From an Almost Child Bride to the Leader of the Most Inspiring Book Club
According to a number of international studies, literacy is the most accurate predictor of an individual’s earning power, and has the ability to decrease inequality. Yet one in four young people in developing nations are unable to read a single sentence, and millions more have limited access to books.
While efforts to expand access to books in their traditional format can be costly (think of the logistics of shipping boxes of books to remote areas by land, air, and sea) a child with a Kindle can hold a portable library in their hands.
During a recent trip to Ghana, I witnessed the work of Worldreader first-hand. Located on the outskirts of Accra, in the Muslim-majority neighbourhood of Nima, Achievers Ghana is a reading group supported by Worldreader’s programme that aims to equip girls in slum communities with the necessary skills to reach their potential.
The story of the organisation begins with a child called Amina, who was betrothed to an older man by her uncle when she was only 12 years old. Amina’s schoolteachers alerted the authorities and intervened, helping her to escape the marriage and continue her studies. Amina became an advocate for the education of girls and co-founded Achievers with one of her teachers called Amadu Zulkarnain Mohammed.
“Our parents who are not well educated think the best place for a girl is in her husband’s house and the kitchen. This is not the best because education is the key to success and to also help build a girl’s confidence and potential.” – Amina, Achievers Ghana Co-Founder
Today the club has 250 members aged between 10 and 18, who come after school to read for up to three hours from Kindles. The stories address issues including child marriage and education, speaking directly to the girls’ own experiences.
Worldreader works with local publishers and actively curates books by African authors for their library, as it has been proven that the more culturally relevant a student’s first reads are, the more likely she is to continue reading throughout her adult life.
In addition to cultivating lifelong reading habits, Achievers is dedicated to instilling girls with confidence, which is developed through learning to present and perform to a group. During our visit, the girls set up a makeshift stage and took it in turns to recite from memory some of their favourite stories and poems.
The girls also displayed a remarkable enthusiasm for learning. A far cry from the “too cool for school” attitude that coursed through much of my own experience of education, students here approach books with an energy that suggests that they are aware of their studies as a lifeline. These girls have aspirations that far exceed the limitations of their circumstances, with dreams of becoming pilots, doctors, and journalists.
The majority of students come from single-parent families and child marriage can be seen as a way to break out of a life below the poverty line. Achievers, supported by Worldreader, is on a mission to prove that through education young girls can work towards finding stable employment, reaching their earning potential and becoming more actively engaged in their country’s social, political and cultural life.
According to a study conducted by Unicef, if all girls had secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia then child marriage would fall by 64 percent. By boosting confidence and ambition through literacy, Achievers is giving girls in slum communities in Ghana every opportunity to end the cycle of poverty and attain a better quality of life.
The group is just one of the hundreds of schools aided by Worldreader across the country. A digital reading revolution is quietly taking place, one Kindle at a time.
As part of Worldreader’s 2018 holiday campaign ‘Unlock Opportunity’, they’re on a mission to scale digital reading in schools across Ghana more than ever before. With your help, they can make it happen. $30 will help reach one more student and change their life. Find out more here.
About the writer
Kate has been a passionate supporter of Worldreader for several years. Her experience volunteering with Worldreader gave her a first-hand insight into how important it is to bring culturally relevant books to readers. When her professional role took her to Ghana, Kate had the opportunity to see a Worldreader program in action, an experience which motivates her support to this day. Back in London, together with her business partner Emily, Kate created Sonder & Tell to help others tell their stories. This article is one of Kate’s own stories.