“The Volunteer cooperation program has played a very critical role in the life of WILDAF because when we have gaps in terms of expertise, when we have gaps in terms of staff, when we have gaps in terms of knowledge […] we get volunteers from Canada who come to Ghana, some even stay with us for over one year, helping us to put smiles on the faces of women and young girls,” Patricia Isabella Essel told the audience attending the UN 62nd Commission on the Status of Women conference “Empowering Rural Women and Girls: A Feminist Approach” organized by AQOCI.
For more than 10 years, Crossroads’ volunteers have been supporting Ghanaian rural women to tackle the many challenges they face – poverty, high incidence of gender-based violence or cruel traditional practices. Even though progressive laws have been passed in Ghana, gaps still exist in the system and the laws are not always implemented and applied as they should. On top of this issues, many women don’t know about the law or their rights and how to protect themselves from discriminatory practices.
Crossroaders are working with WILDAF to implement several programs and engage communities to change this reality. Since it was initiated in 2008, the Access to Justice Program, a program that helps women learn about their rights by training legal literacy volunteers in the domestic violence legislation, women’s rights and alternative dispute resolution, has reached 53,000 people in 140 rural communities and has engaged traditional and religious leaders, key influencers in their communities, as women’s advocates.
Crossroads volunteers are also supporting WILDAF in conducting a Court Watch to evealuate how the Domestic Violence law is being used and applied in court. Crossroader William Fortin is one of the ten volunteers currently observing six different courts in 4 regions. As a Court Watch Observer, he monitors cases of gender-based violence and domestic violence. For William, the most rewarding aspect of his work is “when someone from the community tells you you are doing a good work and they are happy you are here […] because at the end you are actually making a difference.”
Patricia concluded her presentation at the UN 62nd Commission on the Status of Women, by praising the work Crossroaders are doing in Ghana. “I would like to show our appreciation for the enthusiasm and commitment of our volunteers. If it hadn’t been for them, most of the things that we lacked would still be problematic”.