Areas of Work


INCOME GENERATION

Generating income is a core part of the organization's work; for both the widows and orphans to support themselves, but also to enable the continuation of the work of the organization.

WOM provides locally relevant skills training for both widows and orphans, through which they can make a living. One of our largest and most successful projects is our basket weaving training. WOM has trained hundreds widows who are all now supporting themselves on this income. They are able to weave accurate, intricate and highly attractive designs, using many different colours. WOM employs local professional weavers to teach them. Since Bolgatanga is famous for its 'Bolga Baskets', there is a relatively reliable market for these products. Basket weaving is a fairly stable occupation; although straw prices fluctuate, the women are able to weave in any weather, look after children, and only have to make a small investment for materials.

We export some of our baskets to buyers abroad, which has been highly beneficial to the widows. When we sell baskets for the widows to fill these orders, we pay the widows a very fair amount and this covers the price of the straw, as well as their labour; this is a higher price than they are likely to obtain locally. We add on a little extra cost (under $1) as revenue for the organization to enable us to fund further training programmes. In 2010, WOM exported baskets to Denmark, Canada, and the USA. Through the craft project, WOM was invited to attend the second business fair in Tamale and the Nation Festival of Arts and Crafts (NAFAC) close the end of 2010. We also began a 250 tree mango farm plantation in Sakote that will begin producing fruit in the next few years.

Another of our successes, has been the vocational training of orphans (see Vocational Training) in cloth weaving; once they finish the course they are able to seek employment or work for themselves and start earning immediately.

Locally abundant shea nuts provide the inspiration for our shea butter project. Ten widows and 10 WOM staff successfully participated in Shea Butter Pomade Training which was facilitated by the founder and creative director of an American Cosmetics Company who met up with WOM at the Global Shea Conference in Mali.

Participants were taken through various combinations and formulas for Shea Butter Pomade making using additive such as bees wax and lavender. Production has started in commercial quantities and the sales margins are increasing by day. Finished Shea Butter Pomade products were showcased at various workshops throughout the country with good results. WOM products are also available on our website at 2011 Free Trade Products Catalogue.           


MICRO CREDIT     

Widows and Orphans Movement (WOM) has had an agreement with a group of Swiss Businessmen (Swiss Hand) for the past six years to provide Microcredit to widows. WOM has a recovery rate of 95% on the loans extended through the Microcredit Programs.


In 2010, two hundred and one (201) widows benefited from the Swiss Hand/WOM Microcredit Program.

 Depending on the strength of the widows, the following will occur:
  • Microcredit is provided between the amount of GH Cedis 50.00 to 800.00
  • Upon the advice of Swiss Hand, some widows are moved to the banks upon the following criteria
    1. The widows and orphans are faithful with WOM/Swiss Hand Microcredit, and
    2. They are collecting higher amounts of WOM Microcredit loans


VOCATIONAL TRAINING

The Widows and Orphans Movement provides a great deal of vocational training to both orphans and widows. This enables them to work for themselves or seek employment to support themselves financially. It also means they can stay within their own community and form friendships with others facing the same challenges.

If orphans are of schooling age, enrolling them in school is our priority. However, in many cases it is more practical to provide professional training. Currently our training programmes are:

  • Dress making or smock making
  • Cloth weaving
  • Hairdressing
  • Mechanics (motorbike fitting)

WOM endeavors to meet the specific needs and situation of each individual. If an orphan arrives with a specific interest we try to provide them with suitable training. The above examples are the areas in which we most often provide training.

Please look at our current Orphan Education Project which began December 2007 (in  Education); 91 children are in school and 10 are taking part in training.


Vocational Training for Widows

A large part of WOM's work is to provide training for widows so that they can support themselves financially.

Many young widows are referred to as 'widows at risk'. Among younger widows there is a high incidence of migration to the large urban centres of Accra or Kumasi in search of employment; very often, they do not succeed and instead, in their desperation, become prostitutes. The incidence of HIV infection among prostitution is alarmingly high; as high as 80%.

WOM has trained hundreds of women to weave baskets. Local professional basket weavers are employed by WOM to train the widows over the course of one year. This year so far 60 widows have completed their training and are now weaving independently.

