A Short Essay on Female Sex Work in Ghana

I have just started graduate studies at @ocaduniversity Strategic Foresight and Innovation Masters Program (MDes). It’s really cool so far - I always loved being a student. I am critical of academia as being necessary part of succeeding in life, but I’m excited to learn tools that will be useful in designing the future I want to live in. I’m going to start publishing my assignments and essays here on my blog because I want to start writing more and sharing the tools I am learning to help people think about different future scenarios. I’m shifting in my thinking of what’s most important to me, and what positive impact I can have on the world. The first short essay is about Female Sex Work in Accra Ghana. Feel free to comment on the journal posts to get a conversation going 🖤


Women and Girls in Accra, Ghana face a myriad of intersecting forms of oppression, including social, economic, classism, and sexism (van der Geugten, van Meijel, den Uyl, & de Vries, 2013; Arhin 2016). The compounding effects of these intersectional forms of oppression, combined with the overall socio-economic state of Ghana as a whole serve to push women and girls to the margins of society. In this stakeholder analysis, I offer a brief overview of the setting of Accra, Ghana, and a short socio-cultural analysis to explain possible driving factors for marginalized women and girls that engage in sex work in order to identify key stakeholders. In this analysis, I focus on the population of women and girls in Accra between the ages of 14 - 34. The goal of this stakeholder analysis is to gather the perspectives of a variety of key players on the socio-economic challenges faced by women and girls involved in sex work in Accra, Ghana. From these perspectives, next step will be to develop key insights into the clear framing of this problem in order to develop a socially conscious and anti-oppressive business model that adequately meets a need discovered in this complex system.

This stakeholder analysis uses peer reviewed journal articles, government and non-governmental organization websites, and press releases on the aforementioned topic as well as the lived experience of the researcher to develop an idea of the key players and factors contributing to the topic for research. The sources referenced look at the internal factors: causes of urban migration in Ghana, attitudes towards pre-marital sex, the role of various stakeholders benefiting from women and girls in sex work. They also look at the external factors: modern globalization, international NGO initiatives, and the implications of global economic structures on women and girls in Accra, Ghana. This study does not delve deeply into the research on legal precedence on prostitution, or the potential exploitation, abuse, mistreatment, human trafficking, forced prostitution and coercion of women and girls involved in sex work. Nor does it look closely at the practices and types of sex work practiced by women and girls in Accra, Ghana. Rather, it looks broadly at the linkages between the history of Ghana in the global economy to the capitalist aspirations of women and girls on the living margins. 


Country Population: 29.6 Million

City of Accra Population: 2.27 Million

Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) Population: about 4 million inhabitants, which makes it the 11th largest metro area in Africa.

Major ethnic groups: Akan (47.5%), Dagbani (17%), Ewe (14%), Ga-Adangbe (7%), Gurma (6%), Guan (4%), Gurunsi (2.5%), and Bissa (1%).

Major Religions: Christianity, Islam

(World Population Review, 2018)


Sex work can be objectively viewed as valid form of work - one uses their physical labour in exchange for monetary compensation, just as in many other professions in market economies. However, the negative cultural attitudes towards sex work in Ghanaian society tend to ostracize primarily women and girls who have turned to sex work in order to meet their basic human needs (van der Geugten, van Meijel, den Uyl, & de Vries, 2013). In order for women and girls to meet their basic human needs, sex work becomes an easily accessible, albeit risky, socio-economic opportunity. 

On the global stage, Ghana has positioned itself as a country that aims to support, uplift, and protect the rights of women and girls. The President Nana Akufo-Addo was appointed the Chairperson of the African Union’s Committee on Gender and Development during the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in June 2017 (African Union Commission, 2017). The African Union has also recently launched the Gender and Development Initiative for Africa (also referred to as GADIA) (African Union Commission, 2017). In addition, gender equality has been placed on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, signalling to countries (as well as international non-governmental organizations) the importance of funding programs which advance this goal. It is clear that there is a burgeoning political will to address gender equality in Ghana, however the most marginalized women and girls in Ghana still face challenges in achieving their most basic human needs.

This rests on the historical background of the centuries old impacts of capitalism and the immense challenges that neoliberalism has made for countries in the global south like Ghana. According to Alison Symington, Shareen Gokal and Tania Principe in their article Achieving Women’s Economic & Social Rights Strategies and Lessons from Experience, it is stated that “Trade liberalization and structural adjustment policies have promoted a development model that focuses on economic growth and consumption, rather than on human development and expanding freedoms.” (Symington, Gokal, & Principe, 2006). Focus on economic growth has resulted in the development of the city of Accra into a major African metropolitan, with rural to urban migration as a key driving factor for population growth (Mittelmark & Wilson, 2013). However, the need for economic opportunities in cities does not always meet the demands. Symington, Gokal and Principe go on to state that “Trends in terms of labour migration, influenced by rapidly changing economic opportunities, have been implicated in new forms of exploitation and risk to women.” (Symington, Gokal, & Principe, 2006). Women and girls who migrate from rural areas to Accra are often faced with limited economic opportunities and therefore engage in informal high-risk economic activities.

The transformative power of modern globalization has created a change in societies worldwide, especially in millennial populations, ushering in new ways of being and relating to each other. With regards to pre-marital sex in Ghana, young peoples attitudes have been shifting from abstinence before marriage, to a more free and open approach to dating (van der Geugten, van Meijel, den Uyl, & de Vries, 2013). This is in spite of the strong cultural historical role that Christianity and Islam have played in setting the tone towards women who engage in sex before marriage. Attitudes towards females who engage in pre-marital sex are more harsh than towards males. “There are no specific cultural or religious practices concerning the virginity of men… In contrast, the premarital sexual activities of male youths will not affect their social status.” (van der Geugten, van Meijel, den Uyl, & de Vries, 2013). The Ghanaian government, similarly to other west African governments, also plays subtly into this narrative by promoting abstinence as the most acceptable form of birth control (Kabiru & Ezeh, 2007). 

