Time flies… And so did we: Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg – by now the whole German team has returned to cold and snowy Germany. And even though we had to face one or the other obstacle on our way, we can proudly look back on what all of us have achieved.
Also, we can comfortably wait for what’s ahead of us, as we have found a great team and grown into a real Boa Nnipa-Family within the past seven months.

Kopie von IMG_3313

Nevertheless, not everything was and is easy… As Carla already mentioned in her last entry, especially the Ghanaian bureaucracy gave us a lot of headache. As you might know, we are (and were already) working with the permission of the Ghana Education Service to teach in each and every basic school all over Ghana, within the scope of our Sexual-Education program. And until then we’ve never been troubled for other documents, nor have we been told by authorities that we might need special documents, in order to continue with our project.

But the day came, that one headmistress wouldn’t allow us to teach in her cluster of schools, unless we were able to show her permissions of sub-departments of the Education Service, in charge of the area her school was located at.
For this matter it is important to know, that similar to the German system of “Bundes-, Landes-, Regional- and Kommunalebene”, the Ghanaian Education Service too, is divided into many sub-departments that work more or less independently.
So we had to learn the hard way how (and how slowly) this system works by going through each and every of these departments to receive a letter, supporting the one we got from the headquarters of the Ghana Education Service. If Ghana teaches you anything, it’s definitely to have patience and tolerance. This is why Sammy and I, but especially Sammy, spent hours and hours in offices, sweet-talking to officers and trying to convince them to issue a letter, allowing a program to operate that had already been allowed to operate on a national level. Despite the inconvenience this procedure meant for us and the time we lost in the process, we are now officially allowed to at least teach in every district of Accra. In future, in case our project expands, we would have to go through the whole process again in other regions – but then, that’s just the way it is. And apart from time and nerves it doesn’t cost us anything.

But enough of Ghanaian bureaucracy; let’s have a look at what we, or rather our team of teachers, have been doing until our date of departure.

IMG_2944Being responsible for the content and quality checks of the teachings, I can say that I am very pleased and really proud of the development that our teachers have undergone. Seeing them on their first days of teaching and seeing them now is just two different worlds. All of them are confident, not only with the content they are teaching, but also in their appearance. They have developed teaching methods and metaphors in a way we could’ve never done. They have authority, while still being like a brother, sister or friend to the students. And in each and every lesson we can see, that when Nelson Mandela said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.“, he was right on point. We see that the kids happily accept the opportunity to listen to their native language, to ask questions in their native language; the opportunity to understand – especially when it comes to such a personal topic as sexuality and sexual education. We can see that what we are doing has an impact. Maybe not on all of the 8000 kids we have reached out to so far, but definitely on some, probably on many. We see it in their faces while we teach and in the questions that they ask.
And then there are some individual stories, which make us happy and show us even more that we are on the right track, even though it’s a bumpy road sometimes.
There’s the seventeen-year old girl who got pregnant at age 15, dropped out of school due to the pregnancy (but also because of being ashamed) and lost her child after birth. She took part in our first seminar, because she wanted to educate her peers, so that they could learn from her story. But she also got to understand that she is not alone with her fate and that something similar could’ve happened to anyone, anywhere. She is now preparing to go back to school to continue her education and is still in regular contact with our team.

IMG_4175There’s a sixteen-year old boy, whom our team taught in school and who later told us, that because he was educated on his sexual rights, he decided for himself that, due to his religious beliefs, he wanted to stay virgin until he gets married, even though his peers were trying to pressure him into his first sex-adventure.
And then there’s the little girl that is being abused by the husband of her older sister, but never dared to tell anybody, because she didn’t want to destroy her sisters marriage. She turned to our teachers for help, who have now referred her to our co-op-partner, the Ark Foundation, which takes care of victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Of course, we will never know all the stories and if and in what way we influence the lives of the thousands of other kids that we’ve taught already and of those we will be teaching in future, but then even if it was just for the three of them, for me, it would’ve perfectly been worth all the time and effort.

If I look back now, I can say that we’ve achieved all that we wanted and more than I thought we would in this short time and that Carla, Jeff, Antonia, Nina and I can return to Germany with piece of mind, because we know that our project is safe in the hands of Sammy, Agyengo, Kamara, Mary, Nico, Augustina and our new intern Axel.

IMG_4938
Good Bye Ghana, Helloooo Germany!

- Ragna

I’m a 35-year-old woman, married. I’m selling plantain chips on the roadside. My husband is a contractor and therefore the main breadwinner. We have 3 children already, but my husband insists on having at least 6 more. I don’t really want to have more children, but if I express that feeling my husband beats me and threatens to marry somebody else.

