"Since I started this project, I have noticed changes in my life ... In the past, I could not identify A or B, but now I know all these things.
I know my name starts with A."


Amida Abuba, aged 24, never been to school.

It's an incredible thing seeing and hearing girls who have faced adversity, poverty and inequality - and won. Being a woman in the UK and enjoying the privileges that have been fought for by generations before me, it's easy to forget that an education is not a given, yet. And girls struggle harder across the globe to achieve this fundamental human right to learn.

Ghana is an interesting nation from a development perspective. Though cities like Accra tell a story of a booming economy and impressive numbers of young people attending university, this is not the case in the north. Many people based in municipalities like Bolgatanga struggle to feed their families, and huge numbers of girls are held back from accessing even a complete primary school education. And being held back this early on leads to girls falling into the kind of poverty that it is difficult to break free from.

International Service works in the Upper East region in northern Ghana because we know that the country’s poverty statistics don’t accurately reflect the situation for millions of people across the northern provinces. Our girls' education programme Get Set was launched to address this gender bias in education. We wanted to demonstrate to communities and families in developing regions that girls are worth the same as their male counterparts. That they are able and committed. That they deserve the chance to carve their own futures. But most importantly, we wanted to demonstrate to the girls themselves that they can.
 
And they did.

Regina Abugire, Ghanaian Get Set participant, learning how to be a seamstress

What we found whilst engaging with out-of-school girls in communities in northern Ghana is that they want the opportunity to make a future for themselves - and they want the skills to get there.

“I was interested in Get Set because I would like to become somebody in the future. By continuing to learn sewing skills, I can eventually graduate and become a seamstress. Since I left school, I have forgotten most of what I learnt at school, but now I have been refreshed. All this is helpful for the skill I am learning now.” 
Ayinbono Anaba, aged 22, junior school dropout. 

And having completed ten months of numeracy, literacy and vocational skills, 50% of them want to continue to advanced literacy and numeracy, and 99% want to continue with further vocational training! These girls and young women will start a ripple effect in their communities, which will lead to changing attitudes and norms surrounding girls' education, and role models for younger girls who think their future has little to offer them.

According to Francis Nsobila Aniah, Talensi District Coordinator of the Non-Formal Education Department of Ghana, the project has been excellent. He told us that, before Get Set, "these girls and young women were not doing anything. Now, they are busy learning a skill. They have already started to make use of the skills they have learnt. They all know how to read, write and speak English, even if the levels are not the same. I have visited the vocational training shops and some learners have reached the level where they are able to sew or weave at the same standard as their trainers and are helping to deliver orders." 

But more inspiring than Francis' belief in the programme is the girls' newly established belief in themselves. Because it's all well and good teaching a girl to read - but if she still doesn't believe in her own ability and worth, the alphabet is just some letters.

Christina Atibila, Get Set participant learning clothes weaving skills

The Get Set pilot concluded last month. 38 inspirational girls and young women were presented with their certificates at an awards ceremony (above), and all those involved in leading the project couldn't have been more proud. Proud of their bravery; their commitment; their resolve. But most importantly, there was a palpable sense at the ceremony of how proud the girls are of themselves. 

“While in Kumasi, I did not know what else to do. But since I took part in Get Set, I have gone back to class, which I found interesting because it brought my mind back to when I was a student. And then I was proud of myself. We started to learn new skills, and when I am sewing at this shop, I am always happy.”
Regina Abugire, aged 19, junior school dropout

Well, what a result.