Pre-martial abstinence is promoted and accepted social norm in Ghana, which stands as cognitive dissonance to the women and girls involved in sex work. Given the higher risk of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases and infections such as HIV/AIDS as a sex worker living on the margins, a sex working woman who has contracted HIV is pushed even further to the margins. “There remains a social stigma to the infection [of HIV] in Ghana. An HIV positive sex worker will not be able to continue living and working in her community.” (Papworth, 2009). Women and girls engaged in sex work in Accra, Ghana must be very keen to prevent against exposure at the risk of becoming even more marginalized. Additionally, while societal attitudes towards sex work are generally negative, the families of women and girls engaged in sex work do benefit from this form of labour. This is why healthcare providers are listed as an important stakeholder in this analysis; they offer a service which protects the health of women and girls engaged in sex work.

Men (and often boys) play two main roles in this issue. Men and boys are in a market segment referred to in this analysis as service users who pay for transactional sex; and second as non-paying partners (NPPs; otherwise culturally referenced as pimps). Prostitution laws in Ghana are such that women are criminalized for soliciting work (Tenni, Carpenter & Thomson, 2015). Without protection under the law, and being socially, physically and economically more vulnerable than Men, non-paying partners play a key role in the economic structure of sex work in Ghana. In this dynamic, non-paying partners can wield a considerable amount of power in a female sex worker’s life, but “some sex workers in Ghana appreciate their NPPs because they ensure the sex workers are paid. They also provide protection and look out for the police.” (Papworth, 2009). As aforementioned, there is less stigma upon men in Ghana who engage in pre-marital sex than for women. Service users who engage women and girls in sex work do so by offering resources for basic needs in exchange for sexual acts: “there are female youths [in Ghana] who have sex with boys and men in exchange for money; this is defined as ‘transactional sex’. They do so in order to be able to pay for or buy food, shelter, clothing, school fees, school uniforms, mobile phones, trendy dresses and jewellery… Nevertheless, when they [women] want to marry their past can be a barrier.” (van der Geugten, van Meijel, den Uyl, & de Vries, 2013). While sex work is a service in an industry with a clear market, the ramifications for women and girls engaging in transactional sex for basic needs has an affect on not only their health, but their social status, future prospects, and their risk of entering the criminal justice system. Additionally, while societal attitudes towards sex work are generally negative, the families of women and girls engaged in sex work do benefit from this form of labour.

Between 2000 and 2015, the United Nations Millennial Development Goals served as an important political and policy reference point for the assessment of progress of efforts geared towards meeting some of the pressing development challenges confronting Ghana (Arhin, 2016). Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) work closely with the government to achieve the policies and goals set out by the Ghanaian government. As service providers, NGOs mobilize resources to provide goods and services to specific groups of people or communities who need them (Arhin, 2016). Some examples of these goods and services are education resources, health services to marginalized communities, human rights advocacy, micro-finance, policy analysis, and environmental management. However well intentioned, the interventions offered by NGOs place greater emphasis on alleviating surface poverty and achieving program objectives and targets, with little capacity to affect the complex structural, cultural and systemic factors that push women and girls to the margins of society in a sustainable way. In fact, discriminatory cultural practices are among the most entrenched and unyielding of obstacles to women’s equality, particularly in the areas of housing, land and inheritance. This is because race, religion, national origin and ethnicity often work hand-in hand with gender to delineate who enjoys which rights within a given society (Symington, Gokal, & Principe, 2006). 


In this stakeholder analysis, I attempted to outline some of the key players in the socio-economic issue of marginalized women and girls involved in sex work in Accra, Ghana. In the context of a complex social, economic, cultural system that tends to disenfranchise women and girls, this indeed can be defined as a wicked problem. When looking at the messaging from the Ghanaian government in the aforementioned research, it seems that there is political will to address gender inequality in Ghana as a whole. However, an over arching pattern I noticed for each stakeholder group is financial resources to adequately address their needs. As for the underlying systemic challenges, more research needs to be completed to determine whether sex work can be de-stigmatized in order to better protect the rights of women and girls engaged in sex work in Ghana. From a capitalist market generation perspective, if the Ghanaian government and society saw that a market exists for the services that female sex workers offer, a possible solution could be decriminalizing sex work to bring it from the informal to the formal sector in order to tax transactions for financial gain to the government. 

My personal insight into this issue is this: because I am attempting to develop myself as a business design thinker, I tried to frame this big problem in a way so that I can design a solution using a business model. However, I am truly reluctant to design a business answer to this problem. Through my research in this project it is clear that there are historical global factors (ie. structural adjustment policies, neoliberalism) and ideological factors (ie. sexism, patriarchy) that stand out to me as the main problems that drive women and girls to the margins in Accra, Ghana. Developing a business model that would serve the female sex worker that aims for profit for potential shareholders feels to me like using the same capitalist system that got us to this point to develop a solution, when the whole system should be redesigned. 

Finally, this stakeholder analysis has led me to develop a set of questions to frame the next step of the business model development process of problem finding for the purposes of this course:

  • Are there any NGOs for boys and men that are focusing on the ideological challenges in this issue?

  • Although families have been listed as a stakeholder, do different family members have different stake in sex working women’s health?

  • What perspectives do different government groups/sectors have in this issue, and how are different government services affected by the sex work industry?

  • What are the interactions between sex working women and girls peer groups, and are there opportunities for change there?


African Union Commission. (2017, November 13). African Union set to launch the Gender and Development Initiative for Africa. Retrieved September 27, 2018, from https://au.int/en/newsevents/20171113/african-union-set-launch-gender-and-development-initiative-africa

Arhin, A. (2016). Advancing post-2015 sustainable development goals in a changing development landscape: Challenges of NGOs in Ghana. Development in Practice, 26(5), 555-568.

Kabiru, C. W., & Ezeh, A. (2007). Factors associated with sexual abstinence among adolescents in four sub-saharan African countries. African Journal of Reproductive Health / La Revue Africaine De La Santé Reproductive, 11(3), 111-132. doi:10.2307/25549735

Papworth, V. (2009). Screening hits the streets. Nursing Standard (Royal College of Nursing (Great Britain) : 1987), 24(12), 24.

