The blog.


THE VANISHING BLACK AFRICAN WOMAN – A Compendium of the Global Skin Lightening Practice

Skin-lightening is currently one of the most common forms of potentially harmful body modification practices in the world and African women are among some of the most widely represented users of skin-lightening products.

Author Yetunde Mercy Olumide‘s new two volume book, The Vanishing Black Africa Woman: A Compendium of the Global Skin Lightening Practice provides an up-to-date evidence-based recommendations for reducing the global burden of cosmetic skin bleaching and preventing injuries related to skin bleaching in sub-Saharan Africa and Africans in diaspora. 

The book aims to do several things – firstly to offer an appraisal of all relevant literature on cosmetic bleaching practices to-date, focusing on any key developments, secondly to identify and address important medical, public health issues as well as historical, genetic, psycho-social, cultural, behavioral, socioeconomic, political, institutional and environmental determinants, thirdly provide guideline recommendations that would help attenuate the burden and possibly eliminate the injuries related to skin bleaching, and lastly discuss potential developments and future directions.

Since skin bleaching is an offshoot of slavery, racism, colorism, colonialism and neocolonialism, the historical institutions that are related to skin bleaching are well characterized. The global magnitude of the problem is well defined. Nigeria is regarded by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the country with the highest prevalence of the skin bleaching practice globally, hence the chapter on Nigeria can truly be regarded as the microcosm of the skin bleaching culture in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The skin bleaching stories on representative countries in West, Southern, East, Central and North Africa are also discussed. In a globalized world, cosmetic skin bleaching has no boundaries. Hence, some insight is given about skin bleaching in the Caribbean, India, South East Asia, Latin America, North America and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, skin bleaching is not only practiced by homeland Africans but also diasporic Africans.

The paradigms and determinants that provide social and cultural impetus towards skin bleaching are extensively characterized, since these factors must be taken into account if meaningful intervention strategies are to be created and employed to counteract the trend towards skin bleaching. The chemicals, products and methods used for skin bleaching and the adverse health effects are clearly described. Finally, guideline recommendations that would help attenuate the burden and possibly eliminate the injuries related to skin bleaching are prescribed. Potential developments and future directions are also discussed.

There are twenty three chapters in the book and it is published in two volumes. The book is already available on Amazon.com, African Books Collective, konga.com, Barnes & Noble etc.

THE JOURNEY INTRODUCES NEW SHOW WITH AN AUDIENCE: CLOSE UP WITH NAYOKA OWARE AND AFROBEAT STAR SONA

The Journey has added a new, exciting andintimate category to the online channel. Nayoka Oware, online and Radio Personality, will be hosting her guest Sona in front of an audience. There will be laughter, a Q&A segment and a few surprises to begin and wrap up the show…

Presented by The Journey’s very own Presenter Nayoka Oware, this free ticketed event will take place on Friday 2nd December, 5.00-8.00PM in ever so vibrant Shoreditch. The British-Ghanaian owned company introduces a new segment to the online channel, in collaboration with Afrobeats star Sona, described as one of the stand-out artists of 2014, his previous singles “No Wahala”“Omo Deyi” and “Ijo Sona” have garnered over 500,000+ plays on YouTube and Sound Cloud, with rave reviews coming from leading African music websites and tastemakers includingAfrobeat360Jaguda and Okayafrica among others, as well as support from BBC1XtraCapital XtraBang RadioReprezent 107.3 FMSound City, Afrobeat 94FM and 1MusicNetworks.

Sona has much to say since his “wrongful” prison conviction and years in solitary confinement. Serving as the first taste of what is to come from Sona, “Do Me” and “Coming Home” featuring Jaij Hollands, is a glorious return to form for Afrobeat star. With its excellent R&B and Afrobeats sensibilities, the record shows off Sona’s infectious flow, lyrics and vocal melodies, and is sure to be an instant favourite among fans and critics alike.

ABOUT THE JOURNEY

One world, different journey’s. Be inspired.

Founded in 2012 by Nayoka Oware, The Journey is an online channel with the primary objective to inspire, encourage, motivate and entertain.