In the past, WOM had the funds to support widows and orphans during these training courses. The organization provided a small amount of money so that the trainees were are able to buy food and basic provisions whilst they didn’t have the time to work full time. Unfortunately, the funds are no longer available for us to provide this support, and consequently some orphans have been forced to quit the training to feed themselves and their families. Please support the orphans and widows by purchasing products from our 2011 Free Trade Products Catalogue.


HIV/AIDS

The Widows and Orphans  Movement provides a safety network  and training for HIV/AIDS Infected widows and orphans as follows:

  • empowering widows with HIV/AIDS through skills training that facilitate job acquisition
  • health care support to widows and orphans with HIV/AIDS
  • skills training or educational support to HIV/AIDS orphans
  • counselling, support and advocacy for widows and orphans with or affected by HIV/AIDS
  • HIV/AIDS education for orphans, widows and communities with widows groups
TESTIMONY FOR HIV/AIDS INFECTED WIDOWS AND ORPHANS



WOM / WORLD FOOD PROGRAM PROJECT 

WOM took keen interest in the HIV/AIDS project because widows are accused of spreading the disease. Widows are not also able to harvest enough food to take them to the next season so some leave little food for their children and migrate to the south to carry loads or wash bowls for a living.

 

To curb this situation, WOM contacted the World Food Program (WFP) with a proposal for food support. The food will support the widows during their basket weaving and farming and will reduce hunger during the lean season. WOM also took an opportunity to educate many of these groups on HIV/AIDS and on person hygiene. The WFP funding is a two year program and has been approved for 33 groups.

 

 WOM has visited 13 communities on two occasions each and has done training on HIV/AIDS prevention, Personal Hygiene, Marketing and Bookkeeping. The widows took keen interest in the education and asked many questions; many offered to do the voluntary testing for HIV/AIDS.   

                         

EDUCATION

The Upper East Region (UER) of Ghana is known to be one of the poorest in Ghana. It is plagued by high illiteracy rates, high unemployment (especially for women), poor soil, erratic rainfall, drought and environmental disasters. Combined with low female school enrolment, violence against women, harmful cultural practices, high dowry, early marriages, and widowhood rites, have a direct bearing on the participation of women and children such as decision-making and control of resources. Widows and their children are some of the most vulnerable people in this region. When children lose their father, the mother and children are very often plunged into the harshest poverty with no land to farm or capital to trade. More specifically, when a father dies, his family often reclaims his assets from the mother, leaving his wife and children destitute.

There are laws in Ghana to protect women but the traditional practice in the UER dictates that  women do not have the right to own property, including land. Many widows are young due to early marriages and the practice of polygamy. WOM is dedicated to decreasing harmful traditional practices (Human Rights).

Children are often forced to quit school since there is no income to pay for school fees, uniforms, books and shoes. Some quit school because they are forced to spend their day searching for a meal or looking for odd jobs. Without an education these children have no hope of escaping the cycle of poverty into which they have been plunged by their father's death. Nor will they have a viable means of supporting their current family members or their own future families. This is why WOM wants to encourage and support orphans to go to school and pursue viable careers.

WOM has not left out widows and orphans with disabilities. Some have benefited in training , microcredit and some are continuing their schooling. We also encourage them to register with the Doha Development Agency (DDA), their mother association, for more support. Most of the people we supported were aided in getting sleeping places at the WOM Shelter

THE ORPHAN PROJECT

WOM began supporting orphans through the Orphan Education Project in 2002.  Action Aid Ghana (AAG) supported this project when WOM pleaded the case of orphans who would show up at the office, unable to attend school due to their inability to pay for their own education. Some orphans approach us directly and others, through the Microcreditbasket weaving, and Training programs we do with their mothers (the widows).

The majority of requests come from students from Primary through to Secondary School; however we do receive requests from orphans pursuing post-secondary and tertiary level education. Both agencies recognize that this issue stems from a bigger problem: the historical treatment of women as inferior to male counterparts, combined with harmful cultural practices including where widows and their children are denied any property that belonged to the husband. Instead, the family of the dead husband take the property.  Children of the widow are considered to be orphaned since the widows do not usually have property or training to support their children.

Once AAG funding ended, WOM was forced to discontinue the project but has since taken steps to raise money in hopes of revitalizing it.

