Monday, December 8, 2014

Working For Women In Ghana

By: Megan Laird
Produced & Edited By: Andrew Davis

Photo © A Ban Against Neglect
         A Ban Against Neglect, commonly known as ABAN, is an organization in Ghana that works to empower women in a most unique way.The founders of ABAN, Callie Brauel, Emmanuel Tetteh Quarmyne and Rebecca Brandt saw a unique opportunity in the form of litter on the streets of Accra, Ghana. What was at one point a mock Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in an NGO Management Class at the University of Ghana turned into an actual business, in which the three founders worked to sell up-cycled products in order to help the women of Ghana. According to Brauel,
         “We went from a class project trying to help fund two other nonprofits on the ground in Ghana to starting our own nonprofit that was focused on the economic empowerment of young homeless women through giving them a job, a safe place to sleep, and way to save.”

A Growing Organization

         ABAN was started in 2008 and now has 19 employees and three interns on two different continents. The former college students that started it were able to turn a dream into a reality, and have seen success in Ghana. According to Brauel, “We have gotten support from several large companies in Ghana, created a Ghana Advisory Board, and have partnered with numerous schools to initiate recycling programs.”
         From fall of 2008 to the summer of 2010, ABAN sold their products to support Accra’s youth. The founders of ABAN then won the Carolina Challenge, a prestigious business competition at Universityof North Carolina-Chapel Hill (Callie’s original university before studying abroad), the funding from which allowed ABAN to become a registered non-profit.
         The actual process of creating the beautiful handbags, jewelry and other products from ABAN involves up-cycling water sachets (the main source of litter in Accra) and combining them with recycled glass and traditional Ghanaian batik fabrics. The proceeds from the goods directly benefit the young mothers who are enrolled in ABAN’s school. The ABAN school is an entrepreneurial school that seeks to empower and transform the beneficiaries to develop themselves and their community. According to Brauel, the women selected are those,
         “…Willing to commit two years to breaking the cycle of poverty, changing their lives and preparing for a more participative role in their communities and society. Because the women are in a resident environment, ABAN is able to focus on developing a sense of self-confidence by teaching a basic educational curriculum, developing vocational and social skills, money management, and counseling in nutrition, and physical and mental health.”
         Doris Darkwah, the Programs Coordinator in Ghana, discussed some big moments in her time with ABAN, “When they show up for training day in, day out, that tells me they are willing to make a change in their lives and that makes me proud. A peculiar big day for me is usually their graduation day.”
         Darkwah also noted her main fear for the women of Ghana, “My fear is that most of them will not reach the peak of their potential because of cultural restrictions placed on them.”
Photo © A Ban Against Neglect

Helping Others

         ABAN fights to break down these restrictions, and educate the women and young mothers about gaining their independence, often from men.
The organization has a staff in both Ghana and the United States, working to spread ABAN’s message and help the girls of Ghana. According to Operations Manager, Mary Kathryne Hutton,
         “While our Ghana operations focus primarily on program planning and implementation, as well as production of our products, ABAN’s US office focuses primarily on sales and fundraising to sustain our programs.” 
         New programs are constantly being initiated, all working towards the bigger cause. One such program being ABAN Women’s Empowerment, or AWE, which consists of many stages and different accomplishments ABAN hopes to reach. According to Executive Director Janine de Nysschen, ABAN is currently experiencing one of it’s biggest leaps in terms of growth, “almost quadrupling intake numbers” and “expanding it’s overall community impact.”
         She also spoke of what ABAN has planned for its program future.
“Program-wise, ABAN will expand into the area of social entrepreneurship so that we can take our self-funding, which currently is around 35% to 40% of what we do, and raise that to being able to fund 60% of everything we do.”

Other Goals

Photo © A Ban Against Neglect
         ABAN fights to not only help women, but also to help the environment, making them multi-dimensional in their efforts.           
         Furthermore, they execute their cause in such a manner that is unique and beautiful; and they are creating products that are in demand and well liked. Among the staff’s favorite items that ABAN produces were the tote bags, computer and iPad cases, cosmetic bags and wine bags. Nysschen spoke of what she feels is ABAN’s strength as an organization.
         “ABAN has a strong sense of purpose; our core reason for doing what we do is to help people and things achieve a renewed sense of worth. That's why we can work with young women from very disadvantaged backgrounds, and yet we see in them their potential, their true value. It's also why we have a heart for recycling and nurturing our environment.”
         Co-founder Emmanuel Tetteh Quarmyne spoke of the impact he sees of ABAN on the women of Ghana. “I see it in their everyday lives. For most of the girls who I saw and recruited on the street it is fulfilling for me to see them gain employment and a monthly income that enables them to take care of themselves, their children, their dependent family and the community.”
         Emmanuel’s hope for the future of ABAN is to see it not only grow bigger but to empower up to 100 girls in every session. This goal, while ambitious, is not unrealistic for this unique non-profit.
         ABAN defies the norms of a business, having been started by three college students, and having grown to the magnitude to which it is today. The impact of ABAN is seen through the women in the programs and their success stories, the beauty of the products, the impact on the surrounding society and the satisfaction of the staff involved.

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