They communicate the message that irrespective of what you are told, you have a purpose! This is done through their tell all interviews with entertainers, actors, civil servants and more, who share their life experience/s in order to inspire the masses. To learn more visit www.nayokaoware.com

 

CONNECT WITH THE JOURNEY

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MEDIA & PRESS:

Please direct all media and press inquiries to:

info@nayokaoware.com

Launch of Boost Africa Initiative, a new integrated approach to boost young innovative entrepreneurs

Boost Africa Initiative, a unique partnership in support of innovation and entrepreneurship across Africa has been launched in Abidjan by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) in partnership with the European Commission. The launch ceremony took place at the Headquarters of the AfDB in Abidjan in presence of EIB President Werner Hoyer, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina, EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle and Stefano Manservisi, Director-General for International Cooperation and Development at the European Commission.

Boost Africa will contribute to fostering the development of an efficient entrepreneurial ecosystem in Africa by supporting the earliest and riskier stages of the venture value chain, in an economically viable and sustainable way. Boost Africa aims to spur the entrepreneurial potential of the African youth to create innovative and compelling businesses with the capacity to compete regionally and globally, to attract domestic and foreign direct investment, to create new and quality jobs, and contribute to inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

As a result of an initial combined investment of up to €150 million, the Initiative is expected to leverage up to 1 Billion Euro in additional investments in a high growth sector, and support over 1,500 start-ups and SMEs across the continent.

Pan-African in scope, the Boost Africa Initiative has three integrated pillars:
–       Firstly, Investment Program : equity investments in seed funds, business angels co-investment funds, accelerators’ follow-on funds, venture capital funds, etc. that invest in innovative start-ups and high-growth small and medium enterprises (SMEs);
–       Secondly, Technical Assistance Facility : a pool of grant resources to provide capacity building and disseminate best practices for the investment readiness of intermediaries, the business and technical assistance, training of investee companies and entrepreneurs, and the creation of local investors’ networks;
–        Thirdly, Innovation and Information lab : a platform for supporting the entrepreneurship ecosystem by fostering innovation, knowledge development and partnerships, and incubating and piloting promising new ideas, as well as assessing and disseminating best practices.

“Boost Africa will help Africa’s young population to gain hope and confidence that they can succeed in realising their dreams and aspirations,” said AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina. “Africa’s future will be determined by the current youth and it is crucial that we create and support entrepreneurship opportunities for youth, generate success stories and show these as examples for other young people.”

EIB President Werner Hoyer said, “Boost Africa is a truly great initiative which will support African entrepreneurship and innovation, and nurture the continent’s new talent.  It is thus a concrete way of tackling the long-term factors fuelling poverty, instability and brain drain – many of which are at the origin of the migration crisis we all currently face -, and therefore make the Sustainable Development Goals a reality. I am proud that the EU and its Bank, the EIB, are operating in such effective partnership with the African Development Bank and other DFI’s to tackle the world’s pressing challenges.” President Hoyer added “What’s more, Boost Africa will hit the ground running, as the first start-ups and high-growth SMEs are expected to be supported already in 2017. These small businesses and the young men and women behind them are truly an inspiration. I believe they can teach us all something about dynamism and determination.“

Director-General for International Cooperation and Development at the European Commission Stefano Manservisi said, “Boost will give a concrete push to innovation and spur the creation of new instruments which support financial inclusion, such as venture capital and impact investing which is in line with the European External Investment Plan approach. Thanks to a smart use of blended finance Boost aims at leveraging the full strength of two major financial institutions to venture into new areas of support for the new generation of African entrepreneurs and we want to give a particular focus on fragile and risky situations where financial services are not provided by the market. Boost is a concrete example of actions that reflect EU’s determination to create conditions for job creation for youth.”
Through Boost Africa, the EIB and AfDB are widening their investment scope to projects that are usually deemed too small, too risky and too time consuming, but which are key to foster entrepreneurship and high impact innovation. Boost Africa is also unique in the emphasis it is putting on a sizeable technical assistance envelope, alongside financing, as well as on its Innovation and Information Lab to strengthen the investment program’s investments.

Boost Africa leverages business and financial expertise from AfDB and EIB, as well as from a broad network of partners and stakeholders, to accelerate the growth and development of Start-ups in Africa, and will attract, make strategic use of and nurture a network of venture intermediaries for both financing and business development to boost African entrepreneurship. The comprehensive intervention approach is expected to contribute to the success and growth of start-ups in order to become significant businesses within their local environments.

