our UK team members say policies regarding health care, reduction of poverty, mental illness and strategies to improve upon the standards of their educational systems. For our Ghanaian team members they are passionate about increased access to portable drinking water, construction of roads and infrastructure, as well as reliable power supply. But one thing which seems to cut across both cultural perspectives is a passion for educational change. I personally think that we need to amend our educational system; I think it high time we start seeking to make our educational system more skill oriented, so that graduates are able to obtain jobs once their education comes to an end. This is what I consider to be the woe of the people! For anyone else reading this, their answers may be different. But as the electorate it’s important we ask ourselves the following questions: do our politicians carry in their campaign the messages which are most important to the grass root? Do they hear our plight? Whatever your answers may be, make sure your voice is heard in this election through the ballot and not the bullet.  

It’s been 59 years since we accepted democratic rule and have since been enjoying the peace we fought for. Let’s bear in mind that the stakes are rather high in this year’s elections; let’s not throw away 59 years of peace, harmony and above all love because of our political differences. Over the years we have trusted our electoral commission with our election outcomes, and have wholeheartedly accepted the results of elections gone by; let’s not make this year’s an exception! At the end of the day we are still one people with a shared vision and destiny. So as we make our voices heard in this year’s elections let’s not forget who we are and what we stand for, for we are a nation founded on our differences through our shared humanity, a nation that fully acknowledges the fact that we are one big family and that we need each other to survive.

We as volunteers from different cultural backgrounds have been able to work together for the past two months because we have peace amongst one another, and it has been achieved through understanding. We therefore understand the importance of peace, and that is why we urge everyone who loves this country to help maintain peace before, during and after the December 7th polls.

                  A very apt quote: to achieve peace we have to learn to understand one another!

So for us to continue developing as a country, and to attain the status we want be it economic or whatever the grass root cries for, let’s always remember what Winston Churchill said: "If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another."  So let’s make sure that in this election it is Ghana we are voting for and let our love for this country supersede any other thing on this planet. Only then we will enjoy the blessing of peace.


#VOTEFORGHANA
#VOTEFORPEACE
#STANDFORPEACE

What the 'Safe Choices' team stands for

I’m Treve Portia and I stand for peace!
I am Samuel Gyau, and I stand for Peace
I am Adjoa Osafo-Binfoh and I’m all for peace!
I am Dominic Adindah, and I stand for Ghana!
I am Pogzumah Mwinebom Anthony and I stand for PEACE AND GHANA
I am Aimee Healey and I stand for worldwide peace!
I am Sian Johnston and I stand for happiness and equal opportunity for all J
I am Fiona Cormie and I stand for environmental justice and protection!
I am Bawa Awonlie Sheila and I represent peace 


Written by: Bawa Awonlie Sheila
Edited by: Sian Johnston & Treve Portia

Monday, November 21, 2016

Consent – The Taboo Topic

Were over half way through our placement now and its been a massive learning curve for the UK volunteers, living and working in a completely different culture. Weve come across many shocks and it has taken a lot of getting used to the Ghanaian lifestyle. Although we have settled in we still come across things that surprise us on a daily basis.

Last week some of our team planned and held a refresher training session for peer educators and NTCDs (non-traditional condom distributors) in Gbimsi and Nayorku. I was placed within the training team! After lengthy discussion we decided to refresh the attendees on the following topics: contraception, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), and sexual consent.

We chose to focus on the topic of consent as weve found this a sensitive subject to discuss with Ghanaians due to different cultural perspectives. We experienced this in office discussions and exercises where we explored misconceptions surrounding sex and consent. But it was a few weeks ago in the office, holding a refresher training session for Savelugu-based peer educators, where we first witnessed the gaping holes in community members knowledge. We thought the topic of consent would be a quick, self-explanatory one, that everyone would understand it to mean no means no every time, but wed been assuming this from a UK perspective. We thought we were covering pretty basic knowledge but we were wrong!

During the consent presentation we got to a slide which aimed to clear up any misconceptions that the peer educators may have held on when and how consent can be given. They stopped us at almost each point to discuss it in further detail. Below are some of the misconceptions the team fought to change during the training:

1.      NO means NO-  Some of the males in the group thought girls say no to sex when actually they mean yes, because in Ghana a girl has to appear shy and virtuous. It is scary to think that even when a girl says no, men may still proceed thinking she means yes.
2.     Some of the attendees believed that wives owed their husbands sex and inferred marriage was a form of consent. The role of marriage within consent was a tough angle to approach, since Ghana is one of the most religious countries in West Africa.

3.      It was hard to try and explain that some men and women do not like sex, as some of the peer educators were not aware of differing sex drives between individuals. 
Our training session

However, despite their reservations at the start, we as a team took our time explaining ourselves, and the peer educators were soon ready to listen and find out more about sexual consent. It revealed to us a very important lesson: you sometimes come across cultural viewpoints which can be very uncomfortable for you to hear. It is important that rather than reacting to these views, you can either accept them as part of a different culture, or calmly and persistently put your own perspective across. That is the point of the project after all, to help educate communities about their sexual health rights, and we cant do that if we negatively judge community members for any opposing views they may have.

From very early on in our placement we, as a team, aimed to incorporate the issue of consent into most of our events; it seemed essential that everyone we met could be educated on the issue. We try to talk about it wherever and whenever we can. When we went to Nayorku to do a sensitisation on teenage pregnancy we threw the topic into the mix when we divided the community into discussion groups. We also created consent leaflets to be handed out at our training sessions, which we hope will be a good resource for attendees to discuss consent further with their peers. The hope is that we can change not only their views, but a wider audience of peoples views on consent.

                                       Safe Choices 'sexual consent' leaflets

I realise that when it comes to changing views there is a long road ahead. And it is important to remember that consent is a worldwide issue; not simply a Ghanaian one. We only need to turn our minds back to USA a few months ago and remember the uproar when Stanford student Brock Turner received a surprisingly soft sentence of only 6 months for raping a fellow student on the basis she was too drunk to say no - we make it clear in our consent sessions that if an individual does not have the capacity to consent to sex than that automatically means NO! And it was only 25 years ago that in England and Wales a husband could not be prosecuted for raping his wife. But the last example, whilst too recent for comfort, shows that change can and does happen. And so through persistence, perseverance and education, we stand a good chance of change in northern Ghana.


Written by: Aimee Healy
Edited by: Sian Johnston