Symington, A., Gokal, S., & Principe, T. (2006). Achieving Women’s Economic & Social Rights: Strategies and Lessons from Experience. Retrieved September 27, 2018, from https://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/achieving_womens_economic_social_rights_strategies_and_lessons_from_experience.pdf

Tenni, B., Carpenter, J., & Thomson, N. (2015). Arresting HIV: Fostering partnerships between sex workers and police to reduce HIV risk and promote professionalization within policing institutions: A realist review. PLoS One, 10(10), e0134900. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0134900

Wilson, A., & Mittelmark, M. B. (2013). Resources for adjusting well to work migration: Women from northern Ghana working in head porterage in greater Accra. Africa Today, 59(4), 24-38.

United Nations Organization. (n.d.). Gender equality and women's empowerment. Retrieved September 27, 2018, from https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/gender-equality/

van der Geugten, J., van Meijel, B., den Uyl, M.H.G, & de Vries, N.K. (2013). Virginity, sex, money and desire: Premarital sexual behaviour of youths in Bolgatanga municipality, Ghana. African Journal of Reproductive Health / La Revue Africaine De La Santé Reproductive, 17(4), 93-106.

World Population Review: Ghana Population. (2018, July 17). Retrieved September 27, 2018, from http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/ghana-population/

Cover Photo by Sierra Nallo, 2018.

YES PURE (an ode to GHANA)

Wild Moon Jewelry's 2018 YES PURE collection is inspired by the women that I observed carrying water in Ghana. Big bowls of pure water sachets balanced delicately on their heads, providing sustenance to people with effortless grace. Between cars, and on their heads, they quench the thirst of anyone who wave for their attention. They call out “yes pure” to let you know they are coming. To me, it felt like a life truth whenever I saw them pass me by.  Women, a woman, givers of life, carrying and giving life again, every day. 

Flashback to someday in September 2017: I tried to relax into my seat on a packed tro-tro (public bus in Ghana) and drank the cool purified water I just paid 0.50 cents for. I was uncomfortable, not just because I was cramped and sweaty, but I sat with the fact that my temporary need for water on the go was contributing to the pollution and impurity of the whole world. I thought to myself: how to reconcile this through art?

As an artist I feel it necessary to look at life with a critical lens, finding my way to serendipitous and satisfactory “I don’t knows" as answers to the fundamental moral challenges that stir my soul. In this collaborative collection, I wish to draw your attention to how you consume, and how it plays into the interconnectedness of Mother Earth.

The new Wild Moon Jewelry collection uses a combination of recycled material, focusing on repurposed brass and glass beads with signature WM silhouettes that I am used to and love to re-create. In this collection I wanted to consider the concept of purity. Pure is defined as "free of any contamination" - a state of being that many of our essential water supplies cannot claim anymore. I pondered this truth as I designed each of these pieces from the seat of my soul.

The Kokrobitey Collection features one of a kind jewelry pieces made of recycled and repurposed materials during my artist residency at the Kokrobitey Intisutue in Accra, Ghana. Here, I explored ways of using inner tube from car tires, electrical cables, washers, recycled glass and cow horn. All recycled materials were collected from becoming waste, and I wish to allow them to live again as adornment.

The Biakoye collection is the second collection developed by the Obrapa Women’s Group. I spent most of the last year in Accra, Ghana working with my colleague Sunshine to develop a Women’s Empowerment Program that is inclusive and informative, linking women to personal development opportunities and local / international economic opportunities. This collection also features recycled glass beads and traditional African beadwork techniques that are ages old. 

My sincerest hope for this collection is that you enjoy the pieces, and move through the world honouring the water that is essential to life. Remember that BEAUTY IS U.

SPECIAL THANKS TO all the creatives who supported the process including Mecha Clarke, Anthony Gebrehiwot, Sunshine Duncan, Jade Lee Hoy, Sierra Nallo, and Ruth Titus. Models Sierra Nallo, Kate Dawson, Liane Clarke, Paul Ohonsi, Nzinga Wright, Emmanuelle K., Virgilia Griffith and Vida Mensah. 

SPECIAL THANKS TO all the organizations who have helped me put together this collection including The Obrapa Women's Group, The Kokrobitey Institute,  Ontario Arts Council, Crossroads International, Pro Link Ghana, United Nations Association of Canada and The Blacklist Media House. 

<< Photos by Sierra Nallo.

BECOMING / The Wild Moon Theories

A few years ago, I wrote the Wild Moon Theories. I shared my thoughts and ideas with Jade Lee Hoy, Virgilia Griffith and Nayani Thiyagarajah, and we put together a grant to Sketch Working Arts for the show. We were funded to run the first show - an interactive jewelry experience that animated the pieces made to illustrate the story and importance of jewelry as a cultural artifact in my life. We have since expanded it to a screen play and short film, with the help of our amazing team Ruthie Titus, Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, Brian Woon A Tai, Gein Wong, and Dre Ngozi. I'm so proud to announce the theatre debut of BECOMING / The Wild Moon Theories at the Progress Festival, from February 14 to 18th, 2018. Our play/installation will be showing as part of the Contemporaneity 2.0 show at Anandam Dancetheatre.

Our process was documented by Kumari Giles and is quoted below. To learn more, check out the


As written by Kumari Giles:

The process of BECOMING –

In rehearsal, we sit on three of four sides, leaving one for the ancestors. Spheres of spirit, fitting circles into squares. How do we relate to this land? To the water? To spirit? How do we honour our ancestors, when we don’t know where they were, where they travelled through to get here? Who are the caretakers of our spirit? In what containers do we live? How, now in the chaos of the world do we find time to nurture ritual, spirits, ancestors, our spirit, the land? In the sacredness of being together, how do we bring back language and spirit?