“Africa is currently home to a boom in small businesses experimenting with innovative products, services or business models, often leveraging technology,” said Adesina. “This is the right time to support these enterprises with financial and technical resources to enable them to commercialise their innovations. Boost Africa will demonstrate to all Africans that they can and should take charge of their future. Boost Africa is a key initiative within the AfDB’s Jobs for Youth in Africa initiative, one of the Bank’s High 5 priorities.”

Deploying a blended finance approach, the investment program expects to invest up to 25 – 30 smaller-sized equity investments into angel, venture capital and seed funds, which in turn fund start-ups and early stage businesses with high-growth and job creation potential in Africa. Boost Africa’s first investment is expected to be in Telecom Tide Africa Fund, an ICT fund investing in tech start-ups in West and East Africa. Africa Technology Ventures supporting innovative start-ups in East Africa and helping them to expand globally is also under appraisal.

The European Commission’s support is sought by partners and is being currently appraised by the Commission along with its conditions and amount, to enable senior tranche investments to be made by the EIB, AfDB and potential other investors and leverage private investment. The EIB contribution of €50 million will come from the Impact Finance Envelope of the ACP Investment Facility (a revolving fund established under the Cotonou Agreement, which is managed by EIB and is funded out of contributions by EU Member States through the European Development Fund). The AfDB will commit €50 million equity risk capital for investments. The Investment Program is expected to provide investors with adequate financial returns coupled with a superior developmental impact. The technical assistance envelope for Boost Africa will amount to €20 million while the Lab will receive approximately €10 million.

Child-naming and its Impact on the Ghanaian Child

Babies born in Ghana come with one permanent name depending on which day in the week the baby is born. Ashantis may decide to skip their child’s day name and choose a different day name. This often happens when they name the child after a special person, a hero/heroine, a friend or a business partner. They often adapt the full names of that person. A parent who lived in Kumasi named his child after the first president of Ghana. The child was born on Tuesday but he was named Kwame Nkrumah, instead of Kwabena Nkrumah. This tradition or practice is common among the Ashantis in Ghana.

The other names given to the babies reflect the parent’s beliefs, wishes or preferences. The baby has no say in this matter. However, when the child grows up, she can decide to cast away the name the parents give her and choose her own.

05fbd6d427a1dcb5facaa365a558cc33There are several ways of giving a surname to babies. The most common one is for the father to give his surname to the baby. As said earlier on, the father can also name the baby after a hero/heroine, a special friend, or business partner.

Most names given to babies have some meaning. Nobody chooses a name that means nothing or has no significance. Sometimes names are given by fetish priests to parents who consult them to solve their child-birth issues. When their issues are solved, the fetish priest gives the child a name. This article will partly be discussing the effect of such names on the bearers.

Some people think or believe that certain names, by their definitions, carry with them bad luck and, very often, curses. Things may not go well for those who bear such names. However, it is not wholly true that all those who bear such names encounter bad luck.

I had a discussion with an elderly man when I visited Ghana last year. The man took his time to explain to me that there is no curse in the names per se but in most families, bad and destructive spirits, including witches and wizards, capitalize on the meanings of the names to shape the child’s destiny and to bring hopelessness, hardship and destruction on the child at the very incipient stage till the child reaches adulthood.  He further explained that not all Akan names can be brought under curse.

Some names given to babies by the Akans have obvious meanings. Berko is translated as a

fetish priest

fetish priest

person whose life is full of hustle and bustle, Abebrese (a sufferer), Bediito (a glutton whose preference is mashed plantain), Kokooto (mashed plantain in red palm oil), Bosompem (thousand gods), Asuo (a gift from the river god), Nkwantabisa (ask at the junction), Bediako (a fighter and a hustler), Diawuo (a murderer).

Names with funny meanings do not exist only in the Akan culture. The Anlos have names which sound humorous, interesting and thought-provoking. Ex-president J.J Rawlings named his first daughter Zanetor. It is said that this child was born while Rawlings was in jail awaiting trial for treason. The name means, “let the darkness stop.” The birth of the girl expressed Rawlings’ wish for the dark days to stop, and it stopped too (at least for Rawlings). Indeed, many Anlo names are full meaningful sentences. Mawuenyega means God is great, Kugblenu (death destroys things), Delanyo (the Saviour is good), Mawunyo (God is good), Dzigbodi (Patience), Edem (the Lord has saved me), and Delali (the Saviour is there).

