Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Meet Madam Weedad

ICV Mariam and UKV Dominique tracked down the very busy and elusive Madam Weedad – Founder of WOSAG- and cornered her into an interview.  

Name: Madam Weedad

Place of birth : Bimbilla , in the Nanumba District of the Northern Region

Family : One of 8, my polygamous, father had two wives. 7 years ago, my father passed away. I am married and have two children, aged 5 and 2.

Favorite food : Kenkey

What made you set up WOSAG?  
In the northern region of Ghana and in most parts of Africa, women are left behind in terms of development. There are a lot of challenges that are faced by women in the northern region of Ghana. Women and girls face challenges by virtue of being born a female. And it is attributable to cultural, religious beliefs and other reasons. So, because of those attitudes, women and girls find themselves facing challenges. Though there have been a lot of organizations set up that actually deal with the challenges of women, there are too many challenges, so we needed to set up a women-focused organization led by women so that women can identify their own challenges, then also identify possible solutions and possible ways to deal with these challenges. That was the main reason why we set up WOSAG. 

WOSAG is mainly set up to actually empower women or to ensure that women are in a position to identify their own challenges and then also confront those challenges. But, of course with the support of other stake holders. So, it is basically women themselves identifying their challenges and then also finding solutions to those challenges, rather than relying on third parties to solve their problems.

What challenges have you come across?: 

The challenges, especially for a local organization at its infant stage is actually being able to secure enough funding to deal with the problems and to execute your strategies. The reason being that when you set up an organization you need to actually be able to demonstrate your experience to donors because this is one of the donor requirements - you need to demonstrate what you have achieved.

But if it is a fairly new NGO, how can you do this?  You are in a situation where even though you know the challenges on the ground, you haven’t had several years of experience or done much, so your record of achievement is not  huge.

To demonstrate to donors in the world of competitive funding becomes very difficult. You are easily out competed, so that is one of the challenges we face. Also, there are certain other requirements that we are still struggling to meet because we are still fairly new . For example, sometimes donors will want you to actually meet a certain amount (of your own funding) already before they can support you. But if you are a new organization how are you able to do that?

In the communities where we work, like I indicated earlier, the challenges of women are related to cultural and religious reasons and these are deep-rooted beliefs. They are so embedded in our thinking, in our world view that it becomes difficult to  change the status quo overnight. It is also somewhat frustrating. Like, you are in the community to actually confront these issues but you are also challenged because of deep-seated and long standing belief systems. People are born with it. It is a long-standing one so it just becomes very difficult for people to do away with – it takes time.

Also, society work or NGO work is time bound and sometimes you have a project, say one to two years where you want to deal with these issues. But within one or two years, you are unable to actually change the behavior, way of thinking, and attitudes. It’s frustrating. So at the end of the day you ask yourself “so what have we been able to achieve”?

Behavioral and attitudinal issues need a lot of time but the donors do not give you a very long term funding duration – the maximum you can get is 3-5 years. This is not enough to change attitudes so it becomes somewhat frustrating when dealing with women’s issues because of the patriarchal system in which we find ourselves. This is worrying. So I think those are the key challenges that WOSAG (as a growing organization) can find ourselves with

Dry or rainy season? : Rainy season is a bit cool for me – dry season is horrible

What do you like about ICS?: 

ICS presents a very unique opportunity to WOSAG in the sense that, yes we are already working as part of our work on sexual reproductive health issues as well as other aspects of woman empowerment, so the ICS program has actually given us the human resource for this.

We are actually challenged by the number of people we have in field exhibiting their activities, so the ICS volunteer program has actually added on to our human resource base because what we would have been doing as core team of WOSAG is what the ICS program is actually undertaking.

And it develops our work. Cohorts, both past present and continuous, have adopted strategies and incorporated radio programs which reach out to other stake holders and our partners. In this way, ICS makes WOSAG visible. ICS also helps WOSAG achieve more than we would have because of the limited number of staff that we have. The number of volunteers we have every three months reaching out to the communities and working on sexual reproductive health issues widens our scope and coverage.

So, for us , ICS  is a very wonderful program and I like everything about it. Sometimes the innovations you bring on board are very critical for any growing organization.

What languages do you speak?: 

English, Dagbani

Tertiary education : Bachelor’s degree and two masters. I did my 1st degree at the University of Ghana , Lagon  and my 1st master’s degree at the University of Cape Coast  in the central region and my second masters in Holland, the Hague at the International Institute of Social Studies.

You studied in Holland - did you like it? The weather can be harsh. I think the season in Holland I liked would be summer. The winter wasn’t so harsh but the week after I left, it snowed. I would like to have seen snow.

Transcribed by Mariam, written by Dominique  (Best friends for life 💕 )
Mariam and Dominique

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