November 2015


Fade To Black: Suicide Among Ghanaians

PANews_P-083e410e-484a-4fb1-97b5-ae8691cebef5_I1Sam Sarpong was a young man who tirelessly worked his way into the fashion and entertainment realms of Hollywood, his face recognisable in fashion shows, MTV or BET – one of the most established bright Black Stars on the diaspora. On the surface, he was a man living the dream. And yet, as October 2015 drew to a close, this same gentleman found himself on a bridge in Pasadena, California. After a deliberation of 7 hours, and despite the pleas of family and law enforcement, Sam’s world literally came crashing down.

After the initial shock of the premature loss of one of Ghana’s brightest exports, came the questions. Why would he do it? He had it all, right? He had no reason to, right? Then came the whispers – it’s such an un-Ghanaian thing to do. Suicide is a selfish act – how could he do it when his family loved him? But you see, that is where a big problem comes in – when we attempt to apply reason and rationale to one of humanity’s most irrational of acts.

It is the incomprehensible nature of how a human being who lives to exist would find themselves at a point where they would willingly extinguish the flame of their own lives, which grants suicide an element of mystery. Those who have ever been truly suicidal will identify with the gravity, the darkness, the single-mindedness of suicidal ideation. They will note how life seems at a literal dead end. They will tell you how things become so desperate, all they can think about is release, and relief, and escape.

 

More than 800 000 people die by suicide worldwide every year – around one person every 40 seconds. alone-for-the-holidaysSuicide is much more rampant in Ghana and among Ghanaians than you would initially expect or believe. Mental health experts estimate that in Ghana, five or more people take their own lives each day. Available statistics on suicide in Ghana indicate that Greater Accra region has the highest number of deaths by suicide. The network for Anti-Suicide & Suicide Prevention found 531 people between the age of 9-19 kill themselves in Ghana every year. Approximately 1500 cases of suicide occur in Ghana annually – constituting about 7% loss in GDP. And those are just the reported cases, with it being suggested that there are four unreported cases for every reported case – so you’re looking at more than 6000 suicides in Ghana each year.

But, anybody who attempts to commit suicide in Ghana commits a criminal act (as per section 57, clause 2 of the Criminal Offences Act of Ghana). The Mental Health Society of Ghana (MEHSOG), has asked the Constitutional Review Committee and the Ghana Law Reform Commission to revise this. People who attempt to commit suicide likely suffer some form of mental disorder and should rather be referred to the appropriate mental health facility for counselling and treatment.

According to Mavis Darko-Gyekye, a lecturer in social work at the University of Ghana: “Suicidal behaviour and threats of suicide have been ignored in the country even though they exist. These are issues that no one talks about because suicide is considered a taboo.” Because they are not talked about, the silence engineers an environment where warning signs are missed and alarm bells fail to be heard. And as I have stated in previous articles, there is a general taboo which surrounds mental health as a whole, which means that there are so many out there who do not seek the help they need – simply because it is not available, or because they believe nobody cares. Mavis Darko-Gyekye goes on to say how “Unfortunately, we are training personnel that are not being utilized because people do not want to be associated with anything that would lead to associating them with mental illness.”

 

o-DEPRESSION-BLACK-facebookSuicide is still deemed a taboo and abomination among Ghanaian ethnic groups and faiths. It can be deemed a ‘bad death’, and social reproach can be observed by behaviours such as discouraging prolonged and public mourning, and in some places even observing decontamination rituals to purge families or communities of the taboo of suicide. Dali (2007, cited in Adinkrah, 2011) has found out that among some groups in Northern Ghana, when suicide occurs inside a house or an apartment, the corpse must be removed through a window or a special aperture in the wall. This is because conveying the body through the doorway permanently desecrates the doorway for the living. In this way, Ghanaian culture attempts to discourage people from taking their own lives.

Despite the taboos and intolerance, suicide still plays out. The vast majority of those who complete suicide amongst Ghanaians are male (Adinkrah, 2010) – indicative of the cultural finding that males are less likely to discuss their issues and find it feminine to seek social support. Literature also shows that males are more likely to employ ‘immediate-lethal’ methods such as gunshots while females prefer less violent methods such as taking poison or overdosing on drugs. Dr Dan-Bright Dzorgbo, Head of Sociology at the University of Ghana, has noted that the suicide trend is increasing in Ghana, believing that social inequality and the wide gap between rich and poor exacerbates issues people may have in terms of dealing with poverty and trying to move up the social ladder.

