Business Name: Enlightening and Empowering People with Disabilities (eepdAfrica), a non-profit promoting the welfare of people with disabilities in Africa
Type of Business: Social Enterprise
Business Location: Ghana
Reason for starting
Education is a human right, but there are many barriers keeping people with disabilities (PWDs) from accessing schools in Africa. Mainly, the school buildings are not designed to address the needs of people with mobility problems. As a person with a physical disability growing up in Ghana, I am a victim and a survivor. I was fortunate to have parents who understood the value of education. For years, my mother carried me to and from school every day and packed a container for me, because I could not access the restroom. Later on in my life, I was inspired by the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Determined to make a difference, I started raising awareness and advocating at the grass-roots level for persons with disabilities in Ghana. eepdAfricawas was founded in 2012 to analyze policies, create awareness, advocate for change, and influence policies to support PWDs in Africa. It is the only volunteer organization of its kind in Africa. We champion the cause of all people to be treated with dignity as equals in their local community as well as the global community. To accomplish our mission, we engage in dialogue with policy makers and stake holders to influence policy that can change the existing barriers for PWDs in all spheres of life. We empower and ensure that PWDs in Africa enjoy the rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, as well as in the policies and laws in their constitutions, without any discrimination.
How do you define success?
To me success is not just meeting the goals I set for myself in a given timeline. Finding full satisfaction in what I’ve achieved – that is what I call my success. My work is focused on serving society and making a positive change, so my satisfaction stems from the inner joy of the people my work has touched and affected. It’s that simple.
Two years ago I received a Ford Foundation scholarship to study policy and advocacy at the World Learning SIT Graduate Institute, as well as an International Alliance for Women’s World of Difference Award. With that recognition and the training at World Learning, I developed my own policy brief with recommendations on how the Ghanaian government should implement existing laws to make schools accessible to people with disabilities (PWDs). The policy brief has been adopted by the WaWa Project, and they are using it to retrofit a school in my community in Ghana that will serve as an example for all schools in the country. The school will also be the symbol of our biggest success to come – making all schools in Ghana accessible to PWDs.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
In Ghana, the top challenge to providing people with disabilities (PWDs) access to education is that Ghanaians are unaware of their rights and the government’s responsibility to uphold those rights. That is why I’ve launched the Accessible Schools media campaign to make Ghanaians aware of laws protecting PWDs. Each week, eepdAfrica will host TV/radio programs to discuss the issue and also allow Ghanaians to call in and ask questions. The project will ensure that the government takes concrete steps to change the building plans of schools. Through the Advancing Leaders Fellowship, World Learning is supporting my project by providing me with training, drawing more international attention to the project, and providing $10,000 to implement the project. The Fellowship lasts for nine months, and I am positive we will make a real impact on the lives of PWDs in Ghana before it ends.
Who is your most important role model?
I draw most of my inspiration from the Bible, especially Psalm 139:14, which always reminds me that “I am fearfully and wonderfully created” by God. Drawing from this verse, I am reminded of Helen Adams Keller – American lecturer, author, political activist, and most notably, the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Helen always motivates me and challenges me anytime I read her works. I think I am following her example step by step, and through God who strengthens me, I am close to reaching the same level of achievement as she did.