Featured Storyteller

GHANA: Shining a Light for Ourselves and Each Other

Araba
Posted June 15, 2017 from Ghana
Photo © vkbhat

Araba Patricia Annan is learning howto drown out her naysayers and sustain her work as a girls' health advocate.

“Self-care is luggage we all need to take with us on our journey as changemakers.

It isn’t easy to be a reproductive health educator in Ghana. Some religious people have created confusion about the topic. Some people don’t understand why I want to give girls a thorough education on abortion. Theymisunderstand me and presume I promote abortion.

People say to me, “Why bother? Knowledge would make girls want to experiment.”But I am here to give a comprehensive reproductive health education, not a selective one. I tell my critics it’s better for girls to learn and decide what is good for themthan to live in ignorance, influenced by their peers. I am on a mission to equip young women and girls with the information they need to own their bodies, make their own choices, and raise their voices against all forms of abuse.

I know other activists who have called it quits because they could not stand the heat from their adversaries. They ran away because they did not want their names dragged down. For some, the opposition—from within and from without—is too much to carry. Some choose to focus on their survival rather than the stress of making change. They bow out, frustrated by opponents who do not want the status quo to change.

There are times when I, too, fight within myself. I tell myself I don’t have what it takes. But then another voice nudges me on.

We all have times when we want to give up. If we are lucky, we also have golden moments when we find people who believe in us. They shine the torch, lighting a path for us, motivating us to continue.

Sometimes, I’ve found, I have to shine that torch for myself. I have to carry my own sunshine. I have to dance to my own rhythm and make merry even on a rainy day.

In turbulent times, when I feel burned out and wrung dry, when I need to recharge, I look to other women who are making impacts in their communities. I look at their confidence, even when people misunderstand them. I tell myself I must carve out my own style to suit myself without copying anybody else. I must create my own space to survive when the trusted flee, when I feel like giving up.

My first self-care weapon is prayer. It simply calms me down whenever I believe there is a supreme God who has my back. I read quotes for confirmation and inspiration every morning. One of my favorites is the popular expression, do your best and leave the rest to God. Whenever I am stressed out, I exercise. When I am at work and I feel my ideas have been almost defeated, I go into the washroom and say some positive affirmations to myself.

There are so many ways we can care for ourselves as activists and this looks different for every individual. But however we approach it, self-care is luggage we all need to take with us on our journey as changemakers.

It is easier to care for ourselves when we are caring for each other. I am working on creating a space in my community and in my country where like-minded young women can come together, share their struggles, express themselves, and get encouragement from sister changemakers. When a like-minded sister shines the torch for us, we see better. When she laughs with us, we laugh the best. When she cries with us, the tears dry up faster because it shows that she is with us in solidarity. And when she criticizes us, we know she is bringing out the best in us with no malice.

My sisters remind me I cannot give up when I face false criticism from anyone, even from within the community where I want to create change. I can’t give up when I hear criticism from fellow women. I can’t give up just because my own ideas are out of tune with the norm. I can’t give up when I fall flat on my face. No, I must march on, because this is who I am. The satisfaction I get from positively impacting my community with information and knowledge cannot be measured against my opponents and detractors.

When I hear that young girls in my area are reporting the family members who rape them to their teachers, I know my work is making an impact. I rejoice when I hear of girls quitting abusive relationships, refraining from sex to focus on their education, and when I see pregnant girls overcome efforts to name and shame themby returning to school after delivery. I can see how much my work is needed and I know I must continue finding ways to keep going.


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Comments 26

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  • Rupal
    Jun 15, 2017
    Jun 15, 2017

    Dear Araba,

    Hello, this is such a beautifully written piece that I loved reading every single word of it. Your words gave me a lot of positivity, thank you:)

    You are doing amazing work and should be proud of yourself. The topic of self care you raised alongwith the issue is totally relatable and significant for us all. Thank you for spreading the love and goodness.

    Keep up the fabulous work, nothing can take you down. I'm sure with people like yourself, we will only rise.

    Much love!!

  • Araba
    Jun 20, 2017
    Jun 20, 2017

    Thanks Rupal. I get self doubt at times. But am always encouraged by people like you, Thanks for your encouragement

  • Nicole Joseph-Chin
    Jun 16, 2017
    Jun 16, 2017

    Thank you for sharing. I encourage you to pursue and do not be disheartened. When I began my journey, it sounded very bizarre to many. Today I speak globally and advocate for what I believe in, no matter what! 

  • Araba
    Jun 20, 2017
    Jun 20, 2017

    Thanks Nicole, i need this kind of encouragement!

  • iyamail
    Jun 16, 2017
    Jun 16, 2017

    My sister, onwards with the task! I too have this noble task of educating teen girls about sex to help them avoid the pitfalls I know about from experience.

    I admire your dedication.

    I have written a book for teens on the topic which is available on Amazon called Asha's Letter: Sex Ed for teen girls. Education of young girls openly about sex is the key to avoiding pitfalls.

    All the best my sister.

    Iya

  • Araba
    Jun 20, 2017
    Jun 20, 2017

    Thanks Iya,for your encouragement. I will read your book to get more insight. 

  • mae me
    Jun 17, 2017
    Jun 17, 2017

    Dear Araba.  Thank you for keep going. Thank you for being a changemakers.