So many issues. So many contributory factors. So many lives being lost. And yet the silence surrounding suicide and the apathy regarding its prevention is a lullaby leading many to cut their lives short. We must fight the tide which is causing many Ghanaian lives to fade to black too soon. It’s time to break the silence and shine a light on the subject – who knows how many lives will be saved if we do so.

Feeling depressed or suicidal? Don’t suffer alone – please contact Samaritans.org or if you’re in Ghana, contact 233 244 846 701 (24/7 hotline)

 

By Dr. Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Chef Elijah Amoo Addo nominated for the 2015 Future Awards Africa Prize

_MG_7830 (2)Chef Elijah Amoo Addo, Founder and Executive Director of the Food for All Ghana Campaign has been nominated for the Future Awards Africa Prize in Community Action 2015 for his exemplary leadership and hard work towards creating sustainable means of nutrition for the vulnerable in Africa and working with his team to build West Africa’s first food bank in Ghana.

 

The Future Awards Africa, now in its 10th year, described by the World Bank as “The Nobel Prize for young Africans”, and FORBES International as the “most important youth awards”, is targeted at recognizing young Africans between ages 18 to 31 doing incredible work in various fields; with 11 categories including the ultimate prize, The Future Africa Awards Prize for the Young Person of the Year. It has produced over 150 winners and over 1550 nominees since its first edition in 2006.

 

Chef Elijah, a professional chef and food stylist quit his job in a prestigious restaurant in Accra, to advocate against food wastage and hunger along the food supply chain, after coming in contact with a mentally challenged man who goes round scouting leftover food from street vendors to feed his also mentally challenged colleague on the street.

Through his Chefs for Change Ghana Foundation, he initiated the Food for All Ghana campaign, a food recovery initiative DSC_5877aimed at creating sustainable means of nutrition for the vulnerable in Ghana and with a vision of building food banks in Africa with the first in Ghana.

Elijah with his team and Trigmatic (Goodwill Ambassador of the campaign) has for the past one year been recovering food to feed the mentally challenged, street kids and vulnerable organizations. They have recovered food to feed over 50,000 vulnerable people and organizations such as the Accra psychiatric hospital, Osu children’s home, Teshie Orphanage, Kinder Paradise and many vulnerable society in Ghana.

Food for All Ghana campaign has been championing their objective of food recovery using programs such as the Feast of Hope, Share your breakfast community feeding train, the hunger marathon and this year, they became the first organization in Africa to attempt the Guinness world record for the longest table on UN World food day, a feat they couldn’t achieve, however they built the longest table in Africa.

IMG_6808Chef Elijah notably called “Doctor in the kitchen” strongly believes that Africa is already producing enough food however inefficiencies within our food supply chain is given rise to huge amount of food wastage.

”If we could recover half of the food going waste along our food supply chain, we will be able to feed the hungry in Africa. Hunger in Africa could be eradicated with homegrown solutions such as Food for All Africa.”

 

The Nana Project Launches Website

The Nana Project, an online platform dedicated to preserving and sharing firsthand accounts of Ghana’s history, has announced the launch of their website www.thenanaproject.org.

Established in 2014, The Nana Project’s mission is to preserve, archive, and share firsthand accounts of Ghana’s history.

As the first Sub-Saharan African country to gain independence, Ghana gained the attention of many politicians and world leaders. “The nation of Ghana is still relatively young at only 58 years old”, says Founder and Executive Director of The Nana Project, Kirstie Kwarteng. “There are Ghanaians who are older than Ghana that can remember important moments in Ghana’s history from the Gold Coast to present day. I wanted to protect and share this history while we still have this generation to share their stories.”

tumblr_nxo7yoO78F1uc67syo1_1280At the heart of The Nana Project’s mission is the desire to remind one another of our shared culture, to strengthen and build connections, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into our fabric the understanding that our history matters. From the slave trade to independence and the Pan-African movement, Ghana’s role in history transcends continents and cultures. The project aims to invoke pride in one’s culture, country, and, most importantly, one’s self that translates into participation and action across all sectors. Kwarteng also hopes that the site will be used as an educational resource for history that is often glossed over or not found in history books.