BECOMING, is the creation project of Asia Clarke, Jade Lee Hoy, Gein Wong, Ruthie Titus, Dre Ngozi, Brian Gregory, Kelly Fyffe-Marshall and Virgilia Griffith, in Jade’s words - a collective made up of artists, dreamers, make it happen types and some kick-ass BIPOC* Queer folk. Through BECOMING we experience the journey of a women, ancestors within her – as she connects across time and space. I am honoured to have spoken to Asia, while in Ghana, Jade through e-mail and shared time in rehearsal with Gein, Ruthie and Virgilia to chat and observe the process.  

The starting place of this work is the Wild Moon Theories, written by Asia, that connect ancestors, ritual and land. The theories are an  ideology that informs authentic co-creativity with the ancestors. The theories ask an individual to position themselves in a lineage, holding your ancestors’ hand within you and knowing that you stand not as just one, but as ten thousand. The theories spotlight our responsibilities as diasporic peoples, and in our search for knowing where our ancestors came from we must not forget that we are settlers on this land, and need to acknowledge and respect the indigenous ancestors on the ground which we now stand. They ask us to make new ritual and cultural artifacts, because colonization has left an imprint that can only change from where we are now, using our own creativity.

Holding these questions, the artists work on being in relationship with one another - the process takes time – playing, sitting with each other, crafting, shadow play, video, proposing ideas.  “It's an extraordinary thing to be able to vision something and allow it the space to transform and be reimagined over time without limitations of a predetermined process”  Jade explains. They talk about dreams, ancestors and spirit, and how spirituality had been forcefully erased starting from contact.  “It is a decolonial process to know, value and create access for spirituality centering indigenous ways of being and doing spirit work” Gein says. Asia has spent the last 6 months in Ghana and is still there, her spirit is deeply woven into the piece and states “It’s a profound experience to have the vision live within the process and each of the artists. It has taught us the importance of trusting one another, and trusting the universe and ancestors to guide us to where we need to be.” Their team has experienced the joy of working with people who are individually amazing and by being with each other, a deep knowing, a listening ritual and a place to start reimagining their place in the world is formed.

This interwoven, multidisciplinary work began three years ago, when Asia brought together Jade Lee Hoy and Virgilia Griffith to launch their first show called “The Wild Moon Theories”, an interactive installation for her arts-based business Wild Moon Jewelry. The jewelry show became a response to heal intergenerational traumas of the transatlantic slave trade and create an “opening for us to imagine leaving artifacts for our future.” As an artist of African-Caribbean descent, Asia names that there has been “a disruption in [her] personal history due to colonialism and the slave trade”. Similarly Jade, who is a descendant of East Indian Indentured laborers, West African slaves, a Chinese migrant, and mixed race Arawak/Venezuelan peoples on the island of Trinidad, names her herstory has “largely been misplaced or erased from history books”.  BECOMING is a “shout out to the world” that intergenerational healing is possible while providing an “entry point for those of us who were birthed out of a legacy of colonization to begin to have conversations about how we reclaim ourselves, our past and reimagine our futures.”

This iteration brings together Wild Moon theories through film, embodied performance and space creation. It a space where there are no composite parts but they all lend to the performance experience. The set evokes multiple spheres of being, all in the same moment of time and space, becoming whole, connecting and connection.  Live prompted projection feeds in constant response to the movement, guiding and offering multiple experiences at once.  A soundscape that feels like the earth calling to you, breath, beat, bringing you into the world.  And movement that guides your experience through varied sections from slow dream worlds to waking awareness.

The movement in this work is held by Virgilia, and was created through improvisation, play and eventually carving out the structure. Gein notices respectfully, then asks - what are you thinking? A back and forth dialogue ensues; teasing out questions, dreams, and discomfort, identifying where it lands emotionally/physically and moving when ready.  Jade calls this process for what it is: “Revolutionary. It's like being inside the womb, feeling safe and held, it's nourished and strengthened my intuitions. We all work within our capacity. We all acknowledge self-care and each other's individuals journey and superpowers.”  Thus, instead of form and shape placed on top of the dancer, Virgilia moves from the intention to “connect to her deepest self, working from the inside out”.  When Virgilia and I speak about movement and choreography we talk about past traumas of formal dance experiences and now, owning our inner rhythms and being unapologetic about the movement we create and how our bodies move.

And so, the urgency of spirit is the remaining question. How do we return to our bodies and our spirit? How do we approach that with forgiveness? How does the narrative from loss and trauma shift to a narrative of creating the space for the future and present? What strikes me is the compassion and generosity of the offering. In closing, Gein shares “Everyone is on their path, and as we are on our paths, we as people and the world grow and change. With the resurgence and raised awareness of land and water protectors and Indigenous sovereignty we are heading towards a better position to support, and to reimagine our world.” Asia wants us to remember that “This is not all that there is, so if we can position ourselves in knowing there is more, we can find happiness here.” She “hopes the show inspires people to assess whether they feel trapped in the now, and how they can use ritual to help them see and feel beyond - and hold the hands of their own ancestors.” This is the process of BECOMING, honouring what our ancestors fought and paid for and a reminder that we are still alive.

On Self Worth (We're Engaged!)

On self worth:

all my life I never thought someone would ever propose to me. As my boyfriend of 2.5 years kneeled in front of me I was caught off guard, surprised but also facing a deep seated question: do I deserve to be this happy?

I never thought (and still don’t think) I would be married in the traditional sense. No church or religious institution will be needed to affirm my union and I don’t care about having a white flowing dress. That may be because both our parents are separated or divorced, and we both lived with the trauma of seeing a dream crash and burn. For both of our parents, the ashes fertilized a new way of being - friendship and peaceful co-parenting. I am grateful my parents split because now our family unit has a developed peace and understanding that I know will last forever. It took a while to get here though and I’ll never forget the helplessness I felt as a teen watching my parents suffer in marriage.

Just a few months ago I was telling an elder: “I don’t know if I’ll ever marry - but if I ever did, I definitely will not marry in a church, and I would call it a ‘unity party’, not a wedding.” I wanted (and still want) so badly to take a new course / a different way to a long lasting unity. I know it can be done because I have a lot of examples all around me. But for us, it’s going to have to be an adaptive, non conforming and it must feel like freedom.

