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Friday, August 19, 2016

'Still I Rise'

That phone call to say I had earned a place on the programme was both exciting and terrifying. Exciting because I had survived assessment and was determined to show I deserved it. Terrifying because I knew more hard work had to be done; not just to make a difference in communities but in my own life. “Cause I laugh like I have gold mines growing in my back yard... You may shoot me down with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill with your hatefulness, but still like air, I’ll rise.’ These wise words, from Maya Angelou, carried me through all of my pre-placement challenges. And they keep me going now, seven weeks into placement. This motivational poetry, about soaring and not falling, is enough to give us all the courage to keep going!

In northern Ghana I have seen examples of people going through difficult times. Yet despite not having all the riches of the world they greet and smile with you like they’re the richest of us all. Alongside the challenges are people trying to find solutions to overcome them, to help themselves and others around them. Let me use the example of our peer educators and non-traditional condom distributors in Langa, whom recently completed a refresher training session with us.  They were so eager to share ideas on how to reach young people in their community as best as possible, and were also very open in their communication with us. It was the first time I had experienced women and men, same age as my parents or elder siblings, so willing to learn from young people. They discussed their fears as well as problems they face in their line of duty.  But importantly we were also able to learn from them about how we can help their community. It was not just one way learning. As our first community engagement it was very refreshing and educational!

We’re only halfway through and we’ve already learned so much about people and their desire to overcome. Let’s take our recent monitoring and evaluation session of peer educators and NTCDs in Gbimsi and Nayorku. It was observed that they were very confident in their roles to educate young people, and went about their duties professionally and passionately. I also had a chance to meet the Chief of Gbimsi. He not only thanked us for the wonderful work RAINS and ICS have done so far, but also gave us lots of advice on how we could make our upcoming sensitization as effective as possible. We left Gbimsi with high hopes. From this visit it was clear that our project had been effective in helping the community learn about sexual health (via our professional and passionate peer educators). But we had also been given the opportunity to learn as well.




An interview with a peer educator in Gbimsi – learning is a two way thing!

So, learning is vital to overcoming challenges. It’s always delightful on Friday afternoons when we get to do our Guided Learning Sessions. This is when pairs present a development related topic they are passionate about. It is a great opportunity to learn and enhance team bonding. Also, spending time with my host mother has proved to be the best thing ever, and another educational opportunity. From small talk and discussions on issues such as marriage it has been very beneficial to me, and I couldn’t have asked for a better host home. I have no doubt in my mind it is the best anyone could have asked for! She is my go-to adviser, from when I wear a dress and want an honest opinion, to my bargaining chip.


The highlight of my placement so far would be when I was approached by a young girl on my way to work. She wanted to know more about what I did and how she could get involved. She went further and said I inspire her to do better for herself and for others. To take initiatives and be involved in the development of her community. It was actually the first time someone had said something so inspiring to me. It also made me want to do more, to do better.  It then began to make sense. This was why I was here. To make an impact and to inspire young girls everywhere. To let them learn from me and for me to learn from them. That is how all of us will overcome our challenges. We can rise together.

Author: Latifa Sulemana
Edited by: Sian Johnston