Author Archives: Shawn Hayward

About Shawn Hayward

Born on the Rock, educated in the home of the Bluenose, and living at the edge of the Equator.

Displaced by floods, forgotten by the media

Listen here: Flood victims in Agona, Ghana

A couple weeks ago I learned for myself what I’ve heard people say. It’s not easy to watch human suffering on television but it’s much worse to have it there all around you.

I came to Agona Swedru in Ghana’s Central Region with CitiFM intern Ato Kwamena Haizel to do a story about education, but on the way Ato told me about a camp where victims of massive flooding in June were still living homeless, six months after the waters had receded. We decided to drop by and see how they were doing.

Tents were pitched in a compound in the middle of the town. Sleeping mats were laid out on concrete floors. Mosquito nets were piled in the corner because dwellers had nowhere to hang them. Cooking pots lay unused because they didn’t have enough food to cook.

All these materials were donated by from corporations, politicians and private citizens weeks after flooding forced 1,500 people from their homes. But donations quickly dried up when the media forgot about the story. Six months later, government still hasn’t given these people permanent places to live.

We walked around interviewing people, then one woman guided us to a tent where a young man was laying down. He was breathing heavily, sweating and unresponsive to our words. The tent itself was baking hot in the midday sun and there was nothing between him and the concrete floor except for a thin mat.

In interviews, the refugees pleaded with government to provide medical help and to relocate them so they can stand on their own again. We took the story back to CitiFM and their words were broadcast several times throughout the day.

Human suffering is a hard thing to witness in person, but hopefully our visit and the refugees’ appeals will spur someone in a position of power to act.

Football for human rights

Citi FM reporter Erasmus Kwaw and jhr intern Shawn Hayward worked together to produce a series that marries soccer and human rights in Ghana

Listen to the radio documentary here: Hometown Heroes: Education in C.K. Akunnor’s hometown

By Erasmus Kwaw and Shawn Hayward

Football is a national passion in Ghana, and that passion peaked during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when Ghana was one goal away from making it to the semi-finals.

Ghanaian footballers like Michael Essien and Asamoah Gjan were catapulted from well-known athletes to national heroes for taking Ghana further in football’s greatest tournament than ever before. They became heroes in their home towns and across the country.

At Citi FM in Accra, Ghana, we came up with an idea that developed from this World Cup hype—use football’s high profile to spread the ideal of human rights to a wider audience.

The idea developed from a drive to combine sports and human rights coverage so human rights content could reach new audiences and as a way to find unique angles on sports features.

Some footballers in Ghana come from small communities where access to basic human rights such as health care and education is lacking. We asked the athletes to describe where they came from and the challenges they and their friends had to overcome growing up. We collaborated to produce Hometown Heroes, a series of sports stories that let the public in on the history of their favourite players and highlighted the challenges in their communities.

People want to know the men behind the uniforms. Where do they come from? How was their childhood? What’s their story? The goal was to answer these questions by producing a series with a human rights focus.

The men in the stories include both current and former football greats. They talk about what basic necessities their communities lack and how they were still able to excel in their sport.

More importantly, Hometown Heroes also talks to politicians, chiefs and school officials in the communities to hear their views about human rights issues and how they can be mitigated or eradicated.

So far, we’ve completed the first two parts of the series, starting with a 10-minute radio documentary about former Ghanaian national team captain C.K. Akunnor, from Ningo, where children were missing school because their parents couldn’t pay school fees. You can listen to the piece above.

The next plan is to continue Hometown Heroes as a television series. Ideally we’d like the production team to go with the athletes to their hometowns and shoot the scenes to get the needed impact.

The right combination of sports and human rights can expose fans to a side of their most-loved players they have never seen, bring human rights issues to the fore and give footballers a chance to help the communities where they grew up.

The hope is that people’s passion for football can be transformed into a desire to provide every Ghanaian with the basic amenities needed for a healthy and happy life.

The art of spin: bus rides and balderdash

Amina Mohammed told the Ghanaian media she witnessed armed robbers sexually assault bus passengers, a claim the driver denies

Amina Mohammed told the Ghanaian media she witnessed armed robbers sexually assault bus passengers, a claim the driver denies

Earlier this year the media in Ghana became consumed with a story about an armed robbery on a bus from the capital Accra to Bolgatanga in the north. According to one woman, the robbers boarded the vehicle, stole possessions, and then made the male passengers rape the females. She even said one man was forced at gunpoint to have sex with his 14-year-old daughter.

