October 17th is recognized by the United Nations as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. On this day, it is important to acknowledge the fundamental connection between extreme poverty and human rights, and that people living in poverty are disproportionately affected by many human rights violations.
Poverty is often understood by many as a deprivation of economic and material resources including food, clothing, and shelter. However, for the three women, Bernice Dapaah, Barbera Kobi Kyei and Abena Sapong, who each shared backgrounds working with various youth organizations across Ghana, poverty means more than a lack of material things. It is also the loss of one’s perceived dignity and identity. People living in poverty are often trapped in the poverty cycle because their potential is undermined. Realizing there were little means of socio-economic development happening within their community, the trio came together to start Bright Generation Community Foundation (BGCF).
Established in July of 2006, BGCF is a community level non-profit organization based in Kumasi, Ghana that strives to help fight poverty and enhance the well-being of underserved communities in Ghana. The foundation is committed to serving children, youth, and women in rural areas through intensive and sustainable development projects. With an emphasis on dignity and respect, the projects are designed to be creative, inclusive, participatory and empowering, where all have equal opportunities to develop and succeed, regardless of their background.
PWB teamed up with photographer Rachael Santillan to document the work of BGCF, where she was able to capture how their efforts have contributed to positive changes in the community.
“I’m so glad I got to see what Bright Generation is doing for Ghana...BGCF always has something new in the works in the hopes of helping the people of Ghana.”
BGCF has four core areas it is working on to help its community develop: social enterprise, education, business agriculture, and community initiatives.
The Bamboo Initiative, for instance, is an award-winning project that addresses poverty, climate change, rural-urban immigration and youth unemployment. The project creates jobs and sustainable livelihood job skills for youth and women through the building of high-quality bamboo bicycles. Producing a sustainable, affordable and reliable form of transportation not only improved the lives of many low-income earners in deprived rural areas but also helped reduce carbon emissions by up to 70 percent. Since its establishment, the project has created employment opportunities for 35 people, with another 175 people benefiting directly. Higher incomes have translated into improvements in community health and education.
Another successful project is the Menstrual Pad for Dignity initiative. The initiative seeks to provide free sanitary pads to school-aged girls to lower the high rates of menstrual-related absenteeism among junior and senior high school girls. Too often, girls miss several days of school every month because of the insufficient access to sanitary pads. Substitutes for sanitary pads includes the use of old pieces of cloth, leaves, or mattress stuffing, which can put them at higher risk for infection. More than 1500 schoolgirls are provided with menstrual pads, equating to about 2500 more days in school. Additionally, the initiative offers education on reproduction. Long term, the project seeks to set up an innovative social enterprise program that will empower female students to earn extra income to support their education, through the manufacturing of affordable and reusable sanitary pads.
Development is more than just achieving outcomes – it also embodies a culture of respect and dignity. In addition to providing basic materials, Bright Generation is committed to help break the vicious cycle of poverty by creating a level playing field for women and low-income youths.
Leaving Ghana, Santillan shares one thing she wants others to know about the foundation: “I want people to know that if they would like to donate to non-profit, Bright Generation should be at the top of their list. It is an organization that utilizes its funds to the fullest advantage of the people who need it most.”
Click here for more on Bright Generation and how you can help in their efforts to eradicate poverty.