October 2014


Introducing…Aisha Ayensu

The owner of the fashion brand making waves in Africa and beyond !

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The spotlight of MFG’s ‘Introducing…’ series falls on the owner of one of the largest fashion brands on the African continent – Ms. Aisha Ayensu (nee Obuobi)

Fashion designer, creative director and owner of acclaimed all-female fashion label Christie Brown, Aisha is making waves on the international fashion scene. A fashion line which while being ‘proudly African’ also manages to ‘speak to the world’, her gorgeous cosmopolitan African prints have found their place on the front covers of magazines and underneath the spotlights of sold-out concert

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Christie Brown is a monument of love which finds its foundations in Aisha’s childhood, where she watched on adoringly as her seamstress grandmother Christie Brown weaved rich and vibrant garments. The fashion line was turned from dream-to-reality as Aisha had a ‘passion for fashion’ stemming from those early memories.

She acknowledges that she originally lacked business acumen and has grown with her business, learning to use investments to be able to stand on her own feet. At the onset, Aisha didn’t know how to use a sewing machine – all she had were her dreams in her heart, and the fervently vivacious design ideas on the walls of her mind.

Completing a Psychology degree in the University of Ghana, Aisha completed many apprenticeships at various fashion houses in Ghana, eventually settling at the Joyce Ababio School of Creative Design. She endeavoured to learn the tailoring trade in order to be in a position to be able to train her future employees to be able to execute her vision. She admits to having made many mistakes along the way, but appreciates how she has been ‘learning on the job’ and appreciates the wisdom which her experiences have handed her.

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Christie Brown was eventually founded by Aisha in 2008, a manifestation of a long-held desire to revamp the Ghanaian fashion industry and the use of African wax print, a medium she has deep love for. Described as ‘a representation of the understated, sophisticated and modern African woman’, the Christie Brown brand aims to produce ‘practical, functional clothes which can be worn anywhere and everywhere, extending onto accessory lines’ with ‘every piece aiming to tell a positive story!’ She has a fervent desire to portray Ghanaian culture in the best way possible and drag it kicking and screaming onto the international scene of the world today.

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Christie Brown won the ‘Emerging Designer of the Year’ award at the inaugural Arise Africa Fashion Week in 2009. In 2012, Aisha was the sole Ghanaian representative at the International Visitors’ Leaders Programme. A platform for international entrepreneurs, it was here where she felt the business got the fuel to reach another level. Since then, her work has graced fashion publications such as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue Italia. Multi-award winning sensation Alicia Keys wore Christie Brown pieces for a recent VIBE magazine shoot. And at the end of 2013, Aisha collaborated with stylists involved in Beyoncé’s much-acclaimed ‘Mrs Carter World Tour’, with Katrina Hernandez claiming that ‘working with the design team at Christie Brown for Beyoncé’s Mrs Carter World Tour was an absolute dream come true.

While putting her all into thrusting her fashion house into the stratosphere, Aisha holds a strong desire to pull her generation along with the ride, hoping to inspire young Ghanaians in Ghana and the diaspora to take the world by storm. She advocates business-mindedness, and is urging young Ghanaians and burgeoning designers to see the business opportunities which can come from their talents and gifts, rather than living content with those talents in the guises of mere hobbies. ‘Do you have staying power?’ she encourages today’s youths to ask themselves when considering their future pursuits.Do you love it enough to want to plug through the hard times? Are you willing to persevere? What is the message you want to put across? Tell it the best way possible! Be patient, be grounded, know your craft – the success will come!’

Aisha has fearlessly built a brand for the ‘savvy, self-assured, internationally exposed, inspired, empowered, and confident.’ She wants the brand to be internationally-recognised, without losing the essence of what Christie Brown stands for. To quote the brand’s official website, ‘after only a few of years in the industry, Christie Brown has created a strong presence for itself, reflecting the personality and inspiration of the founder, with a continued promise of effortless sophistication in each design.

Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Ghana Ministry of Foreign Affairs Diaspora Engagement Conference

Since January, we have been working behind the scenes to ensure youth have a voice as part of the Ghana governments Diaspora engagement strategy and policy they are developing. In January, in partnership with our charity the WAM Campaign we held the Future of Ghana forum, and as a result we developed the Future of Ghana Youth Engagement Policy Brief. Since then we have been engaging the powers that be to ensure the views of the Diaspora youth have been heard and actioned.

