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Elizabeth Patterson Looks to Uplift Girls Through Education Organization 

In recent times, there’s been the call for Africans in the Diaspora to contribute toward the development of the continent and not leave it solely at the doorstep of the Western world and its development partners.

Elizabeth Akua-Nyarko Patterson , the founder and executive director ofGirls Education of Ghana (GEIG), agrees with this call to action, saying, “I fully support Ghanaians/Africans living outside helping to develop our countries and continent.

“We all leave our countries for various reasons, but I believe it is important for us to have tangible connections to ensure our participation in our countries’ development even while we are away.”

Girls Education of Ghana is a nongovernmental organization whose mission is to provide academic and financial support for girls, including applicants with special needs, so they can access higher education and professional opportunities.

In a bid to aid in Ghana’s development, Patterson started GEIG, telling Face2Face Africa, “In 2006, after returning to Ghana since my family leaving in 1995,  I spent about 10 months volunteering at the World Link Academy, a private school in the Ashanti Region.

“During this time, I had students with varying academic competencies and socio-economic backgrounds. One student in particular struggled compared to my other students. Her family wasn’t wealthy compared to my other students from more affluent backgrounds and with parents who had more access.

“She told me that because of her struggles in school, her parents had begun taking her to church and requesting the pastor “pray [against] the devil” that was causing her learning difficulties. Ghanaians, like many other Africans, have a tendency to resort to religion when faced with difficulty.

“In this girl’s situation, it would have been beneficial for her family to seek [a] medical [approach] for her learning differences. I began providing one-on-one tutoring for her during breaks and after school and she slowly improved. That was the beginning of GEIG.”

But it was Patterson’s trip to South Africa, where she would really find the information she needed to make GEIG come to life. During her time there, she would be able to learn about the plight of disabled students in education.

“I was further motivated to found GEIG after studying abroad in South Africa. In 2013, I researched access to education for disabled/differently abled students,” says Patterson. “In this research, I learned that education was inaccessible to disabled/differently abled students in South Africa.

“These students are often not thought as equal achievers in school because of their physical, intellectual, and/or cognitive differences. Disabled/differently abled students are seen as not capable of attaining higher education and professional excellence because of their limitations  out of the [more than] 20 individuals interviewed for my research — only one disabled/differently abled person had been reported as holding a government appointment.”

Patterson particularly empathizes with many of the students she has come in contact with due to her own personal challenges, “GEIG stems from my personal story also. As a woman born with able bodied and with full cognitive abilities, I could relate to the aforementioned Ghanaian student and from the ‘special’ students in my South Africa research in 2013, [because] I was in a car accident that left me hemiplegic and affected [my] cognitive and learning abilities.

[Therefore,] I empathize with both. Following the research, I have found similarities in my findings in South Africa and Ghana. Students with more access tend to do better in school. Additionally, disabled/differently abled students have the ability to thrive in school and society given the appropriate accommodations.”

From Patterson’s experience, when a child needing assistance is a girl child, the challenges increase. “Almost serendipitously since arriving in Ghana to work for GEIG, I‘ve met and spoke to at least three families with girl children who have disabilities/different abilities. The families are often hesitant to appear in public with the children or even speak about their conditions. These meetings affirm the narrative that a girl born in a developing country is a second-class citizen and girl with disability/different ability is invisible or not regarded.”

However, Patterson’s organization seeks to be a solution to the challenges girls with disabilities face. “GEIG seeks to be the institution that will encourage young girls and girls with ‘special needs’ that they have a place in education and society as a whole.”

”We all know the narrative that girls/women are underrepresented in developing societies  while some may argue the story is changing and it is true in some realms girls/women achieve more than boys/men, unequal access to education especially at the secondary and higher education level still persists in traditionally patriarchal countries like Ghana and those of many African countries.”

Data from Education Management Information System (EMIS) of the Ghana Ministry of Education report on Basic Statistics and Planning Parameters for the Basic Education in Ghana published in May 2013 jibes with Patterson’s observations of unequal access to education between girls and boys.

“The net admission of rate of all students in primary schools has decreased by 9.6 percent from 2012 to 2013. At the primary level, the percentage of girls enrolled marginally increased from 48.68 percentage to 49.83 percent. However at the junior high school level, the ratio of boys to girls decreased compared to boys enrollment of girls in Junior High School Schools (JHS) decreased by 1.2% from 20122- 2013.

