In the Global South, the impact of COVID-19 is significantly more cruel, as the most basic prevention measure—handwashing—is not accessible to all. No running water, compounded with a surge in gender-based violence during stay-at-home orders are threatening the lives of Ghanaian women and girls.
With the support of Global Affairs Canada, Crossroads is supporting Pro-Link’s I-TRACK project: Innovative Teaching of Residents about COVID-19 Knowledge. This vital intervention responds directly to the most urgent needs: access to running water, a new source of income for women farmers, and educating the communities on preventative measures and gender-based violence issues.
COMMUNITIES FACING A HEALTH CRISIS AND A SURGE IN GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE
Pro-Link works with 1,700 marginalized girls and 200 girls with disabilities in Kadjebi and Nkwanta North. On top of increased instances of gender-based violence, the outbreak of the pandemic has shut down many of the girls’ classes and activities. Most of the women in Kadjebi are farmers who can no longer sell their produce and are forced to eat their own supply to survive.
Felicia Bachul is among the many Pro-Link beneficiaries with a disability who did not get the opportunity to attend formal school due to the stigma surrounding disability. “As a person with a disability, I am not seen and was not sent to school.” For Felicia, joining Pro-Link was a great opportunity: “I was assisted by Robert Tornu, long term Crossroads’ volunteer to read and write my name and study life skills and above all, soap and pomade making which is the vocation I learnt.”
Through the I-TRACK project, Pro-Link is training the women to produce and distribute liquid soap and provide access to running water as well as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
All hope was lost. The women had bags on bags on bags of produce going to waste. Pro-Link taught them how to make liquid soap, a huge marketing advantage for them. We are building the capacity of these women, complementing what the government is trying to educate people about. – Nana Pabi, Crossroads Volunteer, Ghana 2020
With the recent surge in asymptomatic infections, the need to enhance preventative measures is evident. To reach the general population, the health protocols were quickly translated into local languages. Pro-Link is also hosting radio programs to educate communities on the impacts of COVID-19 and spread awareness on gender-based violence issues, which are aggravated by the pandemic.
FROM FARMERS TO SOAP PRODUCERS
One hundred women and twenty men were selected from Pro-Link groups and were trained on how to produce soap for handwashing. The training equipped the participants with the skills and understanding to produce basic soap and store and distribute it. It was also an opportunity to empower the participants to assert their rights and explore the root causes of gender issues. The training included discussions, interactive activities, group work, demonstrations and on-site field visits.
BRINGING ACCESS TO RUNNING WATER
With the production of soap came the need to ensure clean water was consistently available to community members. Pro-Link worked to install Tippy Taps, a low-cost system using gallons and wooden frames to make handwashing a touch-free process. Over 200 Tippy Taps and Veronica buckets were set up in hot spot areas. A Veronica bucket, named after its Ghanaian inventor, is a mechanism for touch-free handwashing that includes a fixed bucket of water and a bowl at the bottom to collect waste.
SPREADING AWARENESS ON SAFETY MEASURES AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE
Pro-Link and Crossroads also secured radio airtime with SANKOFA and Key FM stations based at Kadjebi and Kpassa for phone-in programs to educate the general public on two key issues: combatting COVID-19 and gender-based violence. In total, 2,400 community members were reached. Weekly radio panel discussions were held, virtual meetings and text message chain helped spread the information to combat COVID-19 with monthly visits to monitor the hot spots.
In line with implementation of the I-TRACK project, 1,000 nose masks, 100 Veronica buckets and 750 sanitizers were distributed to members of twelve communities to curb and prevent spread of the virus. There is now a continued supply of liquid soap and Tippy Taps for community health facilities, schools, churches, and market centres.
EMPOWERED WOMEN AND SAFER COMMUNITIES
With the project coming to a close, women in both districts have been empowered economically and intellectually to assert their rights when it comes to resource ownership, participation in decision making and addressing sexual and gender-based violence issues. Through the trainings that took place in local languages, women were able to explore the social roots of violence, examine commonly held beliefs and myths about violence against women and understand power dynamics and control as the motivating factors for abuse.