The first activity my team planned in Koforidua, Ghana was a two day workshop on good governance, the Millennium Development Goals and community mobilization. The workshop included five local Assembly-members. Our goal was to create a community action plan with each Assembly-member outlining a task that they would like the next group of YCI volunteers to help them with in their communities (so any summer volunteers reading this should get excited) however before we go into that a little background on Assembly-members in Ghana.
There are approximately one hundred and twenty four District Assemblies in Ghana. Each is made up of a mix of elected and appointed members. Thirty percent of the Assembly is appointed by the President and the remaining two-thirds are elected by their electoral areas. Elections are held every four years and Assembly-members run for office on a non-partisan basis.
A Presiding Member or chairperson is elected from the elected members of the Assembly, while the District Chief Executive is appointed by the President. Subcommittees are formed to study issues in depth and make policy recommendations to the executive committee, who then present to the entire Assembly where decisions are made. There are five mandatory subcommittees: development planning, social services, works, justice and security, and finance and administration. However, the Assemblies are free to create further subcommittees or joint committees when necessary. Every Assembly-member must belong to at least one subcommittee.
We ended up having three Assembly-members on day one and four on day two. The first three were all women: Honorable Lucy, Honorable Joyce and Honorable Esther. On the second day Honorable Martin joined us. We came up with some great community action plans. At first it was a little difficult to get the Assembly-members to focus on small initiatives that we could accomplish in the short term. Thinking big is awesome but unfortunately we could not commit to building public toilets in six weeks with the next group of volunteers. Finally we settled on a plan for each: Honorable Lucy went with a community clean up, a microfinance seminar for the women in Honorable Esther’s community, Honorable Martin, who is twenty-five and was appointed to be a representative for the youth on the District Assembly, wants to do a workshop on leadership skills and empowering youth, and finally Honorable Joyce wants to sensitize her community to the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention.
I felt honored that these busy Assembly-members would take the time to come work with us and I felt I learned a lot listening to them discuss the issues they were facing in their communities. I was impressed with the work that Honorable Lucy was doing with the girls in her community and felt the frustration that seems to come with development work. We cannot fix many of the issues that they brought up in the short period of time that we are here but can focus on the small incremental projects that we have the resources for at the moment.
-Allison Bystrom, YCI Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2011. Allison is currently taking part in a 6-week project in Ghana. The team will be working with local Assembly-members, the YCI-YMCA mentorship program and on health and environmental community initiatives.
For more volunteer blogs, check out our Travel Diary category.