Third time seems to be the charm – I had a successful Girls’ Club meeting! The previous times, girls forgot or showed up an hour late. That is life here though. In the village (I cannot speak for the cities), you have to remind people the day before and expect them to be late anyway. It is nothing personal, that is just how time here moves. I, however, hate waiting and seven months in country has not changed that. Upon finding out I was placed in Ghana, a former colleague (who lived here for five years) said to me, “Maria, you are going to have to slow down.” Oh how right she is!
So, imagine my surprise when my co-facilitators and three girls showed up EARLY! I allowed a fifteen minute window for others to arrive and ended up with about sixteen girls and some women.
This time, I decided to do an actual activity (without telling them what, to see who was serious about this club) instead of trying to formalize the group. That was my mistake for trying to have a meeting where decisions were to be made. It was too early for that. For this gathering, I taught them how to make soap. This may attract more girls to come and understand the purpose of forming a club. Watch this space – I hope more girls come next time (June 12!). The point of soap making is to sell what they make. To be able to make a little bit of money for themselves. Young girls in Ghana have it very difficult – their education is not prioritized and their needs often overlooked. Usually due to lack of knowledge on their elders’ part. How can you blame parents if they themselves do not know what is important either? Empowerment and education are the reasons for starting this girls’ club.
I also took the opportunity to present the idea of doing savings and loans. Not with the set up as a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA), in that there will be separate, individual savings accounts and a central loans account. With the individual savings accounts they can work towards saving up for specific items (e.g. books, school supplies, menstrual pads) or other business ideas. I am still figuring out how best to run the loans side of this. I also did not want to have a single pay out period at the end a of a long cycle. I want them to be able to access their earnings as and when they need it. Also, learn the consequences if they spend frivolously. Who knows if this will take off but at least the option is there.
At the very end, I did have them decide on one thing – a club name. They voted for Tusuŋ ni Taba, which means “Let’s Help Each Other.” ❤