As a result, we have been selected to attend a consultative meeting, which has been arranged to engage the European Diaspora with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Diaspora Support Bureau in developing Ghana’s Diaspora Strategy in Brussels from the 27th-29th October 2014 in Brussels. The aim is to foster dialogue and interaction between the two nominated Diaspora groups from each of the six designated European country representatives (including Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, The Netherlands). MIEUX experts Ms. Stella Opoku-Owusu from AFFORD and Mr. Kingsley Aikins from Diaspora Matters will guide the discussions and provide input.

The purpose of this consultative meeting is to provide opportunities to the Ghanaian diaspora to share their views, input and recommendations on the future of the Ghanaian Diaspora Engagement with Ghana’s development and add to the Policy vision/structure and implementation. The meeting has been organised within the Migration EU expertise ‘MIEUX’ project framework. This is a joint initiative between the European Union and the International Centre for Migration Policy Development which aims to enhance the capacities of partner countries in the management of all areas of migration.

As part of our research, evaluations and engagement via our past December volunteering initiatives, we in partnership with our charity the WAM Campaign will be representing the voice and feedback of the Diaspora Youth.

Hopefully on our return we will be able to share feedback and some possible collaboration as to how we aim to launch our Future of Ghana initiative and our charity (WAM Campaign) aims to grow and facilitate more volunteering opportunities throughout Ghana all year round.

Introducing Ernest Simons…..

 Talented Photographer Currently showcasing his work at first Exhibition

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Ernest Simons is a London based photographer specialising in sports, fashion & portraits.He has worked with a wide range of clients including Content by Conran,  Nico Didonna New African Woman, The GFA (Ghana Football Association), ISG and Macmillan Cancer, Tekkers, & Borrow.

After establishing a proven track record of expertise spanning 8 years. Ernest has now embarked on putting on his first exhibition, The Black & White Exhibition which was inspired by his trip to a Ghanaian village earlier this year and the inhabitants going about their daily lives. Me Firi Ghana’s Director, Arnold Sarfo Kantanka and Editor/Head of Communications, Ben Anim-Antwi were in attendance for the private viewing of the exhibition on the evening of Tuesday 21 October.

The Exhibition is open to the public  from 22 Ocober – 20 November 2014 at Stephen Lawrence Centre, 39 Brookmill Rd, London SE8 4HU and promises to be an engaging and thought provoking experience. Make sure you get down there to check it out!

To wet your appetite view the trailer below;

 

MFG caught up with the talented photographer for a quick chat about the Black & White Exhibition amongst other things… See below!

MFG: Describe Ernest Simons in 3 words?

ES:” Creative, Opportunist with a big loving heart.”

How did you get involved in photography?

ES: “Fell into it really. I am also a graphic designer, went to University  but when I worked for design agencies laying out magazines ,adverts etc for companies sometimes they wanted photographs retaken by me. That’s when I realized I had a talent. I always had a love for sports & Fashion photography . I was asked to embark on a basketball project back in the day called Rough n Ready where I had to photograph an advert and photograph the tournament. I did not realize that this event was sponsored by Nike and the whole campaign was the birth to showcase elite basketball players in the U.K. those was some fantastic years, got a lot of people talking about my work. At that point I knew I would always take photographs”

MFG: What inspired the Black & White Exhibition?

ES:” My grandmother passed recently and the attire was all in black and white. I was taking pictures and felt more drawn to the pictures emotionally when I converted the images to monochrome. So I selected certain images to showcase at the Exhibition and other passed pictures also what give emotion.”

MFG:What is your favourite Ghanaian food?

ES: Jellof / fried yam and tilapia. sorry can never decided. ( How can you just say one food that’s not correct!)

MFG: If you could change one thing about Ghana what would it be?

ES: “Making our economy stable! – (but please don’t ask me how I just know not one person or party can do this alone and if the Community cant do it we need to seek advice and make sure the people benefit from this. Ghana is a rich country and the mass of people have values. Its only fitting we give them what they deserve its the birth right.”

What does the future hold for Ernest Simons?

ES: “Chale at the moment I am in a state of Sankofa. This exhibition is a turning point in my life where I should have done this before, but it is well. Its time to exert my work on to companies and people to start creating a brand. With my studio opening soon there is such a bonus to my business and you will be invited to the launch of that also!”

Me Firi Ghana (@Me_FiRi_Ghana)

GUBA EXPO 2014 EXPLODES IN ROYAL GREENWICH BOROUGH! ON 7 & 8 NOV

1GUBA Awards will be hosting a two-day Expo at the Charlton Athletic Football Club (The Valley, Floyd Road, Charlton SE7 8BL) on Friday the 7th and Saturday the 8th of November 2014. The Expo will be taking place from 9am to 6pm for both days.

