Gabriella Wumnaya visited Red Deer recently as she met with her Canadian counterparts that work with her and other Ghanaians to bring girls’ education to the northern region of Damongo.
Wumnaya has witnessed firsthand the difference that an education can make in a woman’s life in Ghana, specifically in the northern region where the Tools for Schools Africa Foundation is based.
“The uneducated woman knows she has to wake up very early – sometimes 2 a.m. – to be able to walk to the farm and back. They face all sorts of risks. At the end of the month, there is no salary for her,” said Wumnaya.
“Women are not given opportunity. Parents prefer male children to girls because a girl will eventually get married – the family name will be lost, and the girl becomes the property of a different family.”
Wumnaya goes on to explain the hardships a woman with no education faces in Ghana. She says that, “This is the society we want to change,” referring to herself, other women in her community and the volunteers with Tools for Schools Africa Foundation.
Tools For Schools Africa Foundation is a network of volunteers that are dedicated to girls’ education in Ghana. Within the Foundation, there is a team of volunteers and sponsors in Canada and direct contacts like Wumnaya in the village of Damongo. The money this Foundation raises goes directly to tuition and boarding for girls to receive their education.
Wumnaya’s role in the organization has been crucial to the success of the program. Pottage said that while visiting Ghana, she saw the impressive way in which Wumnaya ran her school as a headmistress. Wumnaya helped find mentors in other villages that could be depended on to work towards educating girls.
“She worked in the only girls’ school in a very large area so we knew of her commitment to girls’ education. We knew she was the person we needed to get onside and help us,” said Pottage.
“(Wumnaya) was the link to the community who basically set us up with the empowered and trustworthy people who were really interested in girls’ education.”
Wumnaya lives in Damongo and has grown close to many of the program’s girls. She has seen some of them grow from timid, reserved young girls to empowered, independent women through their education opportunities.
When the scholarship program began, Wumnaya was crucial in helping Pottage designate the funding to girls that displayed good academics, good moral character, potential leadership skills and who have no way to continue education due to lack of financing.
“It wasn’t just about saying this is a needy girl because in this area, almost everybody is a needy person,” Wumnaya said.
The impact of the girls’ education is very strong for Wumnaya. Through her time with the organization, she has grown close to some of the students who have benefitted from the program, such as a girl named Sophia.
“Sophia gives suggestions. She is all-round. When I see her, I get really satisfied. She doesn’t exert herself as a proud person – she is humble, but she is very clear in her mind what she wants,” Wumnaya said of her past student.
“She shows leadership qualities which is something that we tried to instil in the girls, many of whom are coming up to that level. We think that by doing that, these women will be able to come back and have an impact on the type of society that we have.”
There have been many other girls who, like Sophia, began to come out of their shells after Tools for Schools Africa Foundation was able to secure their education. Young women travel all across Ghana to receive their education in Damongo and receive a unique opportunity, as women’s rights are extremely limited in Ghana.
Uneducated women become the property of the male they marry, and sometimes are one of many wives.
The wives’ duties include walking sometimes over 5km each way to a farm to help their husbands, cutting firewood, cooking meals and caring for children. Often times they receive no money, not even from their husbands, so in what little spare time they have they are crafting wares or baked goods for sale or trade.
“These girls are ready to impact our society. We have local chiefs and a traditional council and that’s where I want to work. I want to be able to let them see the need to release all girls to go to school, with our girls as examples why.”
The money and work provided by Tools for Schools Africa Foundation makes a large impact on the community they serve.
The Shine! fundraiser that will be held tomorrow is the main source of funding for girls’ tuition and boarding fees in Damongo. The purses, scarves, jewellery, art and handmade wares from Africa that are sold at the event secure the education funding for girls in junior high and high school as well as post-secondary education.
“We are very grateful to Tools for Schools Africa because they have helped tremendously. All these girls who are in the tertiary school (universities) – when we started and called them to meet, they were shy and didn’t want to talk. Now, they exert themselves and talk and we know that gradually we will have girls who can be leaders,” said Wumnaya.