Interestingly, there are some terrific Ewe names whose meanings, for the sake of decorum, I will not provide here. (You may ask your Ewe friends to tell you…) What will you say about names like Avugla, Amemornu, Fiadigbor, Avudzivi, Agbetsiame, Datsomor, Avagah, Kumasenu, Gamor, Degodia, Gbormitan, Avadzi, Gbortsu, Agbogah, Gasor or even Woyome? Every ethnic group has such names but my digging around the subject revealed to me that the Ewes may lead this league of “special” names. Some of these names may have started as nicknames, names by which the bearer boasts of some personal prowess or “drinking names” taken at the nsafufuo grove or ogogoro bar but which gradually become bona fide names that are passed on to offspring.

In an epic song, Highlife Maestro, P S K Ampadu, described the disastrous effect of how one day-names-colorname brought untold hardships on the bearer. The person in the song was called Yaw Berko. Berko means a person who came into this world to fight it out or struggle in life. In the song Yaw Berko was hit hard by the uncompromising arms of life. Penniless at forty, he tried to find jobs in almost all the regions of Ghana to no avail. Yaw Berko’s destiny was a sad one.

Bosompem, Bonsam, Asuo and Brekune are all names that are easily manipulated by the spirits to implant in the bearers of such names elements of fetishism. Most of the time, a child with such a name is donated by a river god. Brekune is the name of a fetish god. All these names affect the destinies of these individuals.

Ghanaians are now careful in choosing names for their children. They choose names that inspire, bless, and motivate. The common ones among the Akans are Nhyira (Blessing), Obrempong (a mighty royal), Adom (Grace), Oheneneba (Prince), Ohemaa (Queen), and many more. The Ewes and the Gas also use motivating and inspiring names like Born-great, Prosper, Fafa (Peace), Destiny and many more.

All what Ghanaians need to do is to wise up. We must all commit ourselves to constant prayers and to make the fear of the Lord a top priority. If God intervenes, no matter what name you give to your child, no bad spirit or witchcraft can turn a name to curse the bearer.

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads
Email: stephen.owusu@email.com

Victims of Necessity: The Kayayei & The Sexual Health Minefield

There is a saying that starts off by claiming ‘necessity compels a butcher to kill a cat’. For many underprivileged girls from Ghana’s Northern region, necessity has pushed them to leave their homes to head for the bright lights of the cities – a move they have theorised would give them a better shot at life. And yet, for many that move turns out to be a case of necessity fuelling a jump from frying pan into fire. Necessity powering a jump into a situation of increased stress and pain for negligible gain, a situation of homelessness and vulnerability. In Accra, over 50,000 such stories roam the streets. These young ladies are called Kayayei.

The term ‘Kayayei’ (a conjugation of the Hausa word ‘Kaya’ which means load/burden and the Ga description of females as ‘Yei’) is a term which describes groups of young women who traditionally have migrated from a rural community to one of Ghana’s urban hotspots in search of work and better employment prospects. These women tend to be used for manual labour, as porters exploited to carry goods to and from markets and lorry parks in Ghana’s cities.

Despite their desire for better prospects, they often work in poor conditions, for minimal income. asfafaMigration from home usually means a young girl finds herself propelled into a new surrounding without her community ties, cut off from the channels of family assistance which may have otherwise helped to support her. This lack of support leads to many Kayayei sleeping on the streets, despite having largely migrated from the North in search of a better life.

It is this precarious lifestyle, this tragedy of circumstances, which leaves many of the Kayayei vulnerable to the vagaries of urban life. Without a roof over their heads, many are taken advantage of. Studies and investigations have regularly found these young ladies vulnerable to rape and gender-based violence. Some inevitably fall pregnant, while some contract STIs. The urban dream quickly descends into a metropolitan nightmare for many of the Kayayei, creating a situation which is a black mark on the fabric of a country which can pride itself on being one of West Africa’s success stories when it comes to contraception and female reproductive rights…

1268589_546764448712806_163300384_oAs pregnancy takes you out of the earning game, many resort to underground illegal abortions in an attempt to preserve their earning potential. Others take matters into their own hands, by attempting self-termination using various concoctions and items such as herbal mixtures for oral ingestion, leaf insertion into the vagina or even drinking things such as detergent or a solution of ground glass mixed with sugar. Reading that would have made you wince, thus removing any surprise you may have otherwise felt when you hear a director of a Kayayei association claimed approximately 25 Kayayei died from unsafe abortions between January and July 2016. That is 25 too many in 21st century Ghana.