The GUBA Expo will be a business focused event; aiming to equip businesses with the knowledge and insights on procurement standards and supply procedures to major multinational companies in the UK. It will be a platform for buyers to connect with potential suppliers and offers investment prospects for attendees.

The objective of the GUBA Expo is to increase trade between the UK and Africa, to increase the economic opportunities for Africa and the UK.  The focus will be centred on connecting small and medium-sized African businesses (SMBs) seeking to establish their products in the British mainstream market. These SMBs will gain access to industry experts who will share knowledge and advice on achieving industry-set benchmarks.  The event will also feature exhibitions, networking and invaluable workshops led by industry experts.

The current prominence of African inspired products on the British market makes it imperative for SMBs to market and promote products effectively. Major retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and ASOS have demonstrated their interest in African SMBs by stocking products from various countries on the continent. The GUBA Expo aims to bridge the gap between production and procurement for SMBs, and hopes to facilitate a profitable relationship.

The first day of the GUBA Expo will be an opportunity for attendees to benefit from the informative workshops. Experts from various companies will speak on areas such as: Business Planning, Going Global on a Budget, How to Pitch & win Contracts, Expand your Brand with Social Media, Branding & Packaging, Tax, Exports and Imports. Attendees and registered exhibitors will get to partake in Q&A sessions alongside these workshops.

The second day of the expo will be a showcase of the products on offer by the registered exhibitors. Products on offer and presented for sale on the day will include: Clothes and Accessories, Furniture, Cosmetics, Food & Beverages and many more. Procurement experts and wholesale buyers from major outlets will also sample products, interact and provide advice.

Several dignitaries and business experts have confirmed attendance to the GUBA Expo. Amongst them are the Minister of Tourism, Culture & Creative Arts Ghana; Mrs. Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare, MP for Greenwich & Woolwich; Nick Raynsford, Representatives from Barclays Bank and several others.

Check out the official promo for the expo;

 

Registration for businesses wanting to exhibit their products and services is currently ongoing. Exhibitors and attendees can register interest at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BKYSD2F

Confirmation emails will be sent out shortly after registration.

Tickets can also be purchased via:

http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-guba-expo-2014-tickets-13240840711

For further information on the GUBA Expo, visit- http://www.gubaexpo.co.uk

Me Firi Ghana (@Me_FiRi_GHANA)

Ghanaian State of Mind…. The Documentary!

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Health in the Ghanaian and wider African community

Cherish Counselling Practice, My Ghana Roots and Narrow Path Films proudly present Ghanaian State of Mind.  A candid documentary on mental health and how it is perceived in the Ghanaiana community. It was released over the weekend to much anticipation.

The documentary features Me Firi Ghana’s very own Editor Ben Anim-Antwi, Radio presenter Claire Clottey aswell as entrepreneur Mavis Amankwah amongst others. All contributors provide insight into how we as a society perceive, recognise and deal with mental health

Ghanaian State of Mind is available now on My Ghana Roots youtube channel but you can also check it in full below;

Please share the video, continue to support the moment with the following hashtags;#GhanaianStateofMind #TimeToChange and let’s get talking to break the stigma surrounding mental health

Lastly well done to Derek Appau (Founder of My Ghana Roots), Alfred K Mante (Director Narrow Path Films) and Abigail Baah for coming together to produce such a thoughr provoking documentary.

Me Firi Ghana (@Me_FiRi_GHANA)

Road Map Ghana: 10th Anniversary of Star 100

unnamed-2When was the last time you went to a conference and left feeling truly inspired, truly connected and firing on all cylinders? Well if it’s been a while, then the Star 100 Tenth Anniversary Conference, Road Map Ghana, is for you.WHO WILL YOU HEAR FROM?
– Thought Leaders: individuals that have defined ideas and strategies for Ghana’s future development, in key sectors, will share their road maps for Ghana
– Change Makers: Ghana-focused individuals making a difference in their chosen field of endeavour will share their personal road maps

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR YOU?
– Engage with leading Ghanaian entrepreneurs
– Learn what it is really like to move from the Diaspora to Ghana from those that have done it
– Understand Ghana’s key areas of development and the opportunities they present for you
– Discover practical ways to contribute to Ghana’s development without leaving the Diaspora

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WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT?
In addition to inspiring talks, fireside chats, panel sessions and workshops, you will engage with our speakers, be able to pick their brains, immerse yourself in the agenda topics and get to meet like-minded delegates who are passionate about moving Ghana forward. A truly engaging experience!

