African Press Association

Worst tragedies inspire best Ghana empowerment scheme

Asige founder Dorcas Apoore with beneficiary women

ACCRA, (CAJ News) – LOSING 13 siblings to sickness and hunger rates among the worst horrors any youngster can ever go through.
That, exacerbated by the hardships of growing up in a poverty-stricken, polygamous family going to bed on an empty stomach or sleeping without a roof over their head, literary, is horrifying enough to torment any youngster for the rest of their life.
In Ghana, all these tragedies a young woman has endured have emerged the inspiration behind a life-changing scheme that is fighting poverty and empowering girls and women in Ghana.
Only four years ago, Dorcas Apoore, was wallowing in poverty, her dream of education in tatters.
Thanks to a timely intervention, she now heads one of the most ambitious projects aimed at eliminating poverty and promoting the education of the girl child in the West African country.
Through her own education, she is breaking the cycle of poverty she was born into and unlocking opportunities for herself and others, including the disabled.
In an interview, the 22-year-old relived growing up under harsh circumstances that had her future seemingly doomed.
“I grew up in a polygamous family where I am the 23rd child of my father,” said Apoore, born in the Akafua village under Bongo District of the Upper East Region, said.
“Due to large family size coupled with poverty, we hardly had food or a place to lay our heads. I remember sleeping in a thatch roof and any time it is raining it looks like it is raining inside the room too.”
Schooling wasn’t easier either as she recalls walking bared footed with torn dresses to school.
“I remember wearing my first sandals in Grade 4. All my other siblings dropped out of school.”
She also remembers helping her mother fetch firewood, vending in the streets and doing menial work in town and mining sites during holidays to enable her raise money for her studies.
“When I completed Senior High school in 2013, I knew that was the end of my education for I couldn’t have afforded my university education fees.”
The biggest tribulation for the family came after 13 of her siblings succumbed to sickness and malnutrition.
“There was constant fear in the house because you don’t know who was going to die next,” she reminisced.
The youngster described growing up in a poverty-stricken home as the worst form of suffering.
“You want to be a different person but you cannot be. I grew up in the survival mode.”
Apoore nevertheless draws inspiration from such ordeals.
“I started taking independent decisions for myself at an early age.”
The turnaround from abject poverty to heading a major non-governmental organisation has been phenomenal, thanks to the intervention of MasterCard and the Campaign for Female Education (Camfed), which selected her as a beneficiary and committed to paying her school fees.
“The past three years has been the most improved and comfortable part of my life. I no longer worry about what to wear or eat.”
That perhaps is an understatement.
Today, besides being a final-year university student, Apoore is at the helm of Advocacy for Social Inclusion and Girls Education (Asige), founded in 2014.
The organisation empowers women and youth through skills development.
Among breakthroughs, over 2 000 boys and girls have been reached through a programme to curb teenage pregnancies. In addition, Asige has being providing material support and financial assistance to six teenage mothers the organisation has send back to school.
An ongoing project trains women on skills in basketry using waste rubber and straw to make colourful bags and baskets that have taken the country by storm. They are making a living in the trade of Shea butter.
Women are also trained on savings and business development.
Asige, which is steered by a group of six volunteer experts, has facilitated the opening of bank accounts for over 60 women and paid their opening balances.
“With this the women can save to eliminate poverty at the community level,” Apoore said.
Some 133 women, including two physically-challenged women, are among beneficiaries of the AsigeFund, which has won $500 from The Pollination Project, which has been used to purchase material for women.
Another key project is atree planting project, at a pilot phase, in Bongo where trees with economic value are grown also to empower the underprivileged.
“This will also help eliminate environmental degradation and contribute to climate change adaptation,” Apoore added.
The empowerment of women has ever been close to her heart since her dejection at seeing her mother struggle to raise her family.
“We relied on receiving. Each time someone gave to my mother, it opened an inner door of inert happiness in the family that day. I realised the act of giving sustains people and gives them happiness. I vowed that when I grow up I will give to less privileged women like mother.”
“We are teaching women how to find the food themselves which is sustainable than what I received from people with my mother,” she added.
Funds permitting, Asige has a ten-year strategic plan that aims to reach out to 500 000 to help eliminate poverty.
“We seek to achieve a world where women and girls can live peacefully through sustainable skills development,” the empowerment advocate stated.
The accolades Apoore and Asige have received are worthy recognition of the impact founder and company has transforming the lives of women in this country of 28 million people, 49 percent of them female.
Among the most prominent are the Women Commissioner of University for Development Studies for 2016 and the Camfed Ghana Woman of the Year for 2017, bestowed on Asige.
“Growing up and seen my mother suffering due to lack of education and employment, it inspires me to form an organization which can save other women from such and also see girls been educated and can cater for themselves and their society at large,” Apoore concluded.
– CAJ News