Those are just the reported numbers – how many more have died anonymously and mysteriously due to unsafe abortions, or as victims of sexual assault? In a country where maternal mortality remains a monumental problem, the lack of protection of this community and the lack of education leads to risky behaviours and even riskier consequences. Many do not have the financial means, or the educational background, to appropriately deal with the card they have been dealt in this world. Dina, a 27-year-old Kayayei in Accra, told VICE’s women’s interest channel Broadly, “I have had so many abortions and I did all eight on my own. You feel severe pain when you take the medicine. One time I felt like dying, my body was so weak, I couldn’t move and I lost so much blood I thought I would die. I am too afraid to tell anyone when I’m pregnant so there was no medical attention.”

Though Kayayei life remains arduous, there are still hopeful signs for one of Ghana’s most marginal marie-stopes-international-photo-story-body-image-1477061187female communities. Marie Stopes International, a reproductive health charity, is working with the Kayayei community in Accra to provide contraception, education on sexual health, and family planning advice, as well as HIV/AIDS treatment and gender-based violence support. For Kayayei like Gifty, the support has been invaluable. “I said to myself that this will change my life and it has. I had a five-year implant fitted,” she said.“Now I can take care of my existing children.”

Another initiative Marie Stopes International has piloted involves holding weekly community-based shows which help inform the Kayayei about their rights, while offering education on contraception and the need for testing for sexually-transmitted diseases. The Ghana Police Service’s Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) has also begun to meet Kayayei informally via small group discussions, to encourage the reporting of violent crime in their community and educate them on their rights.

Education is power, and it is this sentiment which seems to be the most effective way of helping the Kayayei take back control of their destinies and make the most of their current situation. The outlook may be bleak – but collaborations between this forgotten community and organisations with the resources to make a difference, can help make that outlook brighter. Bringing the issues of this marginalised group to the forefront will help towards Ghana meeting the new development goals. Many find themselves in this community not by way of desire, but by way of necessity. For this group of hardworking young ladies, access to contraception and adequate support will not only save lives, but it can form some sort of foundation which can help give them a better chance at building a better future. And that’s something every single woman in Ghana deserves. This is a right which the government should recognise as a necessity.

By Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

The Future of Ghana 2017 – The Search for Ghana’s Top 30 U30 begins…

The search….

Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation (Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary General)

In less than 3 generations 41% of the world’s youth will be African”, “By 2035, Africa’s labour force will be larger than China’s” (Mo Ibrahim Foundation)

It was the above statements amongst others that were the catalyst behind the creation of the Future of Ghana initiative in October 2014. A time to celebrate, mobilize and invest in young people of Ghanaian heritage around the world on an annual basis at a critical time in Africa’s growth.

fog-publication-2016-coverNow in its 3rd cycle Me FiRi Ghana once again begin a mission to find the pioneers and innovators of the Future through the first objective of the Future of Ghana initiative by undertaking a global search for the top 30 Ghanaian talent aged 18 – 30 years – impacting industries around the world. The search will consist of an open nomination process driven through Ghanaian Diplomatic missions, Ghanaian Associations/Organisations, Commonwealth secretariat, media partners and social media using the official hashtag #FOG2017

Nominations for Future of Ghana 2017 are NOW OPEN to the public until 2 December 2016 via the website. Once closed nominees will be whittled down to a top 30 by a select judging panel, and featured in our annual online publication to be released in March 2017.

This cycle’s esteemed judging panel will be revealed in the week commencing 21 November 2016 so look out for the announcements across our platforms. Previous judges include Dentaa Amoateng MBE, Andy Ansah, Ethel Cofie and Isaac Babu-Boateng amongst others.

The initiative has been endorsed by the Ghanaian High Commission UK and British High Commission in Accra. Who both recognize its merits for capacity building and future prosperity of Ghana. Ghanaian High Commissioner to the UK H.E Victor Emmanuel Smith said of the initiative upon its inception; “It is heart-warming to realise that young people of Ghanaian heritage are mobilizing themselves to contribute to the development efforts of their motherland, Ghana

Future of Ghana Patron and pioneering photographer James Barnor says of the initiative;

“I am privileged to be chosen as patron for the Future of Ghana initiative. It is refreshing to see young Ghanaians in the Diaspora so forward thinking and genuinely passionate about our nation’s future. This initiative will mobilize and inspire a generation of Ghanaians to come together and utilize their skills for the development of Ghana. I see History in the making!