“Completion rates for JHS suffered a significant decrease in 2009/2010 after having reached a peak of 75 in 2008/09. The completion rate is far short of the target acquired to achieve Universal Basic Education by 2015, and Ghana does not appear likely to reach this target based on historical trends in JHS and current completion rates for Primary, which will feed into JHS.

“Worth noting is the date from underserved communities. In underserved districts, the completion rate is 13 percentage points lower at 57.0. This suggests that the gap in access between the deprived and non-deprived districts increases over the course of JHS.

“The above data shows that Ghana’s educational system is suffering overall. However many times over, parents in rural communities have a tendency to advance their male children educationally, which invariably leads to professional access for them. Specific to our population of girls with learning differences, the perception around disabilities/different abilities in Ghana are so dire that I on behalf of GEIG hope to challenge and change people’s views and build strong support for our students and others within our partner schools and communities.”

GEIG was founded in 2006 and officially registered as an NGO in January 2014. It currently provides academic support, leadership, development/mentorship, and public service for a total of 13 girls: seven from the Ashanti and six from the Greater Accra regions. The organization also supports its students by buying their textbooks and other school supplies for the school term.

But with every establishment, there are challenges, and GEIG is no different: it lacks the human capacity to support its work and funding, so a large portion of its funding comes from the Patterson’s personal savings as well as from a network of supporters based in the United States. Still, the bureaucracy in the system has made it difficult to finalize the registration process, which would allow for soliciting local funding.

Despite the challenges, Patterson is determined to ensure that the vision of GEIG is met. Additional staff have been hired to work on programs in regions that aren’t accessible to the founder because the organization’s headquarters and office is in Kumasi. Concerned supporters can also donate to GEIG here.

The organization has also begun discussions with universities and institutions of higher learning to build volunteer/internship programs to support GEIG’s programs and administrative needs.

A partnership with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology,KNUST Patriots student group is already in place. It has also leveraged the Ahasporadatabase, which is a database of Ghanaians/African returnees to Ghana to seek volunteers for the organization.

As for what lays ahead, Patterson is hopeful that will be a prime avenue for ensuring that girls grow up into tomorrow’s leaders.

”GEIG will enable generations of girls and women to be educated, become successful professionals, and serve as active members of civil society.

Our vision is that the girls and women can support the country in poverty alleviation and overall development.”

Prior to her work with GEIG, she served as the director of communications and marketing for the Council of Young African Leaders (CYAL) and communications and marketing associate at Junior Achievement of New York.

Patterson is a Ghanaian-American who holds a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Business Management and a Master’s in Public Administration from NYU Wagner School of Public Service, where she specialized in nonprofit management.

Profile: South Africa Based Ghanaian Entrepreneur Sheila Afari 

An eye for seeing opportunities as well as an innate desire to alleviate youth unemployment were the factors that pushed South Africa-based Ghanaian Sheila Afari   to become an entrepreneur.

Born in Ghana on May 26, 1986, Afari moved to Eastern Cape, South Africa, at the age of 2, where she grew up. Academically, she has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in English & Psychology and a certificate in Public Relations from the University of Cape Town.

Afari’s entrepreneurial journey began whilst she was in university in 2008 with the establishment of a lifestyle and events company, Lavish Industries, which has since grown to include a décor and interior design division as well as an online lifestyle store.

In 2010, Afari co-founded Design for Style (DFS), where she served as its chief executive officer. DFS offers emerging fashion designers a platform to enter the fashion industry by showcasing their designs through fashion shows and managing the retail of their collections. And while Afari resigned earlier this year from this position, she continues to offer her support to young designers.

After resigning as the marketing manager of a mobile devices company in May 2012, Afari started her eponymous company the Sheila Afari Group, which is comprised of Sheila Afari Public Relations that manages public relations for some of South Africa’s A-list celebrities, including Khuli ChanaAKAKabelo Mabalane, and Thembi Seete.

Her company also consists of Sheila Afari Business DevelopmentMiss Ghana South Africa, Lavish Industries, Sheila Afari Property Development, and the Sheila Afari Foundation. The foundation addresses issues of sexual health and empowering females aged 8 to 18 years old in making informed decisions about sex and instilling self-worth and confidence in them.

Of her various enterprises and her work with the youth, Afari says, “I
believe entrepreneurship is the key to having the life I want in the
long term and contributes to the economy by doing my part to assist
with the alleviation of youth unemployment.”

Afari is also currently the assistant producer of the morning show on Metro FM, the largest urban commercial station in South Africa.

