One of the most personally influential things that I have experienced this week was travelling to Aburi to visit a non-governmental organization (NGO) called ABAN, which stands for A Ban Against Neglect.
Originally, the mission of ABAN was to rescue girls and young women from working in the streets of Accra and surrounding areas. The streets are a dangerous place for girls and young women to be working; many have suffered from rape, sometimes resulting in pregnancies. Some women are forced to work in the streets, however, some women choose to work in this dangerous situation because they are able to make good money. In some cases, women have chosen to not join ABAN and stay on the streets because they wanted to keep making money. This directed the organization’s decision to utilize a different methodology. Ghana Director/ Co-founder Emmanuel Tetteh Quarmyne informed us that their organization is now trying to take a more preventative approach and recruit girls who come from situations where they are most likely to turn to the streets. Their mission now is to empower young women by teaching them life skills so that they never have to turn to the streets in the first place. Women in this program can choose to be trained as a hairdresser, seamstress, or caterer. The program also consists of a reintegration process that helps the women use their new skills as a means to benefit their own communities.
This is a sewing room that the young women work in, along with some of the beautiful fabric they use!
One thing I thought was so fascinating about this organization was their method of sustainability. In order to create funds for the program the women sell handmade bags, purses, wallets, and other accessories. What makes these accessories so unique though is that they are made out of recycled water sachets with beautiful fabric sewn on them. Check out ABAN's website!
These are the water sachet bags that are collected, cleaned, and used to make accessories.
We were able to speak to many of the young women while we were visiting, their ages ranged from 18 to 22. Many of them had been participating in the program for a couple of years already, and one girl we met had actually already graduated from the program and was a successful seamstress. A few of them had children and we were also able to meet them. The fact that many of these young women were my age and have had COMPLETELY different life experiences compared to my own was very humbling.
I have been inspired to begin an organization on Grand Valley’s campus that supports ABAN. Briana Dean, Allison Knopf, and I will be working on this as our NGO project for one of our classes while we are here. I am so excited to start working on this project and to see how it develops over the next few weeks! I cannot believe that we have only been here for one week, so much has happened and so much has been learned. This is a once in a lifetime experience and I cannot wait to see where it takes me.