The Alliance for African Women Initiative (AFAWI) is an organization that was founded in 2005 to support people, particularly women, affected by HIV/AIDS in Ghana.

The key founders of the organization were Yaw Adu Dartey, Eva Asiedu and Kwesi Agyei, the man whose vision led to the foundation of the group. Through the understanding that HIV/AIDS is a key component of women’s health, this organization sought to fight this grave disease and its effects on women, children and society as a whole.

Acting as a grassroots organization, AFAWI leads projects to empower women, people living with HIV/AIDS and other marginalized groups in the community. It also works with different international organizations to create sustainable development initiatives.

One of AFAWI’s projects is the clothing cooperative that urges women to use their skills to manufacture clothes made from 100 percent Ghanaian materials.  The livelihood project offers loans with a low monthly interest rate to women who are in need of initial capital for their businesses.

Another initiative is the healthy menstrual management project, which is an initiative supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to help girls stay in school during menstruation. The women in the oil industry project seek to empower women through education and employment opportunities in the oil industry in order to aid economic development.

Another long-term project run by AFAWI is the ECCACHILD project, which seeks to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children in communities surrounding Accra. Many of the children have been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. As a result of this project, about 50 children have been enrolled in the National Health Insurance Scheme to give them access to free medical services.

AFAWI has also taken on the issue of gender mainstreaming in development projects. At a 2014 meeting with SEND Ghana, the topic was addressed: “Gender mainstreaming means providing equal access to men and women, for controlling over resources, decision making and benefits at all stages of the development process and projects,” states an article about the meeting on the AFAWI website.

“Gender mainstreaming is not about women being given more power than men, but rather about equalizing the playing field. Giving women the opportunity to empower themselves and close the gap between the sexes.”

AFAWI’s goal is to ensure projects and policies are constructed to empower women in their communities. “AFAWI’s microfinance program has allowed many women to start their own businesses,” says the article. “Not only do they now earn their own income but AFAWI also provides training to ensure the women understand the importance of business structure and saving.”

Although the project also helps vulnerable and needy children, focusing on women is vital. Gender equality is a necessary prerequisite to leading a developing country like Ghana toward being more developed, both economically and socially. Since women tend to make up the majority of the poor and marginalized in developing countries, empowering them and incorporating them into the nation’s development is necessary for growth.

As Dr. Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey states, “Educate a woman, and you educate a whole family.” AFAWI’s efforts to improve gender equality and, in turn, women’s and children’s standing and opportunities in society, therefore, is a great contribution to fighting poverty.

Vanessa Awanyo

Sources: Alliance for African Women Initiative 1, Verge Magazine, Alliance for African Women Initiative 2
Photo: One World 365

ghanaWhile this may come as a shock, Ghana has recently been proclaimed a poverty alleviation success story. Sergiy Kulyk, the World Bank Country Coordinator for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, is certainly a credible source. He applauds the anti-poverty action that has taken place in Ghana, and plans for an even brighter future.

Through a carefully crafted recipe of World Bank support, social protection, and government intervention, Ghana has been able to overcome major economic and societal hurdles. It was the first in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty and hunger ahead of the 2015 deadline.

Kulyk originally recommended a reverse mission between the World Bank and Ghana under Ghana’s Social Protection program. This was the first of its kind in the history of the World Bank’s relations with Ghana. Its theme, “Safety nets in Ghana- Innovation and Successes,” helped guide anti-poverty action in the right direction.

Currently, the World Bank supports Social Protection interventions in Ghana through an $88.6 million Social Opportunities Project. Additionally, $50 million is financed for ongoing projects, making the Bank’s total contribution $138.6 million. In the future, the Bank will continue to help reverse Ghana’s poverty situation.

In terms of social protection, there are forty-four programs targeting extremely poor individuals, households, and entire communities in Ghana. For Ghana’s most vulnerable and severely marginalized, these mechanisms bring the social assistance and capacity enhancement needed to break out of poverty.

The government is currently working to ensure that the living conditions of Ghana’s poor population are improved through social intervention programs. Specifically, labor-intensive programs implemented across sixty districts will soon be scaled up in order to achieve the best poverty-reducing and livelihood-improving results.

In countries like Bangladesh, Mexico, and Ghana, regular cash and asset transfers to the poor have helped alleviate poverty by securing food needs and improving access to health and education. Additionally, small, regular income transfers enable the poor to make small investments — a hugely important step in poverty reduction.

It is important to note that while Ghana has successfully cut poverty in half, nine years from now approximately 6 million people will still live in poverty, with 2.2 million living in extreme poverty. Although this does not negate the significance of what has already been achieved, it is a crucial reminder of what is to come.

It is true that there is no perfect model for poverty alleviation. However, there are certainly key elements of focus that have consistently brought the most significant results. By adhering to this wide-reaching, gradually emerging poverty-fighting recipe, Ghana has made leaps and bounds in its poverty fight.

The most common poverty-fighting packages include some combination of microcredit financial aid, public works, training, agricultural extension services, financial literacy and links to credit units. In other African countries like Rwanda, childhood development and childcare services have become key areas of focus too.

Poverty is a complex issue that can be attacked from an infinite number of points. Depending on the time, place, and people involved, target areas fluctuate in terms of severity and significance. Still, at the most basic level, there is a lot to be learned from such success stories. Hopefully, Ghana’s model will spur more like its kind.

– Sarah Bernard

Sources: Graphic Online, allAfrica
Photo: Flickr