The website archives video recordings of firsthand accounts such as childhood in colonial Ghana, Ghana’s Young Pioneers, and the impact of Fathia Nkrumah, Ghana’s first 1st lady, on Ghanaian women. The website also includes old photos of the storytellers and instructions for Ghanaians and friends of Ghana to submit their own video and photo stories.

The Nana Project hopes to share the voice of a generation and serve as a resource for Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians alike to learn about Ghana’s history.

To learn more about The Nana Project, visit the website at www.thenanaproject.org.

Link: The story of Nana Aba Naaman – Nana Aba Naaman shares her memories on Ghana’s Independence Day, growing up during the presidency of Ghana’s first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and experiencing her first coup as a secondary school student.

Link: The Nana Project Introduction– The Nana Project Founder and Executive Director, Kirstie Kwarteng, discusses the importance of The Nana Project and Ghana’s importance in world history.

The Hoax Is the New Truth

hoax-copyI’ve become aware of an unsettling phenomenon, which doesn’t seem to be settling down. It all came to a head in one week, where across various social media channels and WhatsApp groups’ posts, I saw various articles. One post publicised the miracle-working power of ingesting multitudes of apple and apricot seeds. Another declared that Michael Jordan was dead. That one was followed a couple of days later by a request from a Consultant Paediatrician of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Ghana, asking receivers of the message to refer any child they knew who had heart disease to the hospital for free heart surgery.

It struck me how easily people accepted these and many more similar posts as gospel, where a simple google search or a couple of minutes of thought would easily disprove the ‘information’. But even that seems beyond so many people, who too eagerly press *send* or *share* or implore their friends to follow the advice.

I have issues with this phenomena which seems to be spreading among our chat groups and social media pages. The first issue is that a lot of the information being peddled is Facebook-ScamDANGEROUS. I personally don’t have anything against herbal medicines or alternative therapies, as long as they are safe and the evidence base is sound…

…But as a medic I do have an issue with people gladly swallowing wrong information about therapies without consulting professionals or even doing basic research. A quick online search would tell you that the post about apple seeds was basically suicide, as apple seeds contain small amounts of hydrogen cyanide – a poisonous compound which has been used for many a route of suicide in the past. Eating copious seeds regularly would mean you are receiving a regular supply of substantial amounts of cyanide. I’m sure that would please those looking for a remedy for high blood pressure as eventually that would bring both your blood pressure and heart rate to about, um, zero?

The Michael Jordan one was funny. It amused me how loads commented ‘RIP’ (and a couple commented about his awesome contribution to music, which was even more funny for a variety of reasons) – however neither the people sharing nor those commenting stopped once to check SKY News or CNN or Reuters, where such momentous news about the untimely passing of the greatest basketball player of all time would surely be breaking and trumpeted from every news rooftop imaginable. Nah. That would be too much work.

733db175-50ee-4b81-b51b-85f7162650ff.quality_lighter.inline_yesThe last example I referred to was a sinister one, because it actually had a foundation upon truth. The Komfo Anokye Hospital has a programme where twice a year, a team from Harvard attend to operate on a pre-selected list of a dozen youngsters free of charge. However, note *pre-selected*. These patients need to be worked-up (bloods, imaging, etc.) and teams of cardiac surgeons discuss who is appropriate for surgery and a group is selected before the team flies over for a session of charity operation. But the post on social media used this as a platform to proclaim free cardiac surgery for any and for all – an obviously impossible venture logistically. And yet it was shared about, without thought. How many people out there would’ve been given a sad shot of hope where there was none?

I have an issue with dangerous information. I have an issue with lazy information. I have an issue with lies. I have an issue with the fact that we now live in a climate where people can Photoshop celebrities into false situations and people can write false stories about fake news, so that even when a real news issue is developing, people are cynical.

Today, anyone with Wi-Fi and any level of literacy can manufacture fake stories. Considering that, it’s important that we read and facebook-hoaxshare responsibly. Getting fooled by misreported information is not something to be ashamed of – it’s happened to almost everyone. It is, however, something that can be easily avoided.