In 2010 the activities carried out for orphan's education and basic support are as follows:

  • Fund raising amount is GH cedis 5,400
  • Developing of program implementation strategy (enrolment and phase out beneficiaries)
  • Enrolment of 50 new children (orphans) into the education project
  • Provision of basic support such as food, medical care and basic shelter to some of the children
  • Providing basic support in the form of school uniform, school fees payment, scholastic material, food among others
  • Home and school monitoring visits for counselling purposes
  • Five orphans successfully completed their apprentice training for the financial year 2009/2010
  • Provision of basic shelter for the abandoned children


The number of our orphan beneficiaries has also been reduced from 100 to 50 due to financial constraints. Jemimah Aarakit who is handling this project was able to raise some funds to add to Christine Taylor’s fund to support these children. One of our orphans was displaced by the flood and the office has moulded blocks and is helping to put up a one room for him the village         


AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT WOM / AMNESTY PROJECT

Goal: To increase awareness and respect for Human Rights among communities and traditional leaders

Activity

  • Form and strengthen community Human Rights Advocacy Club
  • Form and strengthen Human Rights Monitor Structure

 Objectives: 

  • To form, nurture and sustain one (1) Community-based Human Rights Advocacy Club by the end of 2010
  • To sensitize 50 Traditional Leaders, Power holders, Duty Bearers and 600 community members on the Human Rights instruments, their linkages to women’s rights and need to reform negative cultural practices
  • To equip communities with the necessary skills to monitor and advocate against Human Rights abuses
  • To reform five (5) negative cultural practices that infringe upon the Human Rights of women and girls in the Zanlerigu community 

C.O.M.B.A.T

COMBAT - Community Based Anti Violence Team - At a review meeting

Key Outputs in 2010 for the WOM/Amnesty Project

  1. One Human Rights Advocacy Club has been successfully formed and is functional
  2. A Community Monitoring Structure has been formed and is functional
  3. Communities awareness of Human Rights issued has been increased
  4. Traditional leaders and duty bearers understand Human Rights and are now openly speaking against Human Rights abuses and making reforms

Human Rights Challenges

  1. The main challenges WOM is facing in terms of Gender Based Violence, more specifically domestic violence, is that the traditional leaders are involved in advocating for negative widowhood rites practice.  When they are involved, it becomes very difficult for a woman to argue her case thereby forcing her to undergo the rites unwilling.
  2. There are limited resources in the referral institutions like with the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) and Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).
  3. The over dependence of women on men due to poverty makes them more vulnerable to abuses and weakens their confidence to report cases of abuse.
  4. Most men and power holders in communities confuse the issue of women’s rights to mean supporting women to challenge men.
  5. Some Ritualists are going back to their old jobs because they say they must live. There is a need to support them to be economically empowered for sustainability of the successes choked in the fight to stop negative cultural practices and for the respect of Human Rights.
  6. WOM has problem feeding widows in the Shelter and giving them the needed care.
  7. Shelter of six rooms and habitat house project is on hold due to a lack of funds.

 

Recommendations

  1. The government and NGO’s should raise awareness in communities on the traditional practices and policies that discriminate against women.
  2. Chiefs and other traditional leaders should take a lead in promoting advocacy for the elimination of negative widowhood practices.
  3. Women should stand up and fight for what is right for them otherwise the suffering will continue to takes its course.

 

Lessons Learned and Issues that Arose

  1. Women are still asking if they can be supported to make wills because they now know the importance of wills.
  2. Women are still intimidated when they choose to play politics.
  3. Gender based violence and women’s rights abuses do not end with awareness creation but, when survivors are empowered and confident to speak-up.
  4. Efforts aimed at improving women’s rights should aim at tackling the root causes of the problem which is centered on poverty and vulnerability.
  5. Ritualists enforce widowhood rites because it is a means of income for them, asking them to stop often results in resistance.

 

How These Issues Were and Will be Addressed

  • WOM will work closely with chiefs, elders, opinion leaders, women leaders and District Assembly to get more people involved in the issues women.

 

Achievements

  • Madam Rose Lami of Zanlerigu was empowered by the Human Rights to Education for children (HRE) to an extent that she was able to re-send her eloped daughter back to school.  This was after she learned that child marriage is a Human Rights abuse punishable by law

 

WOM/ Action Aid International Ghana (AAIG) Activities Carried out on Women’s Rights

  1. Built the capacity of District Stakeholders of Violence Against Women (VAW) and HIV/AIDS.
  2. Trained 12 drop out from school orphans on Dress Making.
  3. Supported the training of Community Based Anti-Violence Teams COMBAT in Zanleriga, Shia, Datoku, and Sakote.
  4. Provided platforms for assembly women to market themselves.
  5. Held Partners quarterly review and planning meetings.
  6. Organized two District level Chiefs-Widows advocacy encounter.
  7. Supported and trained 30 female headed households with small ruminants.
  8. Sensitized Mother to Mother support groups on Safe Motherhood, Food Taboos, Identification and Prevention of Anaemia and Malnutrition, and Food Demonstrations.