IMG_1698

This is one of the identities, the participants of our sexual education seminar had to think themselves into. In our seminars, we always focus on Sexual Rights. The “Identity game” puts the participants in a situation where they have to identify the different ways one can be denied of his or her sexual rights, autonomously.

The women you see on the streets of Accra are loud, laugh a lot and are not afraid at all to fight with anybody, no matter man or woman. Women are important breadwinners for their families and play an essential role for the economy. They account for 80% of the subsistence economy in Ghana.

However, gender stereotypes are deeply rooted in the society and conservative structures can be found in most of the Ghanaian households: Within the ‘extended families’ women take care of the children and the typical house works, while men are typically the heads of the families and the ones making decisions. Violence against women, especially domestic violence is still an undeniably big topic in Ghana. And if we take a look at manager positions in big companies or seats in the parliament, what we see are mainly men. (Not to say that this is a typical Ghanaian Problem. Just take a look at Germany!)

In the younger generations some of these old-fashioned behaviors and ways of thinking are changing. But still, even in relationships of young people, most Ghanaian girls expect their boyfriends to buy them mobile phones and spend a lot of money on drinks and food.
The guys in return don’t hesitate to call or whistle at any girl walking by on the street, holding her arms firmly, even if she doesn’t want it.

Closing the gap between the chances in life a man has, compared to those of a woman is one of the aims Boa Nnipa is working toward to. Through our seminars we give young Ghanaians a chance to take part in solving the root causes of problems in their society, rather the being the root cause themselves. In order to achieve this goal it is essential to create gender equality at work as well. In our last seminar we were therefore looking for two new women to team up with our two teachers Kamara and Nico.

Due to the experiences we had made with young Ghanaian women, being a bit close-lipped, uninterested and shy to talk about topics like sex, we were a bit skeptical at the beginning, whether we could really find two women who would fit our expectations.
The six young women that took part in our seminar showed us that our fear was definitely

14797_458810064178796_479092959_n

unwarranted. Most of them were really interested, actively participating in all the discussions and games and even had some prior knowledge on the topic. Although it is hard to describe what made

the difference, I can say now that the dynamic of this seminar was different compared to the other, where we had 5 guys and only one girl participating. With Mary and Augustina we have found two great new sexual education teachers who are really motivated in doing social work and therefore committed to work for Boa Nnipa for one year. Read their motivations here.

IMG_1481The great support of Kamara and Nico, who took responsibility for some of the topics made it much easier for us and is an important step towards our goal of personal sustainability and the independent work of the Ghanaian Boa Nnipa team.

It’s been three weeks since our new teams have started teaching. With double the amount of classes they have been able to reach out to 1700 children, just in one month. In these lessons it has already shown several times how important it is for the children to have one teacher of their own sex around to ask personal question. Especially the girls, who ask a lot of questions about menstruation, like to talk to Augustina and Mary personally, because they are mostly feeling shy to ask these questions in front of the class.

In the meantime Sammy and Agyengo, our two project coordinators, are diligently working on fixing dates with the schools to fill up the teachers schedules. Beside that, they have started to do an evaluation in order to get an idea of the level of influence our teachings have on the children. The Ghanaian bureaucracy and the educational system in general have complicated matters for them, time and time again. Read about this in our next blog!

- Carla

We’re back in full swing after a joyful Christmas-and-New-Year’s-Break. Naturally, the end of the year is a time for self-reflection. Suddenly you feel the necessity of reliving moments of the past 12 months; The pressing urge of contemplating about the many ups and downs; And the indispensable need to ask yourself if some things could have gone better, or what exactly it was that made some moments seem so positive and rewarding, yet others so negative and shitty.

In comes New Year’s Eve and with it the chance to do things right this time, to improve situations or pledge to continue following a successful path.

We as an organisation have also been doing our fair share of introspective and came up with two New Year’s resolution that will hopefully help to achieve our aims:

Evaluation
One of those aims has always been to put quality over quantity. And though we set ourselves lofty expectation, in terms of the amount of students we want to reach out to (8000), we’ve always felt a stronger obligation to have an effective and sustainable impact on the (sexual-) life of a few, rather than scratching on the surfaces of many.