  • Araba
    Jun 20, 2017
    Jun 20, 2017

    I will strive to live a life of empowerment, and i will influence to accomplish positively. Thanks for empowering me.

  • Tamarack Verrall
    Jun 18, 2017
    Jun 18, 2017

    Dear Araba,

    This is such a beautifully written piece on Self Care. Such an important reminder. I appreciate deeply as well your description of the resistance you are up against, doing work that will no doubt strengthen, encourage and change the lives of so many girls. Too often the rules made do not fit every situation and the need to trust each woman and girl with her own decisions for her own reasons is worth standing strong for.

    "I tell myself I don’t have what it takes. But then another voice nudges me on". Thank you for the reminder that we need to trust that inner voice even in facing strong resistance. There is so much that I love in your poetic call for us to take care of ourselves and to look to others for inspiration to continue. I love that we have that with each other through World Pulse.

    In sisterhood,

    Tam 

  • Araba
    Jun 20, 2017
    Jun 20, 2017

    Thanks Tam. You and the world Pulse community make me feel , that i can pursue  all my dreams ,and i can   achieve all  my goals  to impact positively in my country

  • Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
    Jun 18, 2017
    Jun 18, 2017

    Thanks my dear for sharing. The kind of work we do is so draining emotionally and so you need to care for yourself as much as possible because you  need to release positive energy to the people around you. 

    Stay blessed and well done 

  • Araba
    Jun 20, 2017
    Jun 20, 2017

    Thanks Anita.

  • Grace Amiola
    Jun 19, 2017
    Jun 19, 2017

    Dear Arabia,

    Great article beautifully written.

    Well-done and keep the good work going. Be rest assured that everyone that criticized or stand against the change will come to be your cheer leader.

  • Araba
    Jun 20, 2017
    Jun 20, 2017

    Thanks Grace. We all need self care for our work.

  • Sally maforchi Mboumien
    Jun 19, 2017
    Jun 19, 2017

    Dear Araba this piece is truly inspirational. Not only does it preach self-care it speaks to me directly on how to manage pressure in a domain society is yet to realise its relevance. I wish you the best in the journey you are undertaking and I trust the fact that the weapon of shining a torch for others too will brighten your paths in all you do

  • Araba
    Jun 20, 2017
    Jun 20, 2017

    Thanks Sally. I  admire your work as well.I take inspiration from all of you and your desire to make a difference in your communities.

  • DESTINE
    Jun 20, 2017
    Jun 20, 2017

    j'ai toujours eu une habitude d'encourager le gens qui partager leurs histoire avec le autre,merci et bonne continuer  a tous,  

  • Araba
    Jun 20, 2017
    Jun 20, 2017

    Merci pour votre encouragement, Destine.

  • visnja
    Jun 25, 2017
    Jun 25, 2017

    Dear Araba,

    It is impressive to me that you go out and face anger and resistance but find a wish to keep doing what you know helps others learn from your strength.

    I work on empowering women around me and am surprised by the resistance sometimes, but it's almost like it makes me think harder and more creatively.

    I get a lot of inspiration by reading stories like yours and following world organizations that have made progress in advancing women's human rights. One organization I discovered is called Tostan, they operate in Senegal, empowering women to gain a place in the community besides domestic and agricultural work. Tostan has an education program that teaches women to affect change in their own villages and communities. That way the voice is multiplied and not carried by a sole educator.

    Maybe you can train apprentices in what you do and have a greater impact, too. Plus you would have a built in support network for when you encounter resistance.

    With respect and encouragement,

    Visnja

  • Araba
    Jul 01, 2017
    Jul 01, 2017

    Thanks. I would google on Tostan ,to read their creative ways to replicate in some of the communities in our project areas.

  • Matilda Moyo
    Jun 27, 2017
    Jun 27, 2017

    Wow Araba,

    What an inspiring article. Thank you for sharing. I can see why your work is having an impact, your courage and motivation are contagious. I have drawn some courage from reading this and believe many more readers will do so too.

    I wish you all the best as you continue your journey as a change maker.

    Matilda

  • Araba
    Jul 01, 2017
    Jul 01, 2017

    Thanks Matilda. I have been motivated by your comments well.

  • Julia O
    Jul 08, 2017
    Jul 08, 2017

    Dear Araba,

    I loved this post! Your writing style is lovely; I loved all the descriptions. First, I think your job sounds so cool and so necessary. Girls need to be taught about all aspects of reproduction and their rights surrounding it. Education truly is power. Second, your post is very inspiring. Fighting for what's right, working, even just daily life can sometimes be so hard and we can feel discouraged. But marching on and not giving up is really important and necessary.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Best wishes,

    Julia

  • Araba
    Jul 17, 2017
    Jul 17, 2017

    Thanks Julia. Am encouraged to step out and  do more than am doing. Thanks

  • Mujidah
    Apr 17
    Apr 17

    Hi Araba,
    You are doing beautifully well against all odds. People like you give us the strength to go on. I tell you, what you face is similar to what other advocates in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where patriarchy dominates most face.
    Let's keep at it, we WILL WIN.

  • Araba
    Apr 17
    Apr 17

    Thanks my dear. Thanks for your words of support.