When Zaina Adamu, a former CNN journalist, moved from Atlanta to Accra in 2018, her intention was to help retell the African narrative for people who wanted to learn more about the continent. Little did she know that her journey would take on a completely new trajectory.
“When I first arrived in Ghana I was so in awe of how beautiful the country was…the people, the culture, the food, the freedom…everything felt familial and peaceful,” Zaina said. “But I also saw that there were huge disparities, specifically as it related to gender equality.”
Within months of this realization, she founded Ghana Girl Rising, a non-profit organization designed to help girls in marginalized communities gain access to a formal education. The organization uses a multi-pronged approach to help. Through scholarships, tuition assistance, civic engagement and leadership development, Ghana Girl Rising works with young women between the ages of 8 and 17 to prepare them for their future academic and professional journeys.
Thus far, Ghana Girl Rising has provided almost two dozen scholarships to women throughout Ghana and has partnered with African Leadership University and the Mastercard Foundation to provide funding. They have also worked with schools and local organizations to provide equipment and other necessary tools to enhance the learning experience.
Zaina was born and raised in Yonkers, New York and is a first-generation American whose parents moved from New Town, a low-income community in Accra where most people are unable to go to school. Her father, Imam Adam Adamu, said it was important that he gave his children access to the best education because he was aware of the benefits.
“I lived in a very, very tough neighborhood and education was not a priority,” he said. “To see my daughter coming back to where it all started for us and giving back – I couldn’t be any prouder.”
According to figures from the United Nations, nine million girls in Africa between the ages of six and 11 will never attend school, compared to six million boys. By the time they reach adolescence, girls have a 36% exclusion rate.
With these statistics in mind, Ghana Girl Rising focuses a majority of its efforts on traveling to regions throughout the country to speak with young girls about the power of education. In total, the organization has reached approximately 200 young women, with a goal to reach 5,000 by the end of 2023.
Ghana Girl Rising’s long-term goal is to build a library and community center in Accra, where young men and women can convene, learn and attend programs hosted by the organization. “Sometimes all it takes is for these girls to have an escape – a safe and trusted space where they can read, study, access the internet and speak with someone about their future ambitions,” said Zaina. “I hope I am in a position one day to provide these girls with this space to learn and grow.”
For anyone looking to work in public service, she gives this advice: “If you want to support a cause in any capacity, it doesn’t take much. I didn’t have a plan. All it takes is good intention and taking the first step. The rest will be history.”
Learn more about Ghana Girl Rising and how you can support the cause here.