The Northern region is the largest region in Ghana. It is also the poorest. Although there has been some increase in access to education and modern infrastructure, the region still has a long way to go in terms of women’s rights.
Women in some parts of Northern Ghana do not have the same access to education as their male counterparts. They are married off at early ages, forced into sex for financial support and teenage pregnancy. When they are older, they are accused of witchcraft and banished to “witch camps” to live out the rest of their lives.
They do not have a lot of access to opportunities to be self-sufficient financially if they so choose.
That is what I want to give Northern women with this program: ready access to a program that not only trains them in vocational skills but also provides the tools and materials they will need to set up their own businesses after graduation. And through that, solutions to some of the unfair circumstances and treatment that plagues Northern women.
A financially stable and self-sufficient woman has a better chance of being able to choose when and whom to marry.
She can further her education if she wants.
She can contribute to her home, her children’s needs, and her family.
She does not need to rely on sex with men to survive.
She can contribute to her community’s growth.
And she is far less likely to be accused of witchcraft and becoming a pariah.
Her children have a bigger shot at a better life than she did.
The witchcraft accusation situation is a dicey one for those of us who work in the communities that believe in it and have followed this practice of banishing women for years.
But no matter how much I want to, I cannot just tell people what to believe. I can advocate for better treatment of women who are accused but I cannot stop the accusations, the lynchings.
What I can do is build up the women living in the communities where accusations occur often.
By training them and giving them the means to start their own businesses, we ensure that there are fewer vulnerable women and more contributing members of society who will not be easily forced into hiding for the simple crime of growing old and being poor.
I am Yvonne Stennicke Larsen, 32, mother of one.
I grew up in Southern Ghana, raised by a single mother among four other siblings. I wanted to be a writer when I was young.
I joined the inaugural team of Humanist Service Corps (now Humanist Action: Ghana) with the intent of staying for a few weeks. I have been there ever since moving around the country with the program.
Mentored by Conor Robinson, my dream was to start a Ghanaian humanist non-profit in the future. I believed it could make a difference in many people’s lives but also in how humanists and humanism are perceived in Ghana.
Now, I am still here because I can’t count the amount of problems that need solutions, but I can count the amount of people doing something about it.
I want to make a difference.
Humanist Action: Ghana is a program originally started by FBB that alleviates poverty in Ghana. By 2022, it will become an independent NGO run entirely by local Ghanaians in the country’s Northern Region, working to address the situation of alleged witch camps by empowering nearby youth.