That’s the testimony of Amina Mohammed, a 24-year-old woman who told Adom FM, a radio station near Accra, that she was on the bus travelling when the rape and robbery took place. One day later, the station put Mohammed live on air to describe what happened. Her words were picked up by radio stations, newspapers and websites across the country.

The “bus rape” story has become a political football since first appearing in the media. Both of Ghana’s major parties use high-profile stories like this to elevate themselves over their opponents in the lead-up to the 2012 elections. Allegations of lies and conspiracy have been kicked backed and forth by the two main political parties in recent weeks, and the public is no closer to knowing the truth.

A few days after the story broke, Samuel Asiedu Sasu, the bus driver, denied Mohammed’s claim, including the fact that he was forced to rape two passengers before passing out. The bus was attacked, according to the driver, but he sped away as the robbers shot at the bus.

The contradictory stories moved the police to arrest Mohammed and Adom FM’s station producer Papa Bills on October 30 for inciting fear and panic in Ghana. The producer was released after a few hours of questioning, despite the fact that he had a full day to fact-check her story and did not.

The two big political parties in Ghana inevitably got involved. The ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) accused the opposition National Patriotic Party (NPP) of creating the story to spread doubt about the NDC’s ability to maintain law and order.

“We started going around to gather information and we realized that the NPP is seriously behind this story,” the director of communications for central region, Allotey Jacobs, announced on Accra’s CitiFM’s Eyewitness News. “History has certified the NPP as being masters of such games.”

“Absolute nonsense, Balderdash, rubbish!” retorted Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, the national chairman of the NPP, on Eyewitness News the next day. “We do not accept lies and cannot approve of anything of what Amina has done. But we want to say that it does not lie in the mouths of people like Allotey Jacobs or anybody in the NDC to start condemning people for lying when they themselves are among the biggest liars in this nation.”

Weeks after the story broke, the “bus rape” legend was fading from the headlines, but then the story took a new twist—Sasu’s bus collided head-on with an articulated truck, killing five of his passengers. Sasu was sent to hospital with a broken leg and the public began to think conspiracy.

Everyone wants to know why Mohammed told her story and whether or not the accident was just a tragic coincidence, but Ghanainan journalist Bernard Avle says the political mud-slinging has tainted the investigation.

“Had we not politicized this, I think we could have gotten to the bottom of it and would all have believed the eventual outcome of the investigation,” said Avle. “If an investigation devoid of all this controversy had been conducted, we could have ascertained that this girl was deluded, or deceived or convinced to do this, or it actually happened.”

The Amina Mohammed is now on bail and her case is before the courts. Last month, the driver gave his testimony, but Mohammed hasn’t yet been called to the stand. Ghanaians are watching the trial closely as the facts, or lack of them, become known.

Beads Under the Almond Tree

Rebecca crafts a bead necklace at the Almond Tree in Accra, a shop that sells crafts made by women living with HIV

Beaded jewelry and African-style clothing are for sale everywhere in the capital of Ghana, Accra. They’re put on display in street-side stalls and hawked by vendors slinking between cars stuck in midday traffic.

Items for sale at the Almond Tree Shop in Accra neighbourhood of Roman Ridge don’t stand out from the rest in style or quality; it’s who makes them and why they make them that set these beads and clothes apart.
The Almond Tree Shop is found just outside the doors of the International Health Care Centre, a clinic run by the West Africa AIDS Foundation that serves mainly women with HIV/AIDS living in the Accra area. Ghana’s HIV/AIDS prevelance rate is 1.9 per cent, according to UNICEF.

The shop gets its name from a giant almond tree on the lawn of the clinic, where patients would string beads and sew while waiting to see the doctor. Eventually they set up a table on which they could sell their wares.
It was a way to make a few cedis to pay for their drugs and living expenses. Anti-retroviral drugs—medications used to combat the affects of HIV—cost five cedis per month (about $3.50 CAD), but even that is too much for some.

Staff at the clinic saw an opportunity and together with Canadian NGO Crossroads International, they began training the women on how to make higher quality crafts and market their products.

“We thought, ‘Why don’t we engage them in something small so they could afford the five cedis and some food for their kids,'” said Dr. Naa-Ashiley Vanderpuje, the clinic’s head doctor.