This sounds awesome on paper, but poses real difficulties in real life. It’s just that ‘effective impact’ is really hard to measure, given that we hope to entice a change of perception, or even behaviour, in very limited time.
Still, we have realized that one of the measures we can take is – plain and simple – the good ol’ testing of knowledge. We want to evaluate an adequate sample size of students and, through targeted questioning, hopefully find out if we have been able to transport our values and the basic sexual knowledge that we believe every human being in the 21st century should have.
Albeit, this is not the answer to the riddle, it will give us a sufficient assessment of our teaching units and help to lay a foundation, on which we can build further evaluations. The results of the first round of evaluation will be released in early March, but don’t worry you’ll hear it here first.

Commitment
After losing the services of Cliff and Evelyn due to job opportunities (I was tempted to write “the gruesome cold hands of the corporate world” ultimately deciding against it, because it might would’ve been a little bit over the top…well… there… I said it anyway) we found ourselves in a bit of a personnel shortage. However, due to the great efforts of our remaining teachers, Nicholas and Kamara, we we’re able to keep our pace, finishing of the year – or two and a half month, I should say – in style: 17 schools, 69 classes, 2343 students, 3 zillion gallons of sweat, 2 five day seminars, 1 teacher training and masses of condoms!

Still, the fact remained that we were down two teachers and had yet to decide how we could effectively avoid further teacher dropouts. It was clear to us that, in order to find new teacher that would commit for a longer period of time, it was inevitable to minimize the factors that had led to Cliff and Evelyn leaving us. We had to accept, that applying the same standards we had set for ourselves (=voluntarism) to the economical situation over here in Ghana, just wasn’t working. We had hoped that our teachers would find enough time beside their engagements with Boa Nnipa to do part time work and earn extra money, in order to satisfy their financial needs, but the truth of the matter is: there are no 400 Euro jobs, no BAföG and most of the time no financial support by the families, at least not to the extent where young people can go and follow their desire to be socially active.

To us, expanding the working hours to almost fulltime and increasing the teacher’s allowance to 300 Cedi (125 euro) serves as a good way to enable our teachers to fully commit to their   developmental work for Ghana, without losing integrity, in terms of the social aspect being the primary motivation. Of course, we could have also gone the other way by cutting down the working hours and getting more people on board, but that in our opinion would have decreased the quality of our teachers and maximised the amount of energy we would have to spend, in order to get everything and everyone organized, up-dated and truly taken care of.

The tricky thing about new years resolutions is, of course, that they tend to be broken. But not this year… we promise!

- Jeff

Facing the winter break, it is time to look back on some challenging, work-intensive but nevertheless awesome three months of working with and for EBAN here in Ghana.
This week our teachers went to their last classes before the exam-time begins and the students go on their Christmas- and new-years-holiday. So far we have reached out to more than 2000 students and spread our knowledge and values among them.
In two one-week seminars we trained our four teachers as well as at least five multipliers and contact persons on the matter of sexuality and sexual education. We held our first workshop for school-teachers, formed co-operations and, together with our teachers and supporters, developed new ideas and plans to spread our knowledge not only in day-schools, but also within boarding-schools and church-groups as a part of adult education.

All in all, I would say that we have accomplished what we had planned for

IMG_9402a

and that looking back, we can be proud of what we have achieved as a team, the development each and everyone of us has gone through and of how we have grown together.
Still, from January onwards, we will have to make some changes and improvements concerning our content as well as our structural work. On this note we’ll talk some other time though.
It is also time to cherish the work our colleagues are doing back in Germany to keep our project going and to improve Boa Nnipa as a whole.
Our team around Antonia, Nina and Matthias is – excuse my language – working their asses off to keep us going, to make us greater. And we are damn happy and even more proud to have them in our midst and about the awesome work they pull up beside jobs, university studies and the little time they have left for their private lives!

61343_443785335681269_39078615_n

Lately, our team in Germany has gathered more people who support us with their knowledge, their skills and their time. We have designers, helping us with new flyers, info-sheets and appreciation cards for supporters, we have people taking care of our website and our various internet-platforms, nurses, assisting us with regards to content and many other people supporting us with all the “little” things.
While we are spreading our knowledge and values over here, Antonia, Nina and Matthias are working to improve Boa Nnipa’s structure and efficiency, raise funds as well as awareness and share our ideas with like-minded people.
For the past two months and the upcoming months until the end of February 2013, they have been (and will be) participating in a program called ‘start social’. This program, under the patronage of 148458_432884870104649_427484540_nGerman chancellor Angela Merkel, supports young project-makers, NGO’s and socially engaged people to improve and professionalize their work by providing them with a team of professionals who voluntarily counsel those social projects.
As we wanted, our coaches Maria and Arno are especially helping us to improve our fund raising skills, but they also help us to improve our structure and working efficiency in general. In weekly meetings the five of them work on the challenges we face. Antonia, Nina and Matthias are loaded with tasks they have to work on and complete until the following week. So far they have already improved our working structure in Germany as well as in Ghana, have made aim-oriented plans for the future and held a presentation in front of other ‘start-social’ participants.

