Supporting Women’s Leadership in Ghana

Shomari Maynard is a current intern at the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. She had the opportunity to visit CENSUDI, a women’s development organization while on a field practicum in Ghana. Here she shares her experience.

“I can’t believe I am witnessing this,” I thought to myself as I listened to Margaret Mary Issaka –or Auntie Margaret, as she insisted we call her—speak about the founding of Centre for Sustainable Development Initiatives, an NGO committed to promoting gender equality in Ghana through reduction of poverty. Auntie Margaret continued to tell us the story of how she and her six sisters founded CENSUDI in 1993. After realizing that they were all able to attain an education—something that not all women in Ghana had access to at the time—she and her sisters decided to create an organization that would improve the lives of women in Ghana. I felt so inspired as I listened to her tell the story of CENSUDI’s founding.

I was able to visit CENSUDI while on a three-week field practice with my International Environmental Development class through American University’s Washington Semester Program. During our trip, we visited various organizations throughout Ghana, many of them focusing on women’s crucial role in development. CENSUDI is dedicated to promoting the full participation of women and girls in society through programs that also promote development in the Bolgatanga region—one of the poorest and most gender unequal regions in the country. These programs focus on promoting women’s participation in public service, implementing early childhood education, supporting victims of domestic violence, reducing harmful cultural practices, and increasing land access for women. As an intern at the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative, their program promoting women in public service impressed me the most. I was so excited to see the types of mentoring networks the GWLI promotes being implemented in a developing country such as Ghana.

I asked Auntie Margaret to further explain the program that focused on increasing participation of women in politics. She told me that in 2010, CENSUDI supported 27 female candidates in the local elections for assemblyperson and other community positions, with nine running successful campaigns. As a young woman who hopes to one day seek running for public office, it was great to see an organization committed to empowering women and providing support for female political candidates.

My visit to CENSUDI was personally one of the most inspiring during my time in Ghana. As a current intern at the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative, I was able to see firsthand the results of the types of mentorship and networks that the GWLI and WPSP promote. Seeing women empowered to be leaders in their communities gave me a new sense of purpose, and reminded me why I am so committed to supporting the work of organizations such as CENSUDI and the GWLI.

Shomari Maynard is a Spanish and International Relations major at Mills College in Oakland, California. She is currently on domestic exchange at American University’s Washington Semester program where she studies International Environmental Development. During her semester in Washington, D.C. she is interning with the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.

Photo credit: Shomari Maynard