Wednesday, June 25, 2014

AfriCAN Women CAN!

I had an amazing day at the Women’s Park in the Miami – Dade County today. It was everything I did not expect and I liked it. The rains did not allow our team to go out and enjoy the beautiful scenery and sunshine (which I have learnt to value now that I am here) but I had the most exciting time meeting the amazing girls partaking in the Girls Empowerment and Mentoring (GEM) programme while learning about a phenomenal woman Roxcy O’Neal Bolton, a woman of distinction. We went to the park as part of our community service component of our programme on the Washington Fellowship.

When I saw the advertisement for the Washington Fellowship in December, 2013 I knew I wanted to be a part of it, however I was unsure if I wanted to get my heartbroken again. I was recovering from not getting into a highly competitive PhD programme. Plus I reason that there would be thousands of applications (and there was; 50, 000 of them). Would I stand a chance?
In the end I decided that I should at least give myself the chance. So I did. In March, 2014 I received a call and then was interviewed a few days later for the fellowship. Then on the 8th of April, 2014 I got mail. I was officially a Washington Fellowship finalist. The rest is history.

My professor at the University of Gloucestershire, Prof. Lindsey McEwen taught me to celebrate my successes, to relax, to reflect and to give myself the chance. When we met I was a twenty-three year old with a first class degree in Natural Resources Management looking to learn and gain practical experience. So as my instructor on my Masters programme she asked that I submit my curriculum vitae so that she would help me to gain the practical experience I wanted. The c.v. simply said the basics about me, so she asked what class I graduated with and I replied that I graduated as the top girl in my Fisheries and Watershed Management option class of 2008. I did not think it was important to place it on my curriculum vitae because for me it would come across as a show off. She simply said to me “...Afua Prempeh, no one is going to blow your horn for you...”.

Why work so hard and play it down? How was I going to get my foot in the door or expect someone to give me a fair chance when I was not giving myself a fair chance?

I think there is something fundamentally not right with the way society socializes women not only in Ghana but in Africa and around the world. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being competent and excellent at what you do. And there is no shame in being confident and acknowledging that you are good at something.

The Washington Fellowship has shown me that the African continent has an amazing resource that hitherto has not been mined and explored in the most effective manner - Intelligent and talented women; Women who are passionate about the future of our communities, nations, Africa and the world!

So I dedicate this piece to all the women participating in the Washington Fellowship 2014. Let us empower other women by sharing our stories, experiences and encouraging other women to work hard and be confident in whom they are. You are an inspiration and an example to all women that:


Afua Serwah Akoto Prempeh, is a guest writer for this blog. Afua is an environmentalist who is passionate about natural resources management and sustainable development. She believes firmly that communities, no matter how deprived possess untapped capabilities and assets to protect their environment, utilize their resources sustainably and develop. She strives to foster a structured and close collaboration between state institutions and local communities to ensure national sustainable growth.

Afua joined the Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana in 2011 as a Program Officer and has worked in the Strategic Environmental Assessment Unit. She currently works with the education team of the Western Regional office of the Agency, which educates the general public on pertinent environment challenges and the need for members of communities to take an active part in environmental management. She works as a member of the technical review committee in the regional office to review and critically analyze developmental applications, preliminary and annual environmental reports. The committee makes recommendations aimed at minimizing the likely negative social and environmental impacts of undertakings.

She has effective communication, training, analytical and research skills and an understanding of environmental legislation. Afua Prempeh holds an MSc in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Gloucestershire, UK, and a BSc in Natural Resources Management from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana and a Certificate in Policies, Strategies and Support Systems for Rural Revitalization from the Weitz Centre for Development Studies in Israel.

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