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Monday, November 27, 2017

Personal Development: Inspirational Women and Invaluable Opportunities

One of my favourite things about deciding to do ICS is meeting different people from different walks of life, all joined in a common interest, of course for different reasons. Some want to use their position of privilege to give back to a less fortunate part of the world, others want to gain experience to be able to help their own communities, and some want to travel and learn more about the world. For myself, I think my motivations are probably a combination of all the above. Having just graduated from university, I am hoping to work in the charity-sector. I hoped that volunteering with International Service would allow me to see first-hand how the implementation of development policy works, and it’s done just that, plus so much more. I think for a lot of volunteers, community visits have been the highlight, but personally I have been most excited to be working in an office for an NGO in a developing country. The office-based nature of ICS isn’t something that is heavily advertised, which I think is a disservice to the programme. Projects like RAINS are predominantly office work, and this has been perfect for me so far.

Since the first week, our team has been determined to make sure that we produce a Sexual Health Manual during our time here. It’s a project that was begun by the last cohort of volunteers, so I can’t emphasize enough that the workload is a continuous process that is shaped by each cohort. And it has certainly been a process; I’ve learnt that nothing ever happens in Ghana on time- but that’s a huge part of Ghana's charm. Producing the first draft of the manual was followed by consultations with a local sexual health NGO called NORSAAC, and the wider staffs at RAINS. I can’t express how quickly time flies here; it’s hard to believe that from writing most of the manual in the first week, only now are we close to being finished as we begin week 8! The processes of networking and consulting have given me an insight into what a career in the charity-sector might look like. The RAINS staff has also allowed me to sit in on board meetings, to show me how it’s done properly! Having a central role in the office has made me feel capable, and like I might actually be worth hiring someday, which has been a really important aspect of personal development for me.

Women's Community Club in Zokuga
Photo Credit: Harriet Braithwaite
Working for RAINS has also encouraged me to learn a new skill: photography! I had no experience with photography before coming to Ghana, but came out here equipped with a new camera ready to capture the action. Our team has been really eager to help establish ICS RAINS with a good social media presence, so I’ve had lots of opportunities to snap away! Before starting the placement, I was so excited to speak to the women in the communities, and I was hoping to take some portraits alongside the testimonies of inspirational women. My office counterpart, Abdulai, has been the biggest support by way of aiding our communication, so thank you Abdulai! For me, it’s opportunities like these, where I can act as a medium between these amazing women and the rest of the world, that make the office work come alive.

Case Study of Madame Rafia
Photo Credit: Harriet Braithwaite

I don’t feel as though I can write a blog without mentioning women. I can truthfully say I haven’t met a woman yet who doesn’t inspire me in some way. My host home parent is a single woman who works, keeps an impeccable household, and raises 5 children who are honestly a credit to humanity, and she never complains or accepts my offers to help. She’s quite literally Superwoman personified. My host home counterpart, Rahima, is the most loving, caring, fiery, hilarious person I have ever met. When I’ve been ill she’s cared for me through the night, when I’ve been down she’s made me dance before bed, and when I’ve needed a helping hand she has been a guide and patient teacher. The women in the communities are welcoming, and greet you like an old friend. They have redefined my standards of kindness and hospitality, and have inspired me to return home with an open heart. 

My Host-Home Counterpart, Rahima, in Tongo Hills
Photo Credit: Harriet Braithwaite
Even passing women by on the street it’s hard to ignore the strength of women in Ghana. Quite literally, they bustle through the markets carrying huge loads on their heads, and they look fabulous whilst doing it. Just the other day on my walk to work, there was a woman on the roadside draped head-to-toe in the most magnificent, canary yellow outfit, on her hands and knees fixing her motorbike, and I thought to myself “yes girl”! So, thank you to all the women I have met so far in Ghana. I know that when I go home in three weeks, I will be a stronger woman for the lessons you have taught me.  
Dancing in Zokuga
Photo Credit: Freeman Dzidotor

By Harriet Braithwaite