She speaks English, Xhosa, Afrikaans, and Twi.

Feature ; Canada Based Ghanaian TV Host Yaa Nyamekye 

Growing up, Sara Yaa Nyamekye Bempah wanted to be an actress, a career her parents disapproved of. Instead, her parents wanted her to become a lawyer, and while she attempted to chart that path, as fate would have it, it wouldn’t work out.

Following her passions of media and entertainment, Bempah has been a host and presenter for the last three years, interviewing the likes of Face2Face Africa founders Sandra Appiah and Isaac Babu-Boateng; leader of Ghanaian Gospel group NO Tribe, Nacy; radio and TV host Kofi Okyere Darko (KOD), actress Nana Ama McBrown, actorKojo Nkansah popularly known as “Lil Win,” and ace saxophonist Steve Bedi,among other influential names.

Born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, to Ghanaian parents, Bempah left the University of Waterloo after two and half years to attend Algonquin College in Canada and graduated in December 2013 with a degree in Business Marketing.

Bempah describes herself as an ambitious, goal-oriented, focused, and jovial person who strongly believes in following one’s dreams and living it. She also believes that “passions and dreams should not be pushed away and looked at as hobbies or goals that may never be accomplished. Instead, each day should be used to working toward making those dreams a reality because those dreams can and will be accomplished.“

In the coming months, her new show will premiere on YouTube, “The show is aimed toward inspiring like-minded individuals in order to help encourage the betterment of the continent of Africa. Through intellectual and interactive discussion, the show hopes to spark new ideas and encourage change.”

Hoping to be one of the top media presenters in the world in the near future, Miss Bempah is motivated by the exploits of her mother, Gifty Gyamfi, CEO of GUBA Awards Dentaa Amoateng, Prophet Dr. Cindy Trimm, Sandra Appiah, and talk show host Oprah Winfrey. Her family and her love for God also inspires her greatly.

VANESSA GYAN TO HOST ‘LATE NIGHT CELEBRITY SHOW’ SEGMENT

Ghanaian TV presenter and producer Vanessa Gyan (pictured) will host a segment on the revamped “The Late Night Celebrity Show” (TLNCS) on ETVGH when it returns on October 6.

The 15-minute segment consists of what’s trending on Social Media, Fashion, celebrity news,  exclusive interviews, and more.

On what she will bring to her new role, Gyan says, “I bring my love for what I do, my one of a kind personality, creativity and my own uniqueness.”

“TLNCS” airs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 9:30 p.m. (21:30 GMT).

A year ago, Gyan joined ETVGH as a producer and presenter and is currently the producer of “e on e,” the flagship entertainment program hosted by Caroline Sampson. Still, Gyan can also be seen dishing entertainment news during prime time.

Previously, Gyan worked in the United States, covering events alongside networks such as VH1, MTV, and BET and interviewing prominent artists Boyz II Men, producer Swizz Beatz, Roc Nations’ Melanie Fiona, and the wife of Miami Heat’s Chris BoshAdrienne.

Speaking on her bright future ahead, Gyan adds, “My mind is brewing with ideas and I just can’t wait to share them.”

She is the daughter of the legendary Kiki Gyan of Osibisa Fame.

Benoni Tagoe Builds Digital Empire One Web Series At A Time 

The Internet has opened up a number of opportunities for young people. Some have created a livelihood for themselves by creating web series that have gone viral. Ghanaian Digital Entrepreneur Benoni Tagoe   falls in to the above category, ”I consider myself to be a digital entrepreneur; I’ve worn many hats in the world of digital, from producing to being a curator of content.

“The web is an open platform when it comes to content! Not only that, but as a content creator there are tons of liberties that are given. I love being able to put out the type of content that I want to see. There is no other way that I would do things.”

Tagoe is the brain behind “The Bizz Plan,” which highlights entrepreneurs as they explain their thought processes and motivations in everything they do. The first season featured Fashion/Lifestyle Blogger Taye Hansberry, Vine/YouTube Personality King Bach, Entrepreneur Lisa Nicole Bell, and Editorial Director Julian Mitchell.

Tagoe’s series has garnered more than 42,000 views and counting.

Now production for the second season has started and will feature entrepreneur and media personality Jabari Johnson, CEO and founder of Happy Baby Vending Inc.; Erica HarrisIssa Rae, creator of “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl”; Rapheal Saye, co-founder of Royal Dynamite; and Miss Diddy of the Brand Group.

