A slum in Accra on a sunny afternoon in April. A group of women is setting up an improvised tent to protect themselves from the sun while attending an empowerment workshop. These women are part of the Obrapaa Women’s group, a group of former sex workers collectively designing and selling handmade jewelry. The group who is also acting as peer educators to carry out health campaigns related to HIV/AIDS testing and sexually transmitted infection screening for Crossroads International’s partner, Pro-Link Ghana, participated over the past few months in a series of workshops facilitated by Crossroads’ volunteers. On the afternoon I joined them, they were getting ready to attend a workshop to boost their self-esteem.
These workshops focused on skills development with beadwork, basket weaving or entrepreneurship training but not only. The Obrapaa Group also participated in yoga, wellness and self care workshops as a way to develop their self-esteem and self confidence. The group has become a safe place where women can help each other and talk about their rights, but also their day to day challenges.
Thanks to these initiatives, the Obrapaa group launched a jewelry collection that provides them with additional revenue, helping them contribute to their families’ expenses. Formerly stigmatized and marginalized in their community, they earned back respect and dignity because of their new economic activities. They are now more self-confident and know more about their rights. Prouder, they use their voice to have an impact in their community.
The work Pro-Link and our Crossroaders are doing with those women reflects the integrated approach Crossroads International promotes to achieve gender equality. I firmly believe that to advance equality we need to work on improving the economic, social and political situation of women. Empowered women have the means to overcome the challenges they face and can make their voice heard in their community. When women are economically self-sufficient, when they know their rights and have the political representation they need, they can assert their rights and demand equality. Crossroads focuses its work on those three areas because change won’t be sustainable if we don’t.
On that sunny afternoon, I met women who had regained control of their lives, women proud of what they have accomplished. Women who, a few months ago, had no self-confidence, now talk proudly about themselves. They now have hope for a brighter future for themselves and their kids.