Positive Change

May 27 2024 | by

IN AKROPONG, South Ghana, a rural area where most of the population are farmers, there are about 8,000 women. Many of them have been left alone with the responsibility of taking care of their children, with little financial assistance. Across Ghana, most of the women are unemployed, do not have the opportunity to access higher education or vocational training, and are less likely to own property. Those who do work are likely to have a much lower annual income than their male counterparts. The need for financial support often leads to serious consequences like stealing, prostitution, and teenage pregnancy.


Fr. Marcel Njeze


It was with this background that the Claretian Missionaries of Nigeria East Province envisaged a project to provide vocational training to empower the women of Akropong. “This project aimed to improve the conditions of 25 women through the renovation of a training hall and the provision of vocational training for hair-dressing,” explains Fr. Marcel Njeze, the project implementer. “It was planned to be an income generating project for the beneficiaries. In fact, at the end of the project, other training courses were planned to continue the education programme and give women the opportunity to become future trainers.”

The Claretians, also known as the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, were founded by Saint Anthony Mary Claret in Spain in 1849. “The congregation has more than 150 years of experience in pastoral and social ministry all over the world,” says Fr. Marcel. “The congregation has inserted itself not only in the spiritual life of the people, but also in their socio-economic and human development through the implementation of various projects.” The Claretian Missionaries of Nigeria East Province came to Ghana in 2001, and since then have been working hard with the archdiocese with the most disadvantaged in society. “The Claretians have also implemented such actions as alphabetisation and education for children and youth, promotion of health, human rights, and agriculture, protection of ethnic minorities, support to single mothers, and the creation of women’s groups and cooperatives,” continues Fr. Marcel.


Hall renovation


The expected duration of the project was one year. First it would be necessary to renovate a multi-purpose hall for the provision of the training. The training itself would be carried out by professionals for an initial 25 participants. It would take ten months to complete, with classes conducted for three hours in the mornings, three days per week. This would allow the women to continue looking after their children and carry out their household duties. At the end of the course the participants would take the National Vocational Training Institute exam, with each participant enrolling for the examination at the beginning of their training.

The total cost of the project was around €13,500, including nearly €5,000 for the renovation works. After taking into account local contributions and a contribution of €2,000 from Proclade – a nonprofit organisation established by the Claretians to promote development – the amount requested from and granted by St. Anthony’s Charities was €11,000.


Sense of community


Activities commenced at the end of June 2022, with renovation works taking until the end of September 2022. Initial contact was also made with training participants at this stage, and two trainers recruited after completion of the works. Although there were some delays and difficulties experienced during the first phase, everything was finally ready for training to begin in November 2022.

Training ran from the end of November 2022 until October 2023. Theoretical and practical classes were given and all the students participated in each class. It was not always easy for every participant to keep to the training schedule, but the teachers were willing to provide additional support once the absent students returned to the class. The examinations were held at the end of October 2023 and a graduation day was held on 10 November 2023. The students were also provided with a starter kit, which has allowed them to start their own businesses. Some of the students have also expressed an interest in learning more and also becoming teachers.

“The sense of community, especially among the women, seems to be stronger, and more students’ family members and friends are coming closer to our parish now,” says Fr. Marcel. “We have heard that other women, and also boys who attend our parish are interested in learning something. We know that it takes time to make big changes, but we can say that small positive change and short-term impacts have been created thanks to this project. We are sure that this is a starting point.”


Remain blessed


Many of the students wished to express their gratitude for the opportunity they have been given. Here we hear from two of them:

“My parents are poor farmers who exhausted everything they had to see me through university,” says Josephine Agbelenkpo, one of the trainees. “I have many younger siblings who expected help from me as their oldest sister, but because I had no job I couldn’t help my family or myself. It was too challenging to the extent that I was considering prostitution in order to raise money to support my family. I came to Mass on a Sunday to ask for God’s intervention. When our parish priest announced the empowerment programme, I joyfully enrolled for the training!

“We, the beneficiaries of the Saint Anthony’s hair-dressing training centre wish to express our sincere gratitude to the Most High God and the sponsors of our vocational training,” she continues. “We never expected this opportunity to be free of charge. In spite of the high cost of this training, you made it possible for us in an easy way and presented us with a gift of a starter kit at the end of the training, which has empowered us to begin our own business.”

“Thanks to God, St. Anthony’s Charities and the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony our students have been empowered as hair-dressing professionals,” says Fr. Marcel. “Their success has inspired many people who wish to be given the opportunity in their desired area of interest, including hair-dressing, tailoring, and computer skills. Thanks to your generosity we have a wonderful place to start to offer multi-purpose empowerment programmes. Thank you for your kindness to the poor and needy. Remain blessed.”


Updated on May 29 2024