Tagoe is also the founder of YouTube network Volume Visual. On why he decided to start the network, he says, “Working in the music industry I realized that there was a disconnect between artists and the only social media platform that pays them in YouTube. Since I had a strong social media background (specifically as it relates to YouTube), I figured I tie in both of my passions of music and social media and create a company that ultimately assists the music industry as a whole with their digital video presence.”

The network is the first and only all-hip-hop YouTube network and helps hip-hop artists increase their online viewership by using analytics, strategies, and proven theories.

“For our larger channels we then start helping them work with brands. If a brand is looking to target a hip-hop audience, our network is made up of only hip-hop influencers, so in a sense, our goal has always been to take up the hip-hop real estate on the web and the brands work with us to reach that audience.”

Volume Visual has a partnership with Pharrel Williams’ “I Am Other.” Tagoe adds, “At the end of the first season of ‘The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl,’ Google came out with a $100 million initiative, where they were looking to program channels similar to the television model.

“There were channels created for comedy, cooking, sports, and more! At this time, whenever someone was looking for urban programming, they would come to us first because we had the biggest urban web-series out. After multiple offers, we decided to work with Pharrell because, well, he’s a genius and you just don’t pass on an opportunity like that. Period.”

Tagoe has been producing digital content for five years plus, starting with “Awkward Black Girl” and has gone on to produce other web series with Issa Rae productions, such as “The Choir,” “TKO Series,” “Peter Quillin,” “Black Actress,” “First,” and “How Men Become Dogs.”

On his future plans, Tagoe says, ”I’m working on a series of workshops that will highlight my different theories in both business and digital content; I’d love to present and teach in Ghana! Be on the lookout for that to happen real soon. The Bizz Plan is out now! It’s only the beginning; it’s cool to be smart.”

Viola Davis on The View

Nana Serwaa Adu Boateng Makes A Mark As A Plus SIze Model 

Being a plus-size model in an industry that prefers skinny ladies is a difficult one, but that fact hasn’t deterred Ghanaian Nana Serwaa Adu-Boateng  from pursuing her passion.

“It’s quite difficult being a plus-size model, because most designers work with sample size models. I think it’s because our modelling industry here in Ghana hasn’t ‘expanded’ itself enough to fully embrace diversity,” Adu-Boateng says.

“It can be very disappointing, but you have to love [modeling] to really keep going.”

Inspired by Ghanaian plus-sized model Philomena Kwao (pictured above), Ashley GrahamRobyn Lawley, and Ajak Deng, Adu-Boateng started modeling in 2012 forBenjamin Annang of Occasions photography.

And she hasn’t looked back since.

In fact, Adu-Boateng was a part of Coca Cola’s advertising campaign during the 2014 World Cup, GCB’s His and Hers campaign and Sierra Leone’s Telco, Smart Mobile.

On the runway, Adu-Boateng has had a number of fashion events, including Expressions of 
Accra (2012) organized by Citi FM, a Charity Fashion Show organized by Miss Malaika (2011), Retro Fab Fashion Show (2013), and Trash Talk (2013) by Vintage Ghana.

She’s also modeled for Ghanaian designersSarah ChristianJustGlayFannyAnn Creations, and clothing label Oplus Mavazi.

A degree holder in Human Resource Management and law, Adu-Boateng is studying to become a lawyer in the very near future.

MIKA ABRAHAM TALKS CAREER, AFRICAN PRIDE & POPULARITY OF AFROBEAT IN U.K.

U.K.-born Ghanaian Mika Abraham   has gone on to become the radio presenter/DJ/voice-over artist she has always wanted to be.

Growing up, she showed early signs of wanting to chart a path in broadcasting, with her fascination of how presenters and DJs interacted with their listeners.

And while Mika’s first choice of a career was to be a historian – she initially wanted to study African/Black history  — her love for radio took center stage.

Currently, the 22-year-old has been doing radio for six years, working with Choice FM, Rinze FM, and Reprezent FM.

In the coming months, she will be operating her own radio show, which the public can access through her website.

Abraham has also deejayed at art festivals, including Wireless, Love Box, Brick Lane, Acoustic Live UK, and at fashion PR parties.

In addition, her voiceover clients include BBC Three, Channel 4, BBC Blast, E4, and Urban Development.

And as the face of “Heart & Soul U.K.,” Abraham hosts a monthly event, where an artist performs a live acoustic set for their fans and then has an intimate chat about music and life.