In the past 4 years I have been travelling around the world, living different lives each time. I love to travel and stay for long because each time I get to choose and develop who I want to be. No one knows me in a new place, and I've found it easiest to forgive myself and others when I am not in the same setting as them. Perspective is the gift of solitude in a foreign place.

For all the perspective and life changing experiences I’ve had, I never realized how deeply I felt a lack of self worth- a feeling like I don’t deserve to be as happy as I am. So I work too hard without rest, or I judge myself and others harshly for no reason, or find ways to under appreciate my own accomplishments. I’ve always found it hard to stand in my glory or my shine, for fear I would be exposed for being just a imperfect regular human being. I know I do amazing things. I’ve been blessed in my life a million times over but I've zoomed in on my shortcomings and on the failures of others in my life.

On Sunday January 14th, Tony and I along with a few friends went to Labadi Beach in Accra for our very first “couples shoot”. Tony is a photographer who was used to being behind the camera, and we thought it would be nice to finally have some professional photots taken together, especially since we're in the motherland. I had specifically asked the photographer NOT to make it look like an engagement shoot - I wanted conceptual love, not corny and over done. We were also joined by a videographer, and I said to Tony, “I didn’t know this was going to be recorded??” , and he told me it’s just a friend of his who was practicing making videos. I thought nothing of it for the whole time, clueless to the fact that this actually was an engagement photo AND video shoot. Just as we were taking what I thought was the last photo, the photographer asked Tony to hold his lens while he switched cameras. Before I knew it tony was on his knees in front of me, showing me the ring inside the lens, and saying “Asia will you marry me??? This is not a drill.”

When Tony asked me to marry him, I said yes without thinking twice. He is literally the loveliest man I know. He is caring, kind, spiritual, non judgemental and deeply loves himself- all qualities that I have refined while being with him. He doesn’t prescribe to toxic masculinity and he doesn’t need me to affirm his own identity as a (hu)man. Our chemistry is beautiful, and we understand each other’s need for freedom and space. He doesn’t treat me like a jealous man would, but we respect each others boundaries. We have watered each other with love in long distance relationship for at least half of the time we have been together. I love knowing I get to build, have kids, share joy with and make it though all life challenges with him as my lover.

After the “yes!!” And after all the hugs and congratulations, I went home and was alone with my thoughts. I realized I felt afraid to be as happy as I wanted to be. I thought So much crazy shit going on in the world how can I allow myself to be this blissful. So many what if’s crossed my mind (FEAR) and I realized I was thinking away my joy. MY JOY my moment of brave love and magic. Now I see that I have to stand up for my right to be happy, full of joy and love every day. My moments are mine and I really am experiencing a love this amazing.

To my love: Anthony Gebrehiwot. thank you for your ancestors, and the earth they are buried in. thank your Mama and pops, thank the places that made them and made you, thank you for the ways you have been challenged and grown. thank you for every decision you have made that brought you before me. thank you for hurting and healing and teaching me to do the same. thank you for owning your imperfection and thank you for trying your best - you are beautiful inside and out. thank you for every time you held my hand and looked in my eyes. thank you for being a lesson of learning to see the good that can come out of the sad/bad/abusive/negative aspects of life. I promise to love you and let you grow in the ways that you need to fulfill your life purpose. And I know you’ll do the same for me.


Colour photos by @apagstudios

Black & White photos by @sierranallo


Faces are what I used to distinguish an identity. Two eyes, nose and mouth - like a mathematical equation that equals an ancestry. A friend of mine never met her father. I asked her, would she rather him have been around and abusive, or as absent as he has chosen to be? Her answer moved me: "I would have liked to understand my face."

But lineage is a tricky thing. The research for the WM2017 "The Download / Deep Work" Collection has given me more questions than answers. In a sense, we all come to earth and receive a download. From the abyss of yet-to-being, to a moving thing with a soul + identity. Our cultural identity is software that we download when we enter the system out from the womb.

This software is what I (and many others around me and before me) am trying to disrupt, deconstruct so that we can be free. This software tell us what time is: the year of our Lord 2017 or w/e, that there are 12 months in a year, that a day starts at 12:00am. All of this affects our perception of life, and has been a result of colonization process that started a long time ago (we use the Gregorian/Roman calendar). In my previous collections (WM Theories + Cascade Collection) I explored time as non-linear, and visualization as a super power. Thanks to my Yoga Teacher, I was informed about the measurement of time of the Dogon Tribe, which supported me with an even better articulation of what it means to rethink our perception of time.

I am unpacking the notion of linear time in order to more clearly experience the present. I want to experience new ideas and realizations about the life-death-life cycle, ones that place me in a continuum instead of a start-finish ideology. I want to view my face as a portal to my ancestors, something I can see through, so this is an ideology I can use to more easily access my greatness.

When I was younger, I felt and took on my mother's frustration and my fathers posture. Habits, and the way I've responded to situations in my life were based on trying to please my mother, or remain in the favour of my elders. From my Father, I absorbed a sense of aloneness, and sensitivity. I became self-critical, self-absorbed, and an over achiever. Like all parents in this imperfect world, they carried their trauma through their lives and it permeated their parenting. Their parents did the same to them, and this pattern goes back and back and back. I am so grateful that my parents realized the abuse they experienced as children must stop with them. Thanks to their effort, I now have a more solid ground to stand on; I have grown to find my own way to inner peace. I can choose empathy instead of judgement, and I can forgive others, knowing that in turn I forgive myself.

Knowing/learning what I know now about trauma and abuse, the choice to remain hurt is my own. Each present moment is a chance for me to realize that suffering is a part of life that I can learn from. Also, I know that this intergenerational violence is a direct result of violent colonialism, slavery and racism, and toxic masculinity/patriarchy. Therefore I cannot even fault my grandparents, or my great-great-great-grandparents - violence as a form of discipline is all they knew, and it was true for them.

