“Tell your parents not to sell you,” was the message Bernice and Prince Ankrah and their Days for Girls team emphasized to more than 500 Ghanaian junior high school students on June 23, 2017. Tell your parents not to believe the people who want to buy you to give you a “better life,” the team told five classrooms of girls and boys in separated by gender. Eastern Washington University students have been preparing for and seeking donations for three months in anticipation of our Days for Girls day in which more than 250 girls and young women received reusable (for 3-4 years) feminine hygiene kits after a morning of sexuality and reproductive health education. They got more than they expected as they learned that poor, illiterate, naïve parents are duped by modern traffickers to sell their children because empty lies and promises.
This day was a day of empowerment for young girls as they were taught about their bodies, reproduction, empowerment and control over their lives and provided these vital kits so that they do not miss school during menstruation; oft times eventually falling behind and dropping out.
Though boys do not need the feminine hygiene kits, they are also empowered through knowledge and they are encouraged to respect themselves, the girls they associate with, and are equipped with sexual and reproductive knowledge so vital to making informed and wise choices.
The girls’ excitement was palpable throughout the day as strong Ghanaian women taught them and modeled for them a pride in their girlhood and in becoming women. The excitement when they received their kits, if possible, was greater than the excitement one associates with a child’s birthday presents.
My deepest appreciation to EWU students who did so much to collect more than 1000 pair of girls’ underpants as well as flannel and other materials for the kit worth $1500. And to the EWU faculty and others who provided monetary donations. Without EWU, this day would not have happened and 250 girls at the Nsawam Junior High School would not have access to reliable and feminine hygiene products. That’s between 750 and 1000 collective years of school EWU students have directly helped make happen.
In 35 years as a college professor, I believe unequivocally that these community learning experiences of living in a developing country and learning from these proud Ghanaians who face poverty and struggles that most people in the US cannot fathom, are an education pinnacle. On a personal level, I appreciate that this EWU group is getting to know and learn from Ghanaians who are like family to me. I thank them for choosing an education experience filled with work, living in rudimentary conditions, and immersing themselves into local Ghanaian life. They have my deep respect for choosing this unique service based experience in a developing country and trusting that it will be worth the decision.