I. Consider the SOURCE of the information. Is there a source? If so, what is it? Is it reputable?

II. Find a SECOND source. Like the Michael Jordan example, if it was real news, alternative sources would not have been in scant supply

III. Check photos. Sometimes photos are allied with irrelevant stories, or are Photoshop jobs. Simply use Google Images search to see where else the images have been used

IV. Share responsibly!

So the next time you come across a post about how Facebook is about to get you to pay membership, or an article about how the next iPhone will cure cancer, let’s do better by stopping and considering the information we receive before freely passing it on to susceptible parties. Let’s end the reign of the hoax and let’s get back to telling the truth – the real truth – again.
By Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Sierra Leone: Pregnant schoolgirls excluded from school and banned from exams

Thousands of pregnant girls, excluded from mainstream schools and barred from sitting upcoming exams, risk being left behind as Sierra Leone moves forward from the Ebola crisis, Amnesty International reports.

The report, Shamed and blamed: Pregnant girls’ rights at risk in Sierra Leone, reveals how the prohibition, confirmed by the government in April this year and sometimes enforced through humiliating physical checks, not only stigmatizes an estimated 10,000 girls but risks destroying their future life opportunities. With exams scheduled for 23 November, Amnesty International is calling on authorities to immediately lift the ban.

“Excluding pregnant girls from mainstream schools and banning them from sitting crucial exams is discriminatory and will have devastating consequences. Education is a right and not something for governments to arbitrarily take away as a punishment,” said Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty International’s West Africa Researcher.

“As Sierra Leone moves forward from the devastating Ebola crisis, it is vital that these girls, are not left behind.”

On 2 April the Minister of Education, Science and Technology issued a statement banning pregnant girls from “school settings”. The justification given for this policy – namely to protect “innocent girls” from negative influences – only serves to reinforce stigma through language that blames and shames pregnant girls.

Amnesty International has documented how this ban has been enforced in some schools through humiliating and degrading treatment of girls. Girls have been subjected to degrading physical searches and tests. Some have had their breasts and stomachs felt by teachers to “test” for pregnancy.  Others have been compelled by their school to take pregnancy tests.

Amnesty International interviewed 52 girls, some of whom said they felt scared at the possibility of being accused of being pregnant, while others described the feeling of humiliation at being physically assessed.

One 18 year-old girl told Amnesty International how all girls were checked by teachers before they were allowed to sit an exam:

“They touched our breasts and stomachs to see if we were pregnant. Some girls were made to take urine tests. One of the teachers was wearing gloves when she was checking us. I felt really embarrassed when this happened to me. Many girls left as they were scared the teachers would find out they are pregnant. About 12 pregnant girls did not sit their exams.”

Whilst the way in which girls are “tested” for pregnancy is not part of government policy, the practice is widely known. Amnesty International is calling on the government to issue urgent directives banning such humiliating and degrading treatment of girls.

In late October 2015 temporary alternative classes for pregnant school girls funded until July 2016 by donor countries, particularly Ireland and the UK, were introduced.

While the government claims that more than 3,000 pregnant schoolgirls have registered for this scheme, the classes are held in different premises or at different times to their peers and the girls are still banned from exams. It has also been criticized by local experts for its lack of choice and the stigmatizing effect of persistent exclusion from mainstream education.

Amnesty International urges that the attending of the alternative system, which should be of equal quality and content, be optional for those girls who do not wish to continue at mainstream school.

While some of the girls interviewed by Amnesty International said they support the alternative system, others wanted to attend school with their peers.  Amnesty International has called on the government and the donors to make the alternative system optional for those girls who do not wish to continue at mainstream school.

As the Ebola crisis spread last year, schools in Sierra Leone were closed between June 2014 and April 2015 as part of emergency measures to reduce infection rates. During this period, there was an increase in adolescent pregnancy. Many of these pregnancies resulted from rights violations including failure to protect girls from sexual violence. Quarantines and an already overstretched healthcare system, meant that girls were not able to access sexual and reproductive health support or advice to protect themselves from early and unwanted pregnancies. Sex education in schools is limited and was removed from the curricula after the war over a decade ago.

In 2004, after the end of the civil war, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended that the government stop the practice of excluding pregnant girls from education. The Commission called this practice “discriminatory and archaic”.

“Pregnant girls are being blamed and shamed in Sierra Leone. They are being denied key chances to move forward with their lives, and to ensure early pregnancy does not become the event that determines the rest of their lives,” said Sabrina Mahtani.

“As the country emerges from the Ebola crisis, pregnant girls we met expressed their desire to help build up their country. Many wanted to become much needed nurses, doctors or lawyers. Unless their exclusion from mainstream education is reversed and the ban from sitting exams is lifted these girls’ dreams will not be realized.”

