In April this year, Mawusi Nudekor Awity, Founder and Executive Director of AWDF Grantee Network for Women in Growth (NEWIG) won a scholarship to pursue a short course in Canada. She visited us at AWDF House, here in Accra to share the good news and spend a few moments with us before starting her trip. Here, we share the warm conversation with you:
Golda Addo (AWDF Communications Associate): Mawusi, could you please give us a brief history of your relationship with AWDF?
Mawusi Awity (Founder): Yes. NEWIG has been in partnership with AWDF since 2005. It was our first grant from an international donor to organise a 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence activity. The grant was $1,000. The program was very successful and we were very grateful because before then, since 2002, we had never received any external funding. The next year, 2006, we were supported with $5,000 to run entrepreneurial training for young unemployed university graduates. From then, the support has been continual. To date, we have received grants four times, with the recent being a $20,000 to organise an “Integrated Services to Improve Maternal Health Care” Project.
G.A.: Tell us about yourself.
M.A.: I am a mother of three and the wife of a very supportive Army Officer. I always refer to him as such because he spends much of his time and resources on my NGO. He says that is where my passion is, and all he can do is to throw his weight behind. God bless him.
Anyway, I am a Women’s Rights Activist, Micro & Small Business Development Expert working for women, with a Theatre Arts background (Master of Fine Arts Degree). To develop this new career, I did courses in Advanced Entrepreneurship and Human Resource Management at University of Ghana School of Business. Other courses include Gender Analysis and Community Work Practice, Leadership Capacity Building, NGOs Management and many others. Passion for rural women drove me into social work, which is very challenging because I travel a lot throughout the country, especially to remote parts to execute my work. I work as a full time volunteer for NEWIG. Any money I make personally, I plough back into the coffers of the organization.
G.A.: Tell us about NEWIG.
M.A.: NEWIG was founded on 8th January 2002 as a skills development and gender employment non government, non-profit organisation with the objective of contributing its quota to fighting economic, social and political poverty among Ghanaian women. It does so by creating the needed platform for them to have access to vocations (economic empowerment), good health and sustainable life style as well as political leverage in society. The NGO has trained over five thousand women both young and old, nation-wide and formed three vibrant women’s groups with the fourth one just being formed. Our areas of operation are entrepreneurial trainings, gender trainings and political trainings in addition to health-related programmes.
G.A.: Do you feel a relationship exists with AWDF on both the organizational and personal level, or is it mostly one? And if so, which of the two is it?
M.A.: The relationship that exists with AWDF on both organisational and personal level is like a “Mother and Child” relationship. NEWIG is like a child of AWDF. AWDF is our second main source of financial support. The success of NEWIG can never be mentioned without highlighting the role AWDF has played in our very existence. When nobody came to our aid to help push us into the space we are now occupying, AWDF did. On a personal level, I am like staff. I go there and I feel so comfortable. Any help I need from them comes stress-free; from the CEO to the security personnel. I have learnt a lot from our relationship which I also practice at my work place.
G.A.: How has AWDF’s funding helped you?
M.A.: AWDF funding has helped NEWIG to continue to be a good and reliable player in the “Support for the Poor” Team. AWDF funding helps us achieve our goals, reaching out to many women to help them establish their own business, which is so fulfilling for us.
G.A.: We heard that you recently won a scholarship to study outside Ghana. Could you share the details of this achievement with us? Also, share with us your plans after this scholarship, and how the course fits into your immediate, short and long-term plans for NEWIG?
M.A.: Through the initiative of Canadian Crossroads International, I had a scholarship from Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to pursue a two weeks’ certificate course in Livelihoods and Markets at Coady International Institute, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia in Canada. The course is to put me in a better and clearer picture of how to conduct sub-sector and value chain analysis in the shea butter industry. Being a producer and trainer for the rural women in shea butter products, I would become knowledgeable in how to apply the tools to address key constraints for the rural shea butter producers (who are mainly women) as well as NEWIG, since we are also into production. The constraints I would work on are market access as well as product development to suit the international buyers. In addition to the scholarship, I was among a group of women who received an international honorary award “Leading Women Innovators Award” from Global Women Innovators and Inventors Network, an organisation with its headquarters in United Kingdom.
G.A.: Congratulations, Mawusi! Now, what is it like, being active in the political arena of Ghana, not just as a politician of your status, but also as a female?
M.A.: It is not that easy. I see the political arena as a whole jungle and it is like survival of the fittest. There is no mercy and you must play the game like “them”. If “they” hop, you hop, or even more than “them”. They will not give you the space, so you create a big one and operate in there with all the linkages. I am actually referring to our male counterparts. But I am quite fortunate; my husband has been my backbone. His support is enormous. He was there for me when I contested in the 2008 parliamentary primaries in South Tongu District, which I lost. I was later nominated a Member of NPP Presidential National Campaign Team in 2008 and then again as a Member of The 7-member NPP National Organisation Committee in 2010 to serve a four year term.
G.A.: Have you always had political interests, and did any institution, person, or event in particular prompt the last few steps into active politics?
M.A.: That is an interesting question. I never had any political interest. My last few steps into active politics was as a result of my association with the late Hawa Yakubu, a strong big feminist giant in the political space. We met in 2003. She liked me so much, and would often ask me to represent her at several functions. She said I had the drive and energy for active politics. Eventually I got convinced when in 2008 some of Constituency Executives and Elders of the South Tongu NPP persuaded me to contest as a parliamentary candidate. That was how my journey started and it’s been moving fast. Unfortunately, my mentor died before I got into active politics. To keep her memories alive, the Vocational Skills Training Shed at our Women Empowerment Centre bears the name “HAWA EMPOWERMENT SHED”. May HER SOUL REST IN PERFECT PEACE.
G.A.: Any extra message you’d like to share with us or our readers and partners?
M.A.: It is good to reach out to the reach-less. There is nothing more fulfilling than that. Strive hard to go an extra mile and the joy that comes with it is immeasurable. Let us all put our strength and resources together to support the poor to stand on their own to make the world a better place to live. To AWDF partners, God bless you for your good work. Continue it in that direction so women, irrespective of their stand in society, can all walk out with their chests out.
To Mawusi Awity and NEWIG, we wish all the very best, