The eighth annual Ghana YMCA National Youth Convention was held in Cape Coast this past August. Youth members from six regions of Ghana came to the Cape for this event. I was asked by the organizers to lead two workshops on Gender.
The convention was held in two parts, a Delegates conference for selected dedicated YMCA youth members from each region, and a main convention open to all YMCA youth members. YMCA youth volunteers worked for many months to put on the convention and to bring youth together for this four-day event. (I think it is important to mention that ‘youth’ in Ghana is any person between 15 and 35…a much wider definition than we are used to in Canada; participants at this convention ranged in age from 20-35.)
The Delegates conference was arranged to give selected youth intensive training in advocacy, lobbying and messaging to help these young people speak with confidence on issues that impact their lives. My role within this conference was to introduce the Ghana YMCA gender policy that I am responsible for, and to speak to the use of policy as a tool within advocacy campaigns.
For the main convention I ran a workshop for 20 youths on Gender and Language. In this workshop participants explored gender roles and barriers that are reflected in language and were asked questions such as: How does what we say and how we say it impact those around us? What is the language of empowerment? What is the language of equality? How does language reflect our society and its understanding of gender dynamics. I used examples of popular Ghanaian music to illustrate how language can re-enforce traditional gender roles and stereotypes, while promoting negative masculinity. Brainstorming exercises were also used to engage participants in developing a list of gender specific expression within their local languages. From this I challenged the participants to pay attention to the words they used and to stop for a moment to think about the impact of their words think about how these expressions help Ghana become the society they want in the future.
My workshop went over very well and the feedback from participants was positive, some particularly liked the use of music. It was two hours of high energy with an engaging group of young men and women. The convention, while not free of bumps and setbacks, was lively and the attendees agreed that their favourite part was not the social activities, the meals or the games, but the day of workshops.
YCI also had two volunteers at the Convention running a workshop on advocacy tools, which of course tied in well with the Delegates conference. Facebook is very popular in Ghana but I have not seen it used as an advocacy platform by many here. I hope Sam and Candice are able to share their workshop with you here as well. (Click here to read their blog post about the event).
I am discovering with each workshop I run how much I love this work. Workshops are a different kind of education, you don’t TELL your participants anything they are not your students; it is a discovery session where they are only guided to explore new ideas and share their thoughts. Since starting my work here in Ghana I have received feedback from participants on how much they like my presentation style, that they were interested and wanted more information, but most important have been the feedbacks telling me that they felt respected and appreciated how open I am to listening to different opinions. As a foreigner I extremely careful in how I present an idea and the kinds of questions I ask. I am not here to ‘teach’; I am not here to educate Ghanaians about their culture and gender dynamics, they know it all, I am just helping them see it and facilitate the discussion. It is exciting to discover, and fine-tune a new skill. I have always been comfortable in front of crowds and I have a background in ESL teaching, but workshops like this require different or additional skills. This internship has given me the opportunity to grow my skills in several areas, particular in workshop development and delivery.
– Linden Deathe, IYIP Intern, Ghana 2011
YCI’s International Youth Internship Program (IYIP) Interns are funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Our IYIP interns spend 7-9 months working with YCI’s partner organizations in Latin American, South America and Africa. The application process to become an IYIP intern is highly competitive. Applications for our 2012 internship positions will open in early November.
For more IYIP blogs, check out our IYIP section.