Fortunately for me, I was manifested in this now, 'a womyn of colour' in 'the queen's Canada' in the 'most multi-cultural city in the world' as a 'millenial' with the agency to make all sorts of self-discoveries and realizations. What I experience now is the sensation of choice. Not just who/how I want to portray myself, but how I want to experience time, and what I want to feel, from moment to moment. All of the choices are mine - how to react to challenge, how to face my fears, even how to view history. 

I am learning to meet my suffering with acceptance and empathy. I feel that every time I dive deep into my pain, my intergenerational trauma, I am able to uninstall the software, and return directly to the source of peace and love.

It is with this energy, and a consciousness of respect for the natural environment, that I present Wild Moon Jewelry 2017 Collection "DEEP WORK / DOWNLOAD". An eco-conscious collection that incorporates recycled beads and recycled silver as a celebration of respect, integrity and unconditional love from the source of life energy, Mother Earth. Big thanks to the team who helped to develop the imagery and inspiration around the jewelry especially the Womb Circle group members, Mecha Clarke, Ayisha Gariba, Rais Clarke-Mendes, Anthony Gebrehiwot, Knicco Hodge, Jade Lee Hoy, and all my fam & friends who supported me to grow this year! In addition, special thanks to the United Nations Association in Canada Green Corps Program for supporting this collection! My heart overflows with gratitude for you all who have contributed in your own ways to this soul translation.


Talk to the plants, as them what they think about the world. Talk to your body, ask it what needs to change. Life force is everywhere - running in lanes we don’t see. The litter blocks the flow - the litter in the rivers, in the underground water ways, like emotional blockages - preventing us from realizing the full potential of our lives. 
Asia Clarke
THE HYPHEN - My Story in CBC Radio's Celebration of Canada 150

I was very proud to be asked to share my story of what it means to be Canadian, amongst 149 other amazing creative, resilient and beautiful women of colour. My piece titled "The Hyphen" dissects what it means for me to be a -Canadian, and how my formative life experiences helped me create and transform my own identity; which is still evolving.


THE HYPHEN by Asia Clarke

My experience of being ____-Canadian is about the dash. The thing that implies duality, connection and disconnection.

I grew up in the 90s in Malvern, a former priority neighbourhood in northeast Scarborough, Ontario. I went to an elementary school with mostly kids of colour. I went on to a very diverse high school, where my three best friends were Trinidadian, Filipino, and Tamil. Even though we were born here, we knew we were hyphenated Canadians. Being Canadian for us was always an addition. As a kid, I remember noticing that all my friends were people of colour, but it was hard to spot commercials with people of colour in them between episodes of our favourite cartoons. I was young when I realized that people of colour were an afterthought for mainstream Canadian culture.

I was born in Canada, but I was always asked where I was from. My identity, therefore, became one of explaining lineage. I was and am proud of my Trinidadian, Bajan and Dominican heritage. I know my lineage is one of diaspora travelling from place to place. Some travel by choice and others by force. I know I am mixed race - African, White, Indigenous/Arawak blood all runs in my veins. I remember once being told by a Somalian friend in high school, "Oh, I thought you were an African. You look Ethiopian." I remember thinking, but am I not? I realized then then that Afro-Caribbean people were an afterthought for many continental Africans.

I entered York University's Environmental Studies & International Development program when I was 18 years old. I chose this Bachelor's degree only because it didn't require me to take Grade 12 biology, chemistry, or algebra. I was one of those kids whose guidance counsellor discouraged from science and math.

When I entered York, I remember being told by my first year humanities instructor, "I would like for us to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations communities and we would like to honour them here today." Until that point, I had never been taught or even had a clue to acknowledge and respect the First Nations communities that called "our land" home for thousands of years. Until that day, my summary of Canadian history was The Hudson Bay Company, Vimy Ridge, and global peacekeeping efforts. And hockey. I realized then, that cultural identity is the soup that we are in and that we are fed every day. I realized then that the education system I grew up in fed me a Canadian history from an uncritical and colonial lens.

Since graduating from York, I began working in International Development field. In 2013, I became Youth Entrepreneurship Advisor with CUSO international, where I developed and facilitated business development, micro finance and business plan workshops for youth in Roseau, Dominica. There, I met a young man who wanted to start a car detailing business, but who could not secure a loan from the bank. His family did not own property and he did not have community support as a guarantor for a small loan. I remember him telling me, "There is no opportunity for me here. If only I could get off this island." He wanted to come to Canada for other opportunities, but he couldn't get an entry visa. While my Canadian citizenship plus my privilege of financial stability meant I did not need a visa permission to enter Dominica, a youth born in Dominica, differing from me only in social status means, did not have the same freedom of movement as I did. I realized then that Canadian citizenship provided me a real privilege, that my passport guaranteed for me an opening of life opportunities.

As an African-Canadian, I always dreamed about my first trip to Africa. So when I got the opportunity to visit Accra, Ghana, for a Women's Entrepreneurship Advisor position with Crossroads International in 2016, I was overcome with excitement. I would be the first to "go back to Africa" in my family for generations. My own personal identity had been missing a puzzle piece, and I yearned for an authentic African experience.

Once I arrived in Accra, I began working with HIV/Aids Peer Educators (Obrapaa Women's Group) on an arts-entrepreneurship program. I introduced myself as being a Canadian, from African descent via the Caribbean. None of the women had ever heard of Trinidad, Barbados or Dominica before. I was taken aback — there are so many Africans living outside of Africa that they didn't know about. They themselves didn't identify as simply African; they were Ashanti and Fante. They were from tribes; their identities were wrapped tightly in Twi, one of the most common local languages that they spoke amongst each other, which I couldn't understand. In an attempt to create a space of inclusion for me, they named me Sister Abena; "Abena" means Tuesday, the day of the week on which I was born. To tease me, one of the women said "Ahh yes, welcome Sister Obroni!" Obroni means white person, or foreigner. It was then that I realized then that I was indeed an African-Canadian, and not an African.

Being Black-Canadian/African-Canadian/Caribbean-Canadian indeed has its challenges, and its privileges. My identity is about the hyphen, and I've realized it is mine to define and to claim. The hyphen for me now represents the building of a bridge; a space for me to determine my post-colonial African diaspora story, one life experience at a time.