Ama, who wishes to be anonymous, was one of the original women involved in the project. Today, she is a health assistant at the same clinic where she gets her treatment. She learned she had HIV three years ago after she started getting skin problems.

Ama lost most of her family when her husband heard the news and disappeared with her two daughters. She later lost her job because no one wanted to be near her. With no job and no family support, she couldn’t afford to pay for her medication.

The Almond Tree helped Ama pay for the drugs until she got a job doing lab tests and giving injections at the clinic, tasks many HIV-free nurses wouldn’t do because of the perceived risk of infection.

HIV is still a highly stigmatized disease in Ghana and Ama has to cope with a lot of shame.

“Some [people] don’t want to approach me,” she says. “Some don’t want you in their office. It makes me feel very sad.”

Making crafts not only helps her financially but mentally as well; Ama says the work is a distraction from her health condition and the stigma that goes along with it.

The number of women participating in the Almond Tree has climbed from 15 to 50 since it began six years ago. Many of the original women have gone on to employ themselves raising chickens, running their own shops and selling yams.

Things have improved for Ama as well. Her daughters have grown up and are talking to her again because they think she has survived too long to possibly be infected. Ama is letting them believe it for now. She’s just happy to have her daughters back.

Deaf and on the Margins of Ghanaian Society

Johnson Mahama, left, signs to Pius Abeviadey the Association for the Deaf office in Accra

Stephen Mensah says his hearing-impaired brother, Kofi, felt ill during Sunday church service last week. Kofi got progressively worse throughout the week until he lost consciousness on Thursday morning and his wife, who is also hearing-impaired, had to bring him to the hospital in Accra.

With Kofi unconscious and his wife unable to read or write, they needed someone who knew sign language to tell a doctor about Kofi’s history of kidney and cardiovascular problems.

No one at the hospital knew sign language and Stephen says his 30-year-old brother died as a result.

“They should have had a person to sign at the hospital so they could get directly to the problem,” he says.

Johnson Mahama was sad to hear that his friend Kofi died at a hospital last week and he was frustrated to learn that he died partly because of his disability. Mahama is project officer with the Ghana Association for the Deaf (GAD) and knew Kofi through his work.

Mahama lost his hearing when he was five due to cerebrospinal meningitis, a treatable disease. His parents lived in the rural north and didn’t know how to recognize the symptoms, so now Mahama must read lips.

Prevention of diseases that cause deafness is important, but GAD focuses on protecting the rights of deaf people to live as well as anyone else. The challenge is convincing politicians and the public that more time and effort is needed to accommodate the special needs of the hearing impaired. The ultimate goal is preventing injustices like the one that befell Kofi Mensah.

Mahama says the government needs to recognize sign language as one of Ghana’s official languages and place more importance on teaching sign language in school. The association is lobbying the University College of Education to increase the number of required training hours for teaching in sign language.

And it’s not only in hospitals that the deaf are being ostracized. Last month, the Ghanaian Statistical Service compiled a census of the entire nation, but the association’s administration officer, Pius Abeviadey, says many deaf people missed their chance to be counted. The educational campaigns on Ghana Television (GTV) were presented in ethnic languages like Akan and Hausa but didn’t include sign language, and many deaf people didn’t know the census was even happening.

GAD made a presentation to Ghana’s constitutional review commission in August, encouraging it to recognize sign language as an official language of Ghana and institutionalize it into the public service.

“Government should do things that would promote development of sustained sign language in the JSS and SSS,” said Abeviadey, referring to junior secondary school and senior secondary school. “We should be sure that anyone who meets a deaf person would be able to communicate with that person somehow.”

It’s a lofty goal when even in Canada people who use sign language number just over 40,000 out of a population of 34 million, but after the death of Kofi Mensah it’s hard to criticize Abeviadey’s zeal to create a more accommodating Ghana for the hearing impaired.

“Currently you have people who can meet a deaf person and nothing can go on, just like the instance of Kofi Mensah,” he says. “This was in Accra and it happened to be someone we know, but it’s happening all over the place.”

Money for Coverage, Ethics for Free

Journalists at a Ghana Prisons Service press conference in Accra before receiving envelopes of cash for attending

It only takes five cedis ($3.50 CAD) to get from the Elisa Hotel in Accra to the CitiFM office in Adabraka. This is common knowledge to just about everyone in this city, but somehow, it’s slipped the mind of the press conference organizers.

