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.