The task facing Sharifah Issakah and Markos Phillips was daunting. The Queens University and University of Ottawa volunteers landed in Adenta, a district outside of Accra, Ghana where teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections were pressing issues. Their role was to start up health literacy programs and to improve the dialogue among young women about sex and education. The volunteers worked with teenagers who rarely talked publicly about these topics, but like dozens of volunteers before them, they took on the challenges with creativity and action. During their time in Adenta, Sharifah and Markos organized programs promoting girls’ access to education and sexual health services. At the same time, they worked with school administrators to develop gender awareness. Many of the activities were so well received that the local government has made them annual programs
By developing partnerships with the Adenta Municipal Education office, the Girls’ Education Officer and NGOs, the pair assisted in developing health education programs for girls in the basic (elementary) schools. This helped improve the girls’ self-confidence, assertiveness and belief in education. Another community-based project focused on family planning, malaria prevention, nutrition, sanitation, and health for mothers, newborns and children. Specific events Sharifah and Markos helped organize were such a hit that they will be repeated in the coming years. These events include:
- A Spelling Bee: girls showcase research, reading and comprehension skills
- A Health Education Program: so far, 200 girls have participated in classes and then shared their knowledge with their peers – there are over 1,360 girls registered in the municipality’s schools
- Role Model Outreach: at the first two-day gathering, 350 girls worked with female professionals including a medical officer, a lawyer, a nutritionist, an entrepreneur and an actress. Through the outreach, the young girls were able to see that there are many different types of careers out there for women.