Many organizations in Ghana provide transportation money, or “soli,” (short for solidarity) to reporters who attend their press conferences. How nice of them. But someone should let them know that 20 cedis ($14.00 CAD) is much too much to get from any point in this city to another.

I saw it first hand at the end of a Ghana Prisons Service press conference a few weeks ago. Eager journalists scrummed the public relations officer as if he was making an important announcement. They weren’t looking for quotes. They wanted to get their hands on one of the many white envelopes filled with cedis and marked with the names of invited news outlets.

A reporter from a public newspaper joined them. He spoke to me only a few minutes before about how balanced his paper is despite it being government-run. And yet there he was, with his hand out like the rest of them.

I was at the conference with a young intern who hadn’t seen this feature of Ghanaian politics for himself, although he had heard about it before. It took him a minute to realize what was going on.

“You have to keep your dignity,” he told me later when I asked him what he thought of soli. It was a relief to hear him say it, but I wonder how long his conviction will last in a country where journalists are paid little – 350 cedis for a junior reporter according to one journalist at CitiFM. Taking these envelopes is a generally accepted practice.

I also wonder how strong my ethics would be if I lived in this country. It’s easy to judge when you come from a prosperous place like Canada, where most journalists make a livable wage.
Ministries, corporations, and yes, even NGOs are eager to deliver information to the public in the form of positive news stories because independent media provides the perception of objectivity..

But how independent can the press be when journalists rely on outside sources for “transportation?”

I recently asked Salorm Adonoo, news editor at CitiFM, about soli and he said the station reimburses journalists for transportation costs but he doesn’t encourage or discourage his reporters from taking the money.

He doesn’t feel solidarity is necessarily an attempt to influence journalists. He cited a case last week where a reporter attended a press conference then left before they handed out the envelopes. The story was aired and days later the organizers dropped the envelope off knowing that their chance to influence the bias of the reporter had passed.

“You should make a decision based on whether the money has a propensity to influence the direction of your story. That’s the question you should ask yourself,” says Adonoo.

To him, the money is more a show of appreciation and way of ensuring wide news coverage rather than trying to influence how stories are written.

Adonoo says he doesn’t think any of CitiFM’s reporters are compromising their journalistic integrity by accepting envelopes of cash because he scrutinizes almost every story before it goes on air to make sure it is fair and balanced.

“When I realize there is some skewed story which shouldn’t be [skewed], I’m critical of that,” he says.

Maybe taking the envelope isn’t the straightforward affront to ethics it appears to be in the eyes of a young Canadian journalist.

From Newfoundland to Ghana With Love

The deputy head master points to Andrews' home province, Newfoundland

I sit eating my lunch and watch two women pound cassava into a fine pulp. One turns the white lump over just before the other woman brings down a wooden pole with a force that could easily break fingers. They work with a perfect rhythm—the woman’s hand pulling back just before the pole comes down.

Rhythm is a part of life here in the Volta Region. There is a strong tradition of music and dance in the region, especially the town of Dzogadze.

That’s what brought Newfoundlander Curtis Andrews here in 1999. He was studying drumming and dance in Ghana and was so impressed by the talent of the musicians that he returned in 2002 to live in Dzogadze for two months. The villagers welcomed him and he became known as Kojo, the Ghanaian name for males born on a Monday.

Andrews went back to Newfoundland with a plan to hold a fundraiser and use the money to improve Dzogadze’s school compound that was lacking space and materials. Over the next few years he organized a series of concerts in St. John’s that raised over $8,000 to build a kindergarten block, computer lab and library.

When I asked Dzogadze Basic School teacher Jacob Lekpor to show me what the donations have accomplished, he pointed across the soccer field to a yellow building.

The library's collection is made up of a combination of Ghanaian textbooks and Canadian literature

“That’s where our beloved brother Curtis Andrews has put up a school for our children,” said Lekpor, a junior high school teacher.

When Lekpor came to Dzogadze four years ago, there was no kindergarten classroom. The children were forced to learn under a tree and write in the sand. Now the school is gaining a good reputation and drawing students from neighbouring communities.

Things have improved for older students as well. The computer lab helps students compete in the public school system where information technology has recently become a required part of the curriculum.

“It will enable the children to have access to information,” says Lekpor. “The country is developing, and information technology is very important. I’m happy that even at this age they will be able to improve their computer skills.”

What’s more, the library is full of books donated from overseas that expand students’ knowledge of the world outside Ghana.