Tickets are on sale now, but they are limited.

There are only 70 early bird tickets available for just £45 up until 8th October, so get in soon to secure your spot.

After that tickets are £65. The price includes a lunch and beverages.

Click the following link for more information and to purchase your ticket!

See you there:

http://www.roadmapghana.com

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The Beauty of ‘Black & White’ by Ernest Simons …..

It’s all Black & White

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This October, the Stephen Lawrence Centre in South East London will open its door to exhibit London based photographer Ernest Simons. This will be the first time Ernest Simons will showcase an intimate series of photographs titled ‘Black & White’, which were captured after Ernest spent some personal time in a village in Ghana. This exciting event will start with a private viewing on 21 October 2014 followed by an open exhibition from 22nd October –  24th November 2014.

Black & White is a project through which Ernest Simons was inspired by the beauty and personality of villagers going about their normal day-to-day life. Ernest adds, “Whilst I was in Ghana, I saw a simplicity that I tried to preserve through a lens, Black & White breathes life and captures the imperfections made perfect of those people”. Ernest is also passionate about having this powerful documentation open to the public during black history month. As well as photographs, this wonderful showcase will also include cards and photographic print available to purchase with an opportunity of getting signed images from Ernest himself.

Ernest Simons photographs specialises in sports, fashion & portraits. He has a proven track record of expertise spanning 8 years. His unique methods behind the camera have allowed him to develop his unique skill.

For more information and images, contact Diahanne Rhiney at Diahanne Rhiney Consultancy:

Tel:020 3474 0123,

Fax:0870 420 5181,

Mobile: 07860 739345

Email: diahanne@diahannerhiney.com

*Ernest Simons is a London based photographer having worked with a wide range of clients including Content by Conran,Nico Didonna New African Woman, The GFA (Ghana Football Association), ISG and Macmillan Cancer, Tekkers, Sports on Screen & Borrow*

Me Firi Ghana (@Me_FiRi_Ghana)

Exile: The Witches’ Camps of Ghana…

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Imagine being a woman, by birth and by genetics. Not any fault of your own of course, for fate’s cards decided to cause you to fall on that side of the gender partition. Imagine having dreams of a perfect life, making it through school, meeting the man of your dreams, falling in love and settling down with your 2.5 children, enjoying the fruits of your labour. Imagine unfortunately taking hits from the storms of life, falling victim to its unfortunate twists and turns which leave you battered, bruised, beaten, flailing in despair as you scramble for help and hope.

Then imagine. Instead of being offered a helping hand or an ear of understanding, you are being held to account as the source of your problems, and the causative factor to the hell which has encompassed your life. Imagine, being called a witch. Imagine, having to flee your home, the remnants of your family, your life, and living in exile in a witches’ camp, like a leper – rendered poor, demeaned, a stigmatised outcast. In 2014.

Many centuries ago, in the 17th century, a set of trials in colonial Massachusetts USA lead to many women being killed following various accusations of witchcraft – these women had been blamed for communal misfortunes such as infant death and crop failure, falling victim to mass hysteria, false accusation and the imbalanced perception of women in the community. Fast forward to 21st century Ghana, and similar trends can be found in pockets across the country.

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However the end doesn’t have to be as barbaric as what manifested in Salem centuries ago. Instead, there are a few ‘witches’ camps’ dispersed across the country where accused women can come to settle in exile, seeking refuge from potential physical and verbal abuse, torture and lynching. These camps began to spring up in what was previously the British Gold Coast, more than 200 years ago. Unfortunately, such camps persist in today’s forward-thinking Ghana.

What puts women at risk of being accused of witchcraft? Some have postulated that being particularly outspoken in a culture which celebrates humility and submissiveness can cause people to see you as a deviant to the expectations of society, and thus operating conversely to the spiritual norms of the community.

Accusations may also stem from greed and jealousy, and be a means of bullying in order to gain benefit – a study of one particular camp found that most of its inhabitants were elderly women, with 70% having been accused and banished following the deaths of their husbands and thus may have fallen victim to people who wanted to get rid of them in order to take control of the dead husband’s property! “The camps are a dramatic manifestation of the status of women in Ghana,” says Professor Dzodzi Tsikata of the University of Ghana. “Older women become a target because they are no longer useful to society.”