Introducing the BIAKOYE collection by the Obrapaa Women's Group

SPECIAL THANKS TO: The Obrapaa Women's Group, Crossroads International, Pro-Link Ghana, Sharifah Issaka, and Sierra Nallo.


I am truly grateful and excited to announce that the BIAKOYE collection is now available at wildmoonjewelry.com!

When I first stepped off the plane in Ghana, I did not know what to expect. I knew I would be working on women's economic empowerment through jewelry, which seemed like an exciting challenge. It turned out to be so much more. I learned so much about Ghana's culture and aesthetic and the unique point of view and lived experience of the Obrapaa women. I also learned so much about myself. They taught be a new form a jewelry, while I taught them about the opportunities of e-commerce and about branding for their vision of a jewelry business. The result is the BIAKOYE collection!

Working with the Obrapaa Women's Group gives me so much pride, I knew I was in the right place at the right time, doing the most fulfilling and meaningful work I've ever done. I look forward to continuing to support the Obrapaa Women's Group fulfill their vision and build their brand, while contributing to their economic self-sufficiency. 


Post-Ghana Post: Eyes Open Wider

How do I explain the shift I feel? Or is it just the moon?

Here is a list of my changed perspectives:

  • I am a woman who is resisting patriarchy and colonialism. This means I will have to redefine my own values to reflect this resistance. I want to be a spirit in woman form, free to feel any way and not judge myself or others on their life choices. (Never mind my harsh judgement of the Pastors on the ads in Ghana in their poses looking like a Boys 2 Men concert poster... *steups*). Its going to be hard because we live in a society that imposes a norm upon everyone - no one is immune, and its hard to escape the ways we are told to feel about relationships, sex, our selves, physical and emotional attributes. A lot of picking and choosing feelings, a lot of not taking things personal, a lot of suppression of negative self-image and quieting negative self-talk. Its going to be swimming upstream but now I see how necessary it is now.
  • Women’s work worldwide is so undervalued. I’ve decided this is my call to action - this is the problem I want to work on solving in my life. In my life I hope to improve the economic inequality that exists for women in developing economies in Africa and the Caribbean. African Women’s Economic Empowerment. I want to expose women to the possibilities of e-commerce and improve digital literacy to increase economic opportunities.
  • I must do me. I must live out my dream for me first. I may end up disappointing my family and friends at times because I choose my strange solitude of travelling alone, I choose independence. I’m still negotiating my needs and wants; the things that give my life meaning vs. the things that I want to acquire. I didn't know I could really compromise one for the other until this trip to Ghana. I feel pulled at both sides; but I think I will just breathe.
  • It has been revealed to me that my Africanness is up for discussion. Yes I am black, I am of African decent but to many Africans I am not African. Yes I am African, I would explain, my family is from the Caribbean, but some people had never heard of Trinidad or Barbados or Dominica. It hurt kind of, to have to explain myself to anyone who asked, or anyone who called me “Obroni” (Twi word for white person or foreigner), that I came to Ghana to connect deeper to my Africanness, to affirm my Blackness and to belong. I had to take it all the way back sometimes, “Yes Barbados, you know Rihanna right? My ancestors, like hers, were Africans sold as slaves and settled in the Caribbean, and then eventually my parents immigrated to Canada.” It gave me another layer to my identity, like a filter through which to understand my privilege of having risen from out of ancestors who endured slavery to becoming an educated young black woman facilitating entrepreneurship workshops in Africa.
  • My eyes opened wider in Ghana. Its a sensation that is hard to explain. I am present, at the front of each moment, so deep inside myself and entirely outside of myself at the same time. 
  • So many butterflies are there. They move me, the sight of them shifts me from small minded worry into joy, laughing gratitude. An ease in my chest and step.
  • I thought that when I had kids I’d start going back to church, because my experience there really was not that bad and there are good values to be had there. Now? Nope. Never me, not again. I see how it has completely changed / adapted African sensibility. As people became enslaved, the bible was used to help them to transition into content servants. In Ghana, every second ad by the roadside is for a church. And the names are all variations of each other: “The Gospel Sanctuary of Christ” or “The Fellowship of Jesus Church” or “The Lamb of God Holy Monastery”. Even food stalls will be called “God’s Way Tilapia & Banku”, or hairdresser’s salon “The Hand of Jesus Braids & Weaves”. How, on a continent with such a rich history of spirituality spanning millennia prior to this day and age, has white Jesus come to be on the side of many Tro Tro buses? At least in Toronto sometimes I had seen a black Jesus, but in Accra, every Jesus depiction was very white, blue eye blond hair white. This matters! The image of the one who gives salvation is a white man? Does anyone else see something inherently wrong with this or am I over reacting?

I think now, who do I think I am supposed to be vs. who am I really? I am observing - my self, my surroundings, my dreams, my desires - Even my goals of a nuclear family home, heteronormative relationship, home and car ownership can be a product of capitalism… I think I have uncovered some things about myself, I like it, and I find it hard to articulate. But I see so much potential.

Special thanks to Crossroads International and Pro-Link Ghana for facilitating this journey to Accra, Ghana and for introducing me to the Obrapaa Women's Group. It has been another fate-felt inspiring connection which has resulted in beautiful art which I look forward to sharing with the world. 


The Diaspora Homegoing // Pre-Ghana Blog Post

Since returning from Trinidad in June I have been working on developing this passion project - the Women's Entrepreneurship Program. A program that teaches entrepreneurial skills, shares useful tools for business automation and e-commerce, while also touching on personal leadership exploration tailored to women / womyn identifying individuals. The idea was inspired by my work as Entrepreneurship Development Advisor with CUSO International in Dominica in 2013, where I learned how to use anti-oppressive frameworks to build capacity in disadvantaged communities within emerging economies. I've always wanted to visit Ghana (anywhere in Africa, for that matter) and I am excited to do so in the context of furthering my career goals.