 

Anthony Joshua’s African Dream

He’s dominated everyone he’s come up against in the confines of London’s O2 Arena, but now the champ is broadening his horizons. Anthony Joshua, and his promoter Eddie Hearn, believe the time is right to begin thinking about going global.

His next fight in December will be his first professional fight away from the O2 which has been anointed 112310881-6505030b-d631-4f9d-b7f2-85ae41bd968awith the moniker ‘the Lion’s Den’. If he gets past that fight in Manchester, plans are already afoot for him to make his American debut at some point next year. Eddie Hearn wants to turn Anthony Joshua into the ‘Watford Globetrotter’ and have him defend his titles worldwide as he continues his ascent to become a global boxing superstar.

 

While locations in Asia, the Middle East and the Americas have been suggested, AJ has designs on emulating his hero Muhammad Ali, as he dreams of making one of those fights take place in Africa – more specifically in Nigeria, where his heritage lies, or in Ghana which has a rich boxing history.

“It’s been done before. It made massive news and was history. I think that would be massive. I would not turn that opportunity down,” AJ told the Mirror. “I’d like it to be in Nigeria or Ghana. Either one is good for me, anywhere. There’s no way I wouldn’t fight there. It would be class, the whole history of it. It would work.”

Joshua has a glittering array of potential contenders lying in wait such as Wladimir Kitschko, David Haye and Deontay Wilder. Here’s hoping we see one of those golden world-title boxing events of old akin to the ‘Rumble In The Jungle’ or the‘Thrilla in Manilla’ taking place on the shores of Ghana one day in the near future.

By Dr Jermaine Bamfo

Why Are People from Volta Region Called Number 9?

The Ashantis go by the accolade Kotoko (the porcupine). They gained this accolade due to their military power and effective strategy in fighting wars since 1701. Their assertive claim that if a thousand Ashantis are annihilated in war, a thousand more will come to replace those decapitated (wokum apem a, apem beba), likened the Ashantis to the porcupine which releases its sharp long quills or spines and gets replaced almost immediately. Interestingly the Nzimas also call themselves Kotoko but the reason behind it may probably not be the same as that for the Ashantis.

This article will discuss why Voltarians are called “Number 9”.

At independence, Ghana was divided into seven administrative regions: Ashanti, Central, Eastern, Northern, Upper, Volta and Western. Brong Ahafo was the first region created after independence. It was carved out of the Ashanti Region in 1958. Anyone who went to school in the 60s and 70s will remember that Ghana had only eight regions. Yet Volta Region, which had existed since independence, was called “Number 9”. PNDCL 26 created Greater-Accra as a region on its own on 23rd July 1982. Greater-Accra, became the ninth region of Ghana. Yet the Volta Region retained its nickname of “Number 9”.

The youngest regions in Ghana are the Upper-West and Upper East which were created when the then Upper Region was divided into two by the PNDC government in 1983. Of course, the Volta Region continued to be called “Number 9”.

When Brong-Ahafo Region was created in 1958, it left the Ashanti Region completely “landlocked” within Ghana. The region has no borders with the outside world. Some observers say it was a deliberate ploy by Kwame Nkrumah to make it impossible for the Ashanti State, the heartland of the “matemeho” movement and congenital opponents of the CPP, from ever seceding from Ghana. When Greater-Accra region was created, it left the Eastern Region also “landlocked” within Ghana as it lost its sea border. It is, thus, only the Ashanti and Eastern Regions that share no borders with the outside world.

But how and why did the Volta Region get the nickname by which some people still call it? The well-

Wli Falls in the Volta region

Wli Falls in the Volta region

known fact must again be stated that the nickname “Number 9” is almost always used in a derogatory sense even if it is often said more as a joke than as a serious insult. The people of the region do not call themselves that and it is obvious they do not quite take much delight in being called so.

The derogatory connotation of the Volta nickname may come from it carrying a certain sense of “lateness”. This sense is reinforced by the fact that the region is made largely (but not completely) of the erstwhile Trans-Volta Togoland (TVT) which, until December 1956, was really not an integral part of the Gold Coast. Of the four entities that constituted modern Ghana, the TVT was the last to be formally joined to the Gold Coast (that became Ghana) even though the territory had long been administered by the British from their Accra seat as part of their Gold Coast “possession”.