Eccentric behaviour can also be interpreted as evidence of possession of a woman by an evil spirit, a result of the lack of education in mental health which I have intimated before in various articles for MFG in the past. “In traditional communities there is no real understanding of depression or dementia,” says Dr Akwesi Osei, chief psychiatrist at the Ghana health service, who has noted that a majority of the women in these witches’ camps have an element of mental illness.

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The powers that be in Ghana see the camps as a dark stain on the reputation of a nation which is frequently held up as an example of one of the most progressive democratic and economically vibrant nations in Africa, and has previously shown intention to disband them. Nothing has come of this sporadic rhetoric. However, sending the women back to their home villages carelessly would be an action fraught with danger.

The Go Home project, supported by ActionAid, has facilitated discussion between accused women and members of their former communities in an attempt to dispel mistruths and facilitate the safe return of these women to their homes. However, it is a sad truth that for many who may eventually be proved innocent as a result of these discussions or the performance of rituals to determine their innocence, the beliefs which have condemned them to a life of exile can be so deeply entrenched that many may never be able to return home.

Unlike the dreams that many of these women may have had at the start of their lives, for a lot of them there will be no happy ending.

Imagine.

Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

The Black Star’s Black Mark……

Ghana’s Maternity Defect

Childbirth

An everyday occurrence of inherent significance. The reason why we are all here. An event where a crescendo of pain at the end of several months of burden climaxes in the production of a new life. It’s supposed to be a momentous occasion, one of great joy and happiness.

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Childbirth, child mortality and maternal maternity are one of the barometers which many world surveys use to determine how developed a country is. For all Ghana’s great gains in recent years in terms of oil, infrastructure and various other commodities and areas of life, Ghana is struggling to provide a maternity system that can stand tall with pride.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that were established in 2000. All 189 United Nation member states including Ghana committed to help achieve these MDGs by 2015. MDGs 4 and 5 are particularly pertinent – to reduce child mortality (more specifically, to reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate), and to improve maternal health (Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio).

The UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund) is the lead UN agency for ‘delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.’ They released a report in 2011 titled The State of World’s Midwifery: Delivering Health, Saving Lives which showed that Ghana still had a lot to do in order to meet targets for 2015. Maternal deaths per 100000 births sat at 550 in 1990 and sat at 350 in 2010 – lagging behind many of our African counterparts and a world away from the UKs 12 in 100000.

And with 2015 literally just around the corner, a lot of work needs to be done in Ghana – fast. However, the state of affairs of a maternity service of a country which is priding itself as a standard-bearer of Africa in the 21st century is below-par.

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Maternity facilities are severely overpopulated in Ghana’s big cities, further exposing most parts of the country to unsafe deliveries and their delicate consequences of child deformities, infections, high maternal and child mortalities. The government must begin to consider the circumstances of birth as the most crucial aspect of a human being’s life because many deaths and deformities among children and women can be prevented by well-intentioned policies, which recognise antenatal and maternity services as crucial aspects of the nation’s health delivery.

Reports can be found of over-subscribed Caesarean lists, where priority is given to ‘first-time birthers’. Reports this summer noted that Tema Hospital struggled for bedspace for expectant mothers, with approximately 70% of women in labour giving birth to their children on the floor. Mothers who have just delivered have been reported to share beds with other mothers and their newly-delivered babies, with up to three mothers and their newborns sharing a bed at one time. This is not good enough.

A TV3 report recently exhibited similar dire issues at the Ridge hospital, where hoards of women on the edge of labour were sprawled across the ground and midwives told how a lack of beds meant many of these women would eventually deliver on the floor. There have been further reports of expectant mothers delivering babies on benches, and high rates of miscarriages and maternal deaths triggered by these stressful labour experiences.

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A new multi-storey maternity block for the Tema hospital with many beds, labour suites and a newborn ICU, construction of which commenced under the Atta Mills administration, lies unfinished, work in seemingly perpetual limbo as the project lies abandoned for almost 4 years. With well-equipped facilities sparse in many areas of the country, travel is also a vital aspect. Notoriously bad roads which the government are slow to resolve, and places inaccessible to vehicles during rain seasons can make reaching required facilities in time dangerous and at times unachievable.

These issues, and the poor rates of maternal deaths, can be remedied if efforts were made to make it a priority for the women of Ghana to realise their right to a decent & dignified delivery. Ghana has made great strides in recent years in many areas. It has a lot to be proud of. However, Ghana’s maternity service and its attitude to deliveries is a black mark on what is otherwise a flagship story of the continent.

 Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)