Of her most-memorable moments in her career so far, Abraham says, “Hosting a stage at one of the biggest festivals in the UK (Glastonbury) – just the fact that I was chosen to represent London was amazing, which helped elevate me in to the mainstream side of the industry.”

“Also being acknowledged by the Ghanaian High Commissioner His Excellency Kwaku Danso Boafo for my work in the creative industry,” she recounts.

“Everybody around me knows that I’m always waving the flag for Ghana whenever I do anything, so for him to notice my work within the community made me feel like everything I’m doing is not in vain.”

Ghanaian DJBlackTim WestwoodAngie Martinez, and Delay (Deloris Frimpong Manso) are media personalities who inspire Abraham to aim for the very best in her career.

As for how Afrobeat music is performing on U.K. charts, Abraham says, “You have the likes of SarkodieAtumpanFuse ODGMista Silva, and more being played on mainstream radio in the U.K. People who are not Africans are listening and reciting their lyrics. This is amazing. You also have Ghanaian artists being flown [in] to perform at sold-out shows and festivals. GH music is on the rise in the U.K.”

Who are her favorite Ghanaian musicians?

“My favorite definitely has to be Joey B; his approach to music is fresh and new. His verses are host. He also knows how to work the stage, which I love. Big things are definitely coming his way. I love FOKN BOIS as well: their artistry is captivating and unique.”

Abraham has a diploma in Media and Broadcast Journalism and is currently pursuing a degree in Events Management at Greenwich University. Explaining what’s next in her career, she says, “My future plans include crossing over in to the Ghanaian/African industry and definitely go to Ghana and do radio. I will be launching some new projects that will be coming out soon on YouTube and hopefully African TV networks this year. I will be launching my official website and releasing an official mix as well. I’m really excited about that, just working toward creating a strong brand and being the young voice of Ghana.”

Feature: Fashion Publicist Senam Faith Ocloo

Fashion and the love for African prints is on the rise globally, and Ghanaian Fashion Publicist Faith Senam Ocloo  is determined to play her part in ensuring the continued growth of fashion in Africa.

Founder of E’April Public Relations, Senam speaks about her decision to become a fashion publicist, “I chose fashion PR, because I noticed that businesses in this industry lack the exposure and advancement needed to gain the desired attention simply because there aren’t many PR firms specialized in this industry.

“Fashion in sub-Saharan Africa is beginning to receive global attention, hence my decision to  
focus on Fashion PR to support those doing great and exceptional work and offer them the kind of exposure that will live on forever. [My focus is] a kind of public relations specifically designed to offer opportunities to young businesses who crave resources to grow their fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and artistic brand. Every business needs PR and the fashion industry is no exception.”

Therefore, her Accra-based PR agency handles product brand promotions and strategies, publicity, social media management, press releases, and product development. E’April Public Relations also performs customized product and personality branding in order to give clients a competitive advantage.

“Social media and publicity work hand in hand, thus making social media very relevant to me as a PR specialist. I can’t live without a Smartphone or Internet because I believe a lot happens on the World Wide Web every second. Brands are reaching millions of their targets every now and then, [and] Incorporating social media and traditional public relations tools maximizes brand visibility and growth and that is certainly the future trend for the fashion Industry.”

Ocloo’s agency was launched in April 2012 on a part-time basis until mid-2013, when it was fully rolled out to serve as a platform to promote and publicize businesses in the fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and arts industries in Ghana and beyond. It has a workforce of four employees who work in various capacities to meet client demands.

I will say it hasn’t been easy starting a solely fashion PR agency here in Ghana. My foremost hurdle is having to sell the whole idea of public relations to potential clients, especially in the fashion industry where many are perceived not to be making enough income to engage the services of a PR firm.

“Most of them are skeptical about the relevance of PR to their business and think it’s only the reserve for large corporations with huge budgets. Nonetheless, PR is essential to every business, be emerging or established.

And for Ocloo, the future for her and her company is only getting brighter, “E’April PR is here to bring that exposure to those businesses through publicity, promotions, and development. We are ready to offer the most-dynamic and result-driven communication strategies for our fashion clients in Ghana, Africa, and beyond.

“[Ultimately,] I believe that when you love what you do and [are] passionate about it, you will work hard to surmount every hurdle that comes along [your way].”

Ocloo holds a degree in Strategic Communications (Public Relations and Advertising) from the African University College of Communications.