It wouldn’t matter if the lateness denoted just that – lateness. But “Number 9” carries a sense of backwardness even though the region doesn’t come last on a range of important metrics. It is not the last region to be created, it is not the smallest region, it does not have the smallest population, and it does not have the lowest literacy rate. It does not come last in an alphabetic ordering of the regions of the county. Yet the nickname persists.

A second reason one can hear for the “Number 9” is that, until new codes were introduced in 2010, Volta Region’s code was 09. If you lived outside the region, you dialled 09 to get to the region. But this reason does not seem true. In the 60s, not many people had access to telephones and it is unlikely the region could be identified by its telephone code. Moreover, it is a bit difficult to assign a derogatory connotation to a region because of its telephone code number.

First Miss Ghana Monica Amekoafia

First Miss Ghana Monica Amekoafia

How did the “Number 9” come about? The reason is actually simple and one which, at a time, the people of the region would have been proud of. The first ever Miss Ghana competition was held on 4th March 1957, two days before our independence. It may have been conducted as part of our independence anniversary activities. The candidate representing the TVT (Volta Region), which had by then become an integral part of the new nation, had the identification number 9. Miss Monica Amekoafia, then 22 years old from Alavanyo in the Volta Region, and representing her region carrying lap number 9, went on to win the entire competition and was crowned as the first ever Miss Ghana. Ghana did not have television then (it wouldn’t come until 1964) and only those present at the function or listening to the radio (if it was broadcast live), would have seen or heard the announcers calling the Volta Region candidate by her lap number. The following day, the newspapers may have carried pictures of the candidates and their regions and their lap numbers.

People may have talked about the contest for days even as they still do today for “Ghana’s Most Beautiful”. Volta Region became identified with “Number 9”. If Ghanaians welcomed the TVT as part of Ghana, there might have been a lot of goodwill around. It was a time we all identified ourselves as Ghanaians. The tribalism we see today was virtually non-existent then. Those who then called Volta Region “Number 9” wouldn’t have done so for any diabolical reasons. That would come later on…

Today, there are still a few misconceptions about the Volta Region. The most serious is the one

districts in the Volta region

districts in the Volta region

which identifies the region with the erstwhile TVT. Today’s Volta Region is not identical with the former German colony of Togoland that the British took over in 1916. The CPP government made sure of that. Take a good look at the regional map of Ghana. The coastal areas of the Volta Region consisting of Anloga, Keta, Aflao, Denu and going up to Peki, Tsibu, Awudome, etc. were never part of the German colony of Togoland but are, today, parts of the Volta Region. These areas had been part of the Gold Coast since about the 1850s. Further north, parts of the present day Northern and Upper East regions were part of the erstwhile TVT but are not, today, part of Volta Region. The CPP government simply took the erstwhile TVT and divided it into several regions and added parts of the erstwhile Gold Coast to some of these regions. Just like in the case of the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions, there may have been some strategic reasons behind this move. Today, the erstwhile TVT can be found in three different regions. How can they succeed in seceding?

If you look at the map of the erstwhile TVT, you will notice that its southern border is a straight line just below Ho. This is one more evidence of the saying that in the scramble for Africa, the colonial powers used “ruler and pencil” to carve out Africa among themselves. The borders of the erstwhile TVT cut the Ewes in two “by heart”. That was why areas like Peki, Tsibu and even Kpeve, whose Ewe likens that of the “northern Ewes” found themselves in the Gold Coast whereas nearby Ho found itself in German Togoland.

German Togoland included the whole of Togo and the erstwhile TVT. The Germans colonized it for some 25 years until the First World War when the British and the French pushed them out of the area as part of their war effort. They then divided the area between themselves. The British administered their part from the Gold Coast.

After the Second World War, the UN mandated the area as a trust territory for the British to look over.

Akosombo Dam in the Volta region

Akosombo Dam in the Volta region

They called it Trans Volta Togoland and added it to the Gold Coast, though as a separate entity. When Gold Coast independence was imminent, the British informed the UN they would not be able to continue administering the territory after Gold Coast became free. It was then that the controversial plebiscite was held and the people of the TVT voted to become part of the Gold Coast and formally did so in December 1956 in time for independence in March 1957. The French, however, continued to administer the French Togoland until they were forced to grant it independence in 1960.