This time, instead of staying for 6 months, I'll be staying for 6 weeks. The Women's Entrepreneurship Program is supported by Crossroads International, will run for 5 weeks and will take place in an area called Agbogbloshie, in Accra's city centre. Agbogbloshie is infamous for being one of the world's largest e-waste sites. It is a digital dumping ground on top of a former wetland, where more developed countries like ours send our computers and cell phones to die. Add that to the fact that socio-economic and environmental disadvantages disproportionately affect women in developing communities. The group of women I will be working with live there, an area which so blatantly shows the unseen (by westerners) implications of a technologically advancing society. The new iPhone replaces the last, which only came out last year, and through such effective marketing we are implored to purchase. The externalized cost of our phones, computers, and other devices are paid by other communities, exposed to the toxicity on a daily basis.

The women there have started a collective called the Obrapaa Women's Group. As with many people who become entrepreneurs, the Obrapaa women's group have amazing artistic talents. Their talent and passion, by fate or by chance, aligns closely with mine. They create jewelry which they sell in local markets. Crossroads International's mandate, as aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals aims to promote gender equality, reduce inequalities, promote decent work and economic growth as well as promote responsible consumption and production in the countries they work in. My program aims to build capacity and improve economic empowerment, by sharing how I go about planning, organizing and releasing jewelry collections in a business format. We are going to collectively design, test, manufacture and brand a jewelry line that I hope can reach more local and international markets. 

I don't intend to give false hope - the jewelry industry is a hard one. It is very saturated and your original hard work can be easily ripped off. But I do intend to impart a sense of personal leadership as well as introduce opportunities for e-commerce that can provide an alternative form of income for any business idea, not just jewelry. I hope that we can re-use non-toxic e-waste and create great art in the form of jewelry. I hope we can learn together through an engaging experiences, inspiring each other to use the entrepreneurial tools to our advantage.

I hope to learn so much from them. I was given samples of their jewelry - beautiful beaded jewelry and bags that show they are artists at heart. Our challenges are many; one, the bead market is flooded by beads from China that are expensive, and some of the women have childcare to balance with any extra curricular commitments. Depending upon the interest and availability of the members of the Obrapaa women's group, I hope that we can start a social enterprise that can support their economic livelihood and personal development.

Fitting well with fate again is the upcoming NEW AFRICA Fashion Presentation on Friday Sept 23rd, 8pm-11pm at Rally Ossington, It is a collaboration with Ghana based clothing line Barkers-Woode, focusing on presenting new images of African-ness, one that includes diaspora, and one that celebrates our blackness. With all the anti-black sentiment in society and in news coverage, I am excited to be part of an event that celebrates, uplifts and exemplifies Africa and African heritage. This will also double as my going away send off, so to RSVP please click "Going" on the event page!

I will be blogging regularly to share my stories and insights - returning to Africa after generations. 


Afropunk 2016

Sweat. Face paint. Tall hair. Beauty in all its forms. 

Afropunk Weekend in BK 2016 was such a beautiful experience, yet again. This was my third year there in a row, and to be honest, I barely paid attention to the performances. I was swept away by the relentless individuality and the style innovations. Everyone in their Sunday's Best (literally). My boyfriend, cousin and I set up our blanket and people watched. Although many connections with others people were made, I feel that the most important connection was us, all of us, to our African roots: expressive style and graceful uniqueness. The sun fed our melanin and we sparkled like stars in the cosmos.

See Afropunk photos by Anthony Gebrehiwot here.


Here comes my soul

Am I living, or am I loving? I turned 27 last week and I felt full of love. I did not celebrate with a party, I stayed home most of the day, working on my website and hanging out with my Mom and Grandmother. My best friend and boyfriend joined us for dinner, and we shared a cute small chocolate cake that my mother bought at the grocery store. I went to R.I.S.E Poetry Slam Night with a few longtime friends and listened to young people bravely pour out their souls.

Since I have just come back from 8 months in Trinidad, I have been taking time to adjust back into (North American) city life. It is not moist or tropical or steaming like Port-of-Spain, but it is familiar. In light of the recent mass and racially targeted shootings and the BLMTO activism I've been trying to breathe deep, and vision a better way forward. As a young person acutely aware of her blackness and diaspora identity, I want to be aware of and define how my Africanness travels with me.

Over the past few years, travelling has helped me to understand the many forms of wealth. Recognizing my god given talents and strengths and how they shine through my life experiences. I have learned to be aware of how I am received in spaces - picking up vibrations - where I find love vs. where I experience otherness. I want to deconstruct all my hurt, contempt, mistrust and accept the truth that everything is within me. I want to deconstruct tradition and reconstruct a new African/Human sensibility, through the creation of artifacts. This is my talent and I offer it up fully to an afro-future that resists, and that stands the test of time.

Wild Moon Jewelry's 2016 collection is the beginning of this journey to a new self-love and a new self-story. It examines reconciliation and finds the space for conversation about how we hurt and therefore, how we hurt others. Honest conversation about holding hands with our pain and drawing out a new conclusion that puts empathy first. 

Wealth is made of many layers. Mother Earth doesn't care about the followers, the gossip or the egos. From a plane at 40000 ft up I was witness to Her expanse and her ability to provide abundantly for us all. I realized how Mother Earth cares for us, we must also care for each other, especially in this changing time. I realized how small we are, and then how our egos must be much smaller, egos made even more minute by their non-physicality. I therefore commit time and space to imagining a better future, one that is as radically inclusive and non-discriminatory as the elements air, earth, water, and fire.

How to apply these realizations to my every day thought process? by naming each new wild moon piece for places, people and feelings that return me to my core, and by using recyclable and environmental friendly materials as much as possible. How to commit to a new way of believing in myself and the power in my insignificance? be proudly humble, and bravely honest, walk with your olive branch. How can I reconcile more fully, and more proudly? step past forgiveness, past what first meets the eye and into the cell, where we bear witness to the sameness and the uniqueness of our inner parts. 

The Wild Moon goes deeper inside her self for the 2016 Cascade Collection. It is a collection signifying the waves of difference, or newness that bring the magnifying glass on our faults and identifies the space for our redemptions.