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