Ghana Society UK presents…Kente Festival & Dinner Dance 2015

The Ghana Society UK  is holding its annual  Kente Festival & Dinner Dance this Saturday, 7th November 2015 in London.

This year’s special edition will be the grand finale of their programs towards an unforgettable Black History Season themed ‘Akwaaba to Ghana’, to promote our motherland’s rich cultural heritage and the symbolic Kente cloth. The event will be held at the Porchester Hall, Westbourne Park Road, Bayswater-London, W2 5HS from 7pm to 1am.

Their health initiatives on Breast, Cervical & Prostate Cancer challenges in Ghana will be highlighted during the event as they create awareness and also fundraise towards eradicating the myths surrounding these health problems, as well as championing traditional values that are being forgotten which are integral to our uniqueness as Ghanaians.

The highlight of the evening will include a fashion show, cultural displays, kente giveway and exclusive live performances, including the fantastic Davidson Band, lined up to add a touch of colour and merriment to an unforgettable evening. It’s not too late to purchase tickets so buy your tickets here now!

FOG 2016: Nominate a Pioneering Young Ghanaian Today!

The publication recognises the Top 30 under 30 pioneering Ghanaian youth from around the world, whilst also featuring forward thinking articles highlighting key industries, innovators and organisations vision for Ghana and Africa.

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MAKE YOUR NOMINATION TODAY: CLICK HERE

 

WHY THE FUTURE OF GHANA PUBLICATION?

We believe the publication will act as a catalyst to encourage greater youth participation with the development of Ghana.

We aim to produce a positive visual resource promoting Ghana whilst also using the publication as a point of inspiration for youth to showcase relatable role models excelling in a variety of industries globally.

The publication launches annually on Ghana Independence day to amplify a forward thinking narrative about the Future of Ghana, showcasing positivity whilst creating platforms to discuss solutions to specific issues the Ghanaian community face in Ghana and the Diaspora.


NOMINATION CRITERIA:

1. Aged 30 years or younger (as of 6th March 2016)

2. Be Ghanaian (born in Ghana or Ghanaian through birth, via a parent(s) or grandparent(s))

3. Please use the following characteristics as a guide when explaining your reasons for nomination:

  • MotivationalSomeone who helps to get the best out of others and themselves
  • VisionarySomeone who has a desired future outlook of a product or service they wish to or are a part of providing
  • AmbitiousSomeone whose demonstrated the will to succeed and/or shown a willingness to learn, especially from failures
  • Role ModelSomeone people look up to. A person who inspires others as a result of something they have done or are doing
  • Social Influence/ImpactSomeone who as a result of what they do/have done, have a positive of influence within a community
  • Communication Skills: Someone who demonstrates their ability to listens to others and as a result helps find solutions to problems for individuals/groups & communities

4. If a nominee was selected as one of the Top 30 Under 30 in 2015, as per the Future of Ghana constitution, they are not eligible for review and cannot be featured as one of Ghana’s Top 30 Under 30 Pioneer’s for the subsequent five [5] years; in this instance, not until 2019.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs):

Q. Can I nominate myself?

A. Yes you can, as long as you fit within the eligability criteria detailed 


Q. 
Do nominees have to be based in Ghana?

A. No, this is a global search for young Ghanaian talent. We welcome nominations from anywhere in the world, as

long as the nominee fits within the eligability criteria detailed 
Q. Can I nominate more than one person?

A. Yes, but all nominations will have to be made seperatly
Q. How are the Top 30 Under 30 selected?

A. 

Stage 1:

  • An independent committee is be responsible for scoring (from 1-10, according to Nomination Characteristics and the content of the nominators descritption of the nominee within the nomination form), reviewing and sifting all nomination entrants

Stage 2:

  • The shortlisted candidates are informed and groups of shortlisted candidates are equally distributed to the FOG Judges (nominations are presented without nominates name) for the FOG Judges to initial independently review and score candidates (scoring from 1-10 according to Nomination Characteristics and the content of the nominators descritption of the nominee within the nomination form) whereby the FOG Judges will score and select their top 7 candidates from their group

Stage 3:

  • The FOG Judges come together to feedback their group of Nominees scores and as a collective group the FOG Judges will conclude by jointly selecting the Top 30 Under 30 Pioneers

Stage 4:

  • The Publication and annoucement of Ghana’s Top 30 Under 30 2016 Pioneers is officially released on Ghana Independence day on March 6th 2016