Number 9 has been repeated by Ghanaians till today to refer to Voltarians in a derisive and derogatory manner. Those who say it, see Voltarians as backward and the 9th and last region of Ghana. It is often said that when a lie is repeated continuously it gains an element of truth. People have either refused or are unwilling to accept or learn the history of “Number 9”. The Bible states that for lack of knowledge my people perish.

Today, there is a poorly maintained statue of Miss Monica Amekoafia (now deceased) in front of the Post Office in Hohoe in the Volta Region. It commemorates her victory in the beauty pageant of 1957. I wonder how many of Hohoe’s citizens who pass by this statue every day know that it is the young lady’s victory in the year of our independence that is the cause of their region being called “Number 9”.

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads
Email: stephen.owusu@email.com

Meet Woman Is Helping To Bring Health Care Awareness To Ghana

Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo is a woman on a profound mission. Through her organization African Health Now, the 39-year-old has been crusading for the last 10 years to help bring basic health information, health care and resources to Ghanaians and people across the African continent.

Based in New Jersey but of Ghanaian descent, Eyeson-Akiwowo was working in the publishing world in 2006 when her father fell ill in Ghana. There, she experienced first-hand the lack of primary health care available in the West African country. She also noted the ways in which members of the community were compelled to rally around him in order to make sure he received proper care. It was that sense of community she witnessed for her father that formed the catalyst for the creation of African Health Now.

“I took the first step by producing a health fair to provide general medical health screenings to my father’s community,” Eyeson-Akiwowo told The Huffington Post.

“If my father had known previously the importance of screenings or the signs of a heart attack this could have been prevented. I realized this was a much bigger issue. After each health fair and the interaction with our participants, I felt compelled to come back. Now, I can’t see myself doing anything else.”

A decade later, African Health Now services communities by transforming local spaces into medical clinics and bringing education and primary health care such as breast exams and dental care to the people who need it. According to Eyeson-Akiwowo, the organization’s work has impacted over 20,000 people in urban neighborhoods throughout Ghana.

There have been obstacles, as with any grassroots movement, especially in regards to getting human and financial resources to not only keep the organization going in Ghana but so it can expand it to other parts of Africa. Even so, Eyeson-Akiwowo remains dedicated African Health Now.

On Thursday, AHN will host a special star-studded gala event in New York City to raise funds for a plan to deploy 50 mobile health units throughout Ghana over the next 10 to 15 years. It’s an ambitious plan, and one that Eyeson-Akiwowo says she firmly believes in.

“Seeing the joy in a child’s face after their first dental visit is the most rewarding [experience],” Eyeson-Akiwowo said. “Five years from now, we hope to have increased that kind of access to basic health care for Sub-Saharan Africans.”

For more info on African Health Now, visit www.africanhealthnow.org.

 

AFCON 2017: GHANA DRAWN IN GROUP D AND FACE FAMILIAR FOES

The Blackstars of Ghana have been drawn in Group D of AFCON 2017 alongside Egypt, Mali and Uganda as the draw was made yesterday in Libreville, Gabon.

Egypt, Ghana and Uganda will  be tired of the sight of each other having been drawn together in Group D only four months after they were placed in the same group for 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Seven-time African champions Egypt will be eager to revive their dominance after some years of under-performing, while Ghana are desperate to win their first title since 1982 and go one better than the runners-up spot they achieved last year and in 2012 and 1992.

Uganda’s last appearance at the tournament was in 1978, when they lost in the final to Ghana.

Gabon kick off the tournament on 14 January, with the final on 5 February.

The hosts appear to have been fortunate in the draw, pitched in Group A alongside debutants Guinea-Bissau, Cameroon and Burkina Faso.

This years competition has been described as the most open for years so promises to be an exciting team. Though one notable absentee are the 2013 winners Nigeria who failed to qualify.

The full group draw is as follows;

2017 AFCON – GROUP STAGES

Group A: Gabon (Hosts), Guinea-Bissau, Cameroon, Burkina Faso

Group B: Algeria, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Senegal

Group C: Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Morocco, Togo

Group D: Ghana, Egypt, Mali, Uganda

Will 2017 be the year Ghana finally end their 34 year wait for glory? Lets hope so!

Me FiRi Ghana (@Me_FiRi_Ghana)