Lekpor says attendance rates were very low when he began teaching in Dzogadze and very few students passed the graduation exams. Now 60 per cent of students graduate and move on to higher education.

Artifacts from Canada cover the walls and fill the shelves of this rural African school. The library includes books about hockey and classic Canadian novels like Anne of Green Gables. There is a map of Canada on the wall, and a chart of the different fish species of Newfoundland and Labrador.

It would be a lie to say Dzogadze is now a utopia thanks to generous Canadians. People still fetch water from a stagnant pond when the pumps don’t work, and many students can’t afford the necessary uniforms for school.  The medical clinic hasn’t had a nurse in two years and patients have to be taken by motorcycle to the nearest hospital half an hour away.

Quality of life is still lacking in some areas but people here are thankful for what they now have thanks to one musician from the cold north.

“His presence has helped a lot of children,” Lekpor said to me as we stood in the doorway of the Curtis Andrews Block. “Those that did not know the importance of education, they are now getting it.”

Alternative Medicine in Ghana Part Three: The Crime of Killing Yourself

Dr. Sammy Ohene, left, says people who attempt suicide should be treated in hospitals, not jails

As if being depressed to the point of trying to commit suicide isn’t bad enough, imagine being arrested and locked up for it.

Attempting suicide is illegal in Ghana according to Section 57 (2) of the 1960 Criminal Code, which classifies efforts to take one’s own life as a criminal offence. It’s a sanction that only aggravates the problems that lead patients to self-harm in the first place, according to Dr. Sammy Ohene, Head of Psychiatry at Ghana Medical School.

“The pressing issue should be dealing with your depression, not furthering your woes by prosecuting you for being ill,” he says. “I think it’s absolutely wrong. It shows a lack of understanding in the mechanisms behind suicide attempts.”

Dr. Ohene says he’s seen people imprisoned from six months to two years for trying to take their own lives. The stigma of imprisonment adds to the shame of attempting suicide in a country where it’s a taboo subject.

“They can even feel they deserve punishment,” says Dr. Ohene. “One thing you feel when you are depressed is guilt. It might worsen their symptoms or make them more likely to feel that there is indeed no hope for them.”

The law criminalizing attempted suicide was inherited from colonial British rule and Dr. Ohene feels the time has come to take if off the books. He’s one of several mental health professionals who make up the Network for Anti Suicide and Crisis Intervention, a group lobbying the Minister of the Interior to repeal the law.

Currently, however, the campaign faces challenges from traditional Ghanaian culture. Suicide is a dirty word in this country, to the point that it’s not used as a cause of death by coroners, who opt for the more palatable euphemism, “unnatural causes.”

Patients are often too ashamed to admit they have suicidal thoughts.
”They are even not very likely to talk about it with a doctor,” Dr. Ahene says. “You have to drag it out of them because they believe it’s totally wrong to even think about the subject.”

That makes it difficult for the medical community to know how grave the problem of suicide is in Ghana, but it appears serious. One study recently surveyed 4,500 students in three Accra secondary schools. It found that one third of the students have considered suicide as a way to escape their problems.

Dr. Ohene was surprised by the results.
”I didn’t imagine that for so many people, this was a considered option,” he says.

The treatment of mental diseases in Ghana is decades behind that of the developed world, which treats it as a mental health issue, not a criminal one. Ghana’s justice system has been slow to realize that people with mental health problems need treatment, not jail time.

Dr. Ohene and his colleagues are pushing to update Ghana’s laws to bring them closer to a modern understanding of suicide and mental illness in general.

“That’s a world of difference between treatment and going to jail for being ill,” he says. “I think it’s completely uncivilized that if someone is ill, we should punish them.”

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Jamestown Prison in Accra housed remand prisoners until it was shut down in 2008

Kojo Penim Ackah wants some changes made to the Ghanaian justice system.

On Dec. 31, 1995 his mother was found dead at their home in Accra, Ghana’s capital. Ackah was charged with her murder and remanded into custody.

Ackah became one of the thousands of Ghanaians held in prison without a trial. Of the 13, 573 prisoners currently in the system, just over 3,000 are being held on remand, according to Courage Atchem, public relations officer at Ghana Prisons Service. This means nearly a quarter of inmates in Ghanaian prisons haven’t been convicted of a crime. It’s a blatant violation of their constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial.