 

During 2010 a series of interventions were implement with the aim of improving Women’s Rights, women’s economic empowerment, women in leadership and ending violence against women in the Talensi Nab dam District. WOM’s achievements are following:

  1. The most significant achievement/change was the open endorsement and support by Chiefs of five communities for women to contest for District Assembly and Unit Committee elections. These positions were previously considered the preserve of men. To get the Chiefs to declare their support openly during community sensitization forums is proof that the women stand better chance than before.
  2. One important statement worth mentioning is a statement by the Chief of Tenzuk who said, “Choosing our Assembly representatives should not be determined by the financial status of the aspirants, but what the aspirants can do. When you overwhelmingly voted for me some years ago, what money did I have?  It was due to the confidence you had in me; I entreat you all to repose that same confidence the women who have introduced themselves to you this morning and give them your full support. I further entreat women to come out and support their fellow women since they are always the majority”.
  3. The Chief of Yameriga, another community, addressed electorates gathered at the form thus, “We have been voting for men since the inception of the Assembly elections; don’t you think it is time for us to try out mothers, sisters and wives. After all it is women who give birth to Chiefs".
  4. The forum also afforded four Assemblies and five Unit committee Aspirants and the opportunity to market themselves and interact by way of question and answer sessions with their electorates. The aspirants recounted some development initiatives they started so far and /or their contributions to community development.

Report on a Workshop held at Congo during  2007 - A Breakthrough for Widows and Orphans Movement (WOM)

The worst enemy of the widow is the negative widowhood rites. Many of these practices expose widows to extreme poverty, shame, and a lack of confidence. These rites vary in each community; a few examples are the striping women naked, shaving the hair, and choosing a late husband's brother to marry her. Widows have migrated to the south and refused to return home due to their disgrace.

Ibis (Danish organization) funded workshops that would include chiefs, community men, and women on property law, and negative cultural practices in four communities. The goals of these workshops were to educate the community on the already existing laws and to facilitate a change for some of these negative traditional practices.

The Congo Community made the greatest progress of the four communities because the Congo Chief became the workshop facilitator. The participants were the Congo Chief (addressing the workshop participants in the above photo), sub-chiefs, men and women leaders, elders and opinion leaders of the village, and widows. A number of people took the opportunity to speak, including widows who took great courage to tell of their experiences. A ritualist narrated how they take  widows through the widowhood rites after the death of their husbands and these were confirmation of the facts we had from the research.

After the workshops the Congo participants accepted that many of the widowhood rites practices were bad and dehumanizing which some were as follows:

  • Stripping the women naked and bathing her before the crowd
  • Giving out orphans (girls) to marriage and collecting dowry without the knowledge of the wife
  • Not supporting orphans after the death of their father
  • Not allowing or training boys to cook
  • Not supporting wives in household jobs and making their workload heavy (care of the garden, firewood collection, carry water, etc.)

To our surprise most of the men said they did not like the way the women suffer but only they had no way of knowing how to stop the abuse. The following list has the changes that can be made:

  • Widows will no more be stripped naked and bathed in their village; they all agreed the widows can wear a skirt or cloth the husband had given her; the dead husband would then know it is wife.
  • Any man who gives out her daughter for marriage and collects dowry must give one cow to the wife or the widow
  • Men should support their wives with housework
  • Relatives should support widows to take care of their orphans
  • Widows should not have to pay for the shaving of their hair during their husbands' funeral

All the above proposed changes took effect from that workshop day. WOM wrote a resolution for the participants to sign for the total commitment of their decisions.

The remaining three communities where the workshops were held, said they will need time to change. Advocacy does work, especially when community leaders themselves become advocates of change.

*Widows in other communities see the progress for women's rights and beg WOM to help them in their village. There is much work to do on Human Rights issues but there are constraints on funds that are required for covering costs running workshops. If you are interested in human rights issues and want to help WOM, please provide us by  Donating.

Subpages (1): HIV Testimony
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