I’d like to end with a word to our German team:
We are truly excited to see what else you are going to do and achieve and we look forward to learn from you when we are back. And I can’t say it enough, even if you don’t want to hear it, we don’t take what you do for granted, we couldn’t imagine anyone better for the job you do and we can’t wait to have you here to finally show you what we and what you are doing all this for!

- Ragna

P.S.: We wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
And oh, we finally did get our passports back and we are allowed to stay – as volunteers! :)

On the way to the “Kwashieman Junction”, where we usually buy our foodstuff, we have to climb some stairs, which are all of different height. I don’t know how this happened. There might be a deeper sense behind it, which I don’t see. But it was most probably the sloppiness of the constructor.
It doesn’t matter anyway, because I doubt that anybody but us even cares.

Why am I telling you about the stairs? Because nobody cares!
If it was only for the stairs, no problem.
But just as unsteady as the stairs are, are the regulations and moods of many of the Ghanaian officials. And that’s what we just had to learn the hard way and what this story is about: A word i just looked up in the dictionary and probably never forget: arbitrariness
Actually it’s also about boundless belief in authority, as a reason for the arbitrariness.

But just read it yourself…

Last week Jeff, Ragna and I had to go to the ministry of Immigration to extend our visa, which will expire in a few days. Jeff’s application was approved, whereas mine, which was handled by another officer wasn’t. As our current occupation we had stated “volunteer”. But apparently the lady didn’t agree with that. Thus, she asked me to apply for a working permit, which would have been much more expensive and complicated to apply for. When we advised her on the fact that Jeff’s application had just been approved, she certainly canceled it as well. That’s how we started a discussion, given that everybody had told us different formalities and the homepage stated something else anyway. And then, at the moment they admitted that we actually are working as volunteers, the regulations changed again and even volunteers needed a working permit. I don’t have to tell you the rest of the one hour discussion.

The reason why those officials can just set up their own rules and why we had to leave the office without an extension of our visa is the daily Ghanaian mantra: never question authority! But where does this boundless belief in authority come from? People might call it a typical African habit.

I thought about that and was reminded of some good manners like respect for the elderly, which are deeply rooted in the Ghanian culture: In most Ghanian families you can still be seen as a child, even when you are getting to your 30′s. What still counts when you are talking to an elderly person is: obey! You’ve got a younger sister or brother? Good! Don’t hesitate to send them around to buy something or wash your clothes for you.

Another thing that comes into my mind is the ex-cathedra teaching you’ll observe in many Ghanaian schools. Children are not taught to ask questions, but to learn by heart what they are told by the authority, their teachers.

But then, the reason for it might be something totally different. I would probably have to write a dissertation to fully understand. Luckily, there is still some other work to do for Boa Nnipa and you won’t have to read more explanation attempts of a political science student, who starts to miss her university.

But I hope, I was able to give you an impression of the problems we’re facing here from time to time and the questions that come along with it.

- Carla

We’re closing in on the end of week three since the official start of our sexual education project EBAN. It’s been an exhausting couple of weeks with lots of fun, some frustration, laughter and A LOT of sweat. So far we have been able to reach out to more than 1100 pupils. With dignity and little pride I now present to you some insights into the work of our beloved teachers.

One thing of great value for our work is the right atmosphere. We pride ourselves in creating an environment in which questions can be asked freely with no restrains or any double thoughts. Our teachers successfully picked up that mentality, courtesy of the very personal contributions by many pupils and the many funny moments we encountered.

Cliff for example likes to think of himself as an older brother, who shares some of his experiences and knowledge with younger ones.

Kamara jumps up and down, climbs chairs and sometimes even threatens to demonstrate the correct use of a condom on himself.
I really think we’ve been successful in making pupils understand that this is not about random knowledge they need to learn in order to pass the next exam, but solely about them and their very lives.

The teachers actively participate pupils by encouraging them to try things out and assist when ever the need is apparent. The intention behind this is to dissolve fear and overblown respect for condoms, the pill, sanitary pads and other items associated with sexuality. Those things should come naturally.

