BIAKOYE means "togetherness"
By Asia Clarke, Crossroads International volunteer in Ghana
When I stepped off the plane in Ghana, a wave of moist heat hit me, and a feeling of gratitude and excitement filled me up. I observed the sights and sounds of the busy Kotoka International Airport in Accra: people embracing loved ones, the line up of persons waiting for baggage, the afrobeat music playing softly through speakers, the sound of a new language (Twi) in my ears from passersby.
I was by myself in Africa for the first time (in generations). My family is of African descent, from the Caribbean islands of Dominica, Barbados and Trinidad. I had so deeply wanted to visit Africa for a very long time to re-discover my roots, especially Ghana because of the strong community of repatriated Africans from the diaspora living there.
While I was in University, I began my own arts-based business, Wild Moon Jewelry. I became familiar with the challenges encountered in entrepreneurship and self-employment as a woman of colour. I've always wanted to help others start their own arts businesses and share my insights in entrepreneurship.
Photo: Sierra Nallo
Crossroads International had built relationships with various NGOs operating in Ghana supporting community health and economic empowerment initiatives. I was placed with Pro-Link Ghana, an organization that focuses on HIV / STI community prevention and gender-based violence education campaigns. Pro-Link Ghana had mobilized a group of peer educators to assist in the carrying out of their campaigns who call themselves "The Obrapaa Women's Group".
Their role as peer educators empowers them to encourage others in their communities to get tested for HIV/STIs, and they assist in carrying out condom distribution campaigns. They also promote gender based violence training in their communities. Some of the Obrapaa Women identify as female sex workers (FSWs) and fight the stigma of sex work through their creative arts practice of jewelry design. Crossroads International presented me with the opportunity to work with the Obrapaa Women's Group, using a gender-focused framework of economic empowerment and entrepreneurship through jewelry design and production.
As Women’s Entrepreneurship Advisor, I worked with the Obrapaa group to design a jewelry business model designed to capitalize on the artistic talents they possess in order to access e-commerce opportunities, increase their digital literacy and foster opportunities for economic empowerment.
Photo : Sierra Nallo
As our world technologically advances, key populations are left behind the trend and are excluded from the ever-increasing visibility and economic opportunity offered through digitally-based commerce platforms. In my opinion, this exclusion is a threat to women’s rights to economic opportunities and education. Initiatives that support groups like the Obrapaa and their communities to access the increasing market value of digitally based creative economies can help to remove previous barriers and present opportunities for marginalized women new ways to exercise their economic rights.
The experience became more than I had ever hoped it would be.
Crossroads International gave me the very special experience to carry out gender-focused entrepreneurship programming for the Obrapaa Women's Group in Ghana, and I was able to align my passion for jewelry as an art practice with my interest in promoting women's economic self-sufficiency. Ghana became another front on my journey of self-discovery, as I connected deeper with my roots through art and jewelry design. I made some amazing lifelong friends in the Obrapaa Women's Group.
At the end of our program, the Obrapaa Women's Group presented the BIAKOYE collection, which is available for sale through my website, website here. 100% of proceeds go towards continued economic development efforts for the Obrapaa Women's Group.