Fighting discrimination and abuse through the use of media
The road to the Volta region from Ghana’s capital Accra is lined with tilapia farms fringing Lake Volta and beautiful cotton trees in bloom. It’s a bumpy three hour drive to Likpe Senior High School in Mate; the Todome hill fills the horizon with Togo lying just beyond. Teenage girls are making the long daily walk to collect water, while young boys no older than six or seven sell mushrooms by the roadside.
Sitting under the shade of the biggest tree in the school grounds, Charity, Rose, Constance, Beatrice and some of the other members of the Girls Making Media (GMM) club talk excitedly about how they are educating other students to join their fight against discrimination and abuse. Many of the club’s 56 members – which includes 15 boys – are in exam mode, having just come from sitting end of term tests, but their commitment to Akasanoma, or “Talking Bird” as the club is known, is palpable.
Supported by their patrons, economics teacher Phidelia and language teacher Vivian, the students – mostly aged between 15 and 19 - describe how they are acquiring new skills and benefiting from being mentored by professional Ghanaian journalists and broadcasters who give up their time to share their expertise. "I can now write a report, write an article, use a camera," explains Beatrice. "When I was not part of the club, I couldn’t interview anyone."
Plan Ghana supports seven Girls Making Media projects in different parts of the country but the principle behind them all is the same: to equip members with the basic media and technology skills to raise awareness of gender equality and other key issues facing young people in Ghana.
Akasanoma’s current focus is on child labour; the price of cocoa in the region is poor and so children are being used to smuggle one of the country’s main exports into neighboring Togo where it can be sold for more. "People don’t suspect children," says the club’s president Vera. "Children under 18 are given work they’re not supposed to, like working in people’s houses. The moment you are preventing a child from attending school, that’s child labour," she went on emphatically.
Like any professional organization, the clubs have a formal structure with annual elections for the roles of president, secretary, treasurer and others. Members meet twice a week to discuss the latest hot topic and read out news items of international and national interest at school assembly. At Asesewa Senior High School in the Eastern region, the GMM club’s campaign against gender discrimination led to a swapping of chores so that boys now do the sweeping and scrubbing, girls clean the blackboards and do the weeding.
Lillipearl is the club’s very eloquent president: "In Ghana, too many people think that education is for the boys. They think we girls can only cook and clean. But that’s never true," she said. "In this town, we have realized that many girls drop out of school, often for financial reasons, so as a club we have an action plan to bring at least five girls back to school by holding one to one discussions with the parents and by organizing a girls’ football match to highlight the problem."
The Asesewa club’s motto is "We learn, write and inform." All over Ghana, Girls Making Media representatives – male and female - are flying the flag for citizen journalists everywhere.
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