We were able to see how well the information and general message provided by our seminar have stuck with our teachers. They do a pretty good job of bringing across the various information in an interesting and educative way. However, each one of them has a special topic on which he or she likes to emphasis on and an individual way of doing so. They created their own style, their own analogies and their own language, thus making it  not only interesting for their listener, but also for themselves.

The „Charter on Sexual and Reproductive Rights“ forms the manifestation of our approach to sexuality and of course the way we go about sexual education. It practically hovers above everything we do in EBAN.
During the seminar our teachers found a catch phrase that has become some kind of mantra ever since: Freedom of choice.


I’d like to officially welcome our new companions Evelyn, Kamara, Cliff and Nico on this journey. It’s been fun so far, but there is still a very steep path ahead of us.

We’re getting there….

-Jeff

Two really exciting, wonderful and educative, but also quite exhausting weeks lie behind us by now. We are through with our first two sexual education-seminars.

The first seminar, being held in Tuba, with and for our cooperation NGO Nima e.V., was already quite different due to the purpose we went there. Not to educate our own volunteers who’d be working for us, but to educate multipliers, such as teachers and social workers, who will now be contact persons on the subject of sexuality and especially sexual education in that community.
At first nothing went quite as we planned it to be – there were far more people than we had expected, some of those we had expected were missing and close to nobody was on time.
Nevertheless we had a really nice first day with lots of fun and got a first overview of what to expect within the following week.
From the second day on, we had rearranged our time-schedule, compromised the content of the seminar according to that schedule and the group of participants had decreased to a steady number of four:
Ayuba, whom we already introduced earlier on, Hickma, one of the social workers of Nima e.V. and “mother” of the attached Orphanage, Raf, one of the teachers of Günther Frey International School and Bridget, a 17-year old girl who said she participated in order to educate her friends, family and peers on the subject of sexual education, so they wouldn’t make the same “mistakes” she did.
The seminar in Tuba was a very personal one, there was a lot of knowledge exchange, we shared experiences and ideas and discussed a lot. Controversial topics were for example prostitution, abortion, masturbation and especially homosexuality. But even though we had quite opposing opinions sometimes, we never really fought, nor had it an impact on the overall friendly atmosphere and most importantly we could agree on the right of individual choice.
I think I can speak for all of us when I say that I was most impressed of how openly and easily the four of them spoke about sexuality and all the topics related to it, even though all of them said they had never done so before.
Already during the seminar we discussed about how things would go on in Tuba. As of now the plan is to approach the elders and parents of Tuba first, before it comes to teaching the children in school. Ayuba, who is going to be responsible for the actions in Tuba, said he, together with his colleagues, will organize the next necessary steps and then get back to us for further planning. We have already scheduled a meeting for next week.

 

 

The second seminar, which ended only this Saturday, was different all together. Maybe it was because we were better prepared and less nervous, maybe we had more time, maybe just because it was a different setting and different people, but really the atmosphere was a different one. Friendly and very personal as well, but to me it seemed a little more professional – at least at times.
Throughout the week we worked with a team of five, unfortunately with only one woman, as the other ladies who wanted to participate just didn’t show up:


Evelyn, a business administration-graduate and one of our closest friends, Bruce and Camara, both of whom are teachers at the Günther Frey Int. School in Tuba and whom Muda released from their duties for a period of six months in order to work with us, Nicholas, who actually is an electric engineer and also stays with us and Cliff, who already helped us with organisational stuff before the seminars even started.
Within the six days we talked about and worked on the topics of anatomy, pregnancy and birth, puberty as well as safer sex and family planning. We focused on sexual rights and how to interact with the children, especially on how to create an atmosphere in which the children feel comfortable to ask whatever question might arise.
Our team created teaching-concepts and working materials for the classes 5 and 6 as well as for classes 7-9.
The test-teaching on the last day of the seminar went quite well, but of course there still is some room for improvement. But then on the other hand, where isn’t?! So we’ll be working on the last problems until next week and the rest will surely come with time. Practice makes perfect.

 

What I was really surprised with, especially after the seminar in Tuba, was that our opinions on sensitive topics, such as homosexuality, hardly differed. On the other hand we had quite controversial discussions on the topic of abortion and especially one about the role of woman (in a relationship), where we really didn’t get to one point.
Still, I was impressed of how generally smooth all discussions went, of how similar our opinions and ideas on and of the different topics were, of how easily, openly and honestly everybody talked about all of those topics, even in spite of some religious and/or cultural differences.
All in all I would say, that we have a wonderful team now and great time ahead of us.

 

- Ragna

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.