Today we have our Girls Leadership Program Manager, Grace Marfo write a bit about herself, GLP and why it is an important part of the community we’ve built in the Kumasi Region, Ghana for the past three years
I am Grace Marfo, a Ghanaian with a B.A. Degree in Development Education Studies. I am currently the Girls Leadership Program (GLP) Manager at Exponential Education, which is an education-focused NGO operating locally in Kumasi, Ghana. This is my third year working with Expo. I started volunteering as a GLP Assistant at Antoa Senior High School (SHS), while doing my year of national service. This was the first year that Expo ran this program. My role as the assistant was to make sure the girls understood the lessons by translating into our local language. After my national service, I became fully involved in this program because it was very much in line with what I studied in university and because of my great interest in girls empowerment. During that first year, we saw that GLP was positively benefiting the girls, so we introduced the program in two additional schools (Achinakrom and Asanteman SHSs) the following year. This is our third year and we operating in all three mentioned high schools.
GLP is one of the most significant and impactful programs run by Expo. It has been well structured and designed for girls who have less confidence and low self-esteem. The program aims to empower girls from all backgrounds to become great women leaders in the future. For the past two years, over 110 senior and junior high school girls have benefited from the program. Currently, about 105 girls are undergoing this program.
The program is designed around the schools’ three-term system. During the first term, we work with a group of 20 to 25 girls from each SHS. These SHS girls meet every week after-school and are led in discussion and activities by our well-trained Program Associates (PAs), who were participants of GLP in previous years. The sessions cover topics such as safe space, self-esteem, leadership, gender roles, early marriage, and sexual harassment, among others. In addition to instilling confidence and leadership skills, the topics included are aimed at getting them to think critically about and discuss gender issues relevant to them, such as how traditional gender roles can affect girls’ education. All the girls are encouraged to voice their opinions and participate in the discussions in an environmental of mutual respect.
The second term of the program is mainly mentorship, in which 5-7 girls per school are selected from the SHS girls based on their punctuality and commitment to the program. They are partnered with 4-5 JHS girls each to become mentors to them. During after-school sessions, the mentors, assisted by the PA, lead the JHS girls through the topics that they discussed the previous term.
During the third term, the girls identify problems in their community and, with the aid of their PA, brainstorm solutions. We challenge them to think about who is affected by the problems, what we can do as a team to help, and through what means can we reach them. For instance, last year, the Achinakrom SHS girls identified teenage pregnancy as a problem in their school. As a result of teenage pregnancy, many girls are not able to complete their high school education because they dropout or have to deal with other personal consequences. For their service project, the girls consulted other organizations that focus on this issue in Ghana, including Marie Stopes Int’l and the Family Planning Unit in a nearby hospital. The girls organized all the students in their school to attend a presentation by a trained nurse and doctor about teenage pregnancy, family planning, and contraception. The service project was successful in increasing the students’ awareness of the issue and resources available to them.
Overall, GLP is having significant impact and is an instrument of social change in Ghana and I am happy to be a part of it.