Last year, the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice found that most remand prisoners in Ghana serve between three to 17 years while waiting for a trial. Most remanded prisoners in Canada spend less than a week on remand, according to Statistics Canada.

Life in jail on remand in Ghana is no better than that of the convicted criminal. Remand prisoners eat the same food as the other inmates and in the same quantities, which amounts to about 45 cents.

What’s more, the food is often too terrible to eat, according to Ackah.

“It was toxic,” he says. “I personally witnessed someone drink the soup in the prison and vomit from the mouth and the nose. I don’t know if it was malaria or what. Where I slept, he vomited on top of me and I was shocked.”

The remand problem is mainly caused by the lack of lawyers to represent people in bail hearings, according to A.Y. Sieni, director of the National Legal Aid Scheme. Judges are more likely to grant bail when the accused has a lawyer to represent them.

To make matters worse, not enough lawyers volunteer for legal aid service because government does not provide them with adequate compensation, says Sieni.

The system loses track of how long prisoners are held in custody due to an inefficient tracking system. And even though remand warrants are by law to be renewed every 14 days, Sieni says they are often lost or forgotten.

It was disorganization that lengthened Ackah’s stay in prison. His court date was getting close by the end of 2000, but then the police officer handling his file was transferred and no one could find Ackah’s docket, condemning him to another eight years in prison.

Ackah spent four years in Jamestown Prison, a former slave fort in Accra that housed remand prisoners until 2008 when they were transferred north to Nsawam Prison. Nsawam was built to hold 850 prisoners. It’s currently home to 3,394 inmates, including 1,250 remand prisoners, who occupy a single block within the prison, isolated from the convicts for their own safety. Ackah says the convict blocks house about 20 inmates per cell, while the remand block houses up to 65 inmates in a single cell.

George Safo Sarpong is a recently-released exconvict who served three years for beating his wife. He supported Ackah’s account of life in remand detention.

“The remand block is very congested,” he says. “If you’re a convict, you thank God, because you have the freedom to move. You can go and play ball, even go to church. But in remand you don’t have that ability. You’re always locked up.”

Ackah finally had his day in court in 2008. A judge found him innocent and he now lives unemployed, relying on the help of his brother.

He wants Ghana’s justice system reformed so no one else has to suffer for a crime they didn’t commit.

“I never even married,” he says. “I don’t have anything. I have to start from scratch again. Those are the difficulties. It’s not good for your freedom to be taken from you for even a minute. It’s very, very bad.”

Having a Plan

It’s easy to get jaded seeing sign after sign in the streets of Accra pointing the way to one NGO or another. Despite the slew of development organizations here, people continue to live with poor drinking water, low incomes and lack of decent health care.

One NGO (besides jhr, of course) seems to be taking a step in the right direction. Plan Ghana has been working with children in the country since 1992. The goals, according to their website, are to provide quality education and teacher training, create awareness of children’s rights and ensure food security for children.

Anyone can state goals on a website. It’s much harder to find effective ways to achieve them. Plan Ghana held a forum this week as part of a week-long workshop on the status of children in the country. They flew in 80 youth delegates from all over West Africa. It had real results.

This wasn’t an event where adults tell kids what they should think. The young delegates posed questions to the forum guests, including the United Nations Representative for Violence Against Children, Marta Santos Pais, and the Ghanaian Minister of Sports and Youth, Akua Sena Dansua.

Most importantly, the kids got a chance to tell their stories to a wide audience, and the media and representatives from various NGOs had a rare opportunity to hear well-spoken, motivated youth describe their experiences with children’s rights abuses.

One girl from Cote D’Ivoire told us in her native French how girls in her country are beaten by child traffickers when they refuse to prostitute themselves, and how a three-year-old girl was sexually abused by a neighbour. Police jailed the man for 72 hours and released him.

Outside the auditorium, Plan Ghana displayed pictures made by West African children that illustrate the abuses they’ve seen during their young lives. There were images of people being beaten, stabbed, raped and murdered.

I remember drawing snowball fights and monster trucks when I was their age, maybe the occasional army tank. No one being murdered though, or raped—I was lucky enough to grow up far away from that.

The forum was effective because the kids were active participants, not mere objects to be educated. We learned as much as they did during the forum, if not more. These kids came away with the pride of knowing they played a role in shaping their future, and Plan Ghana distinguished itself as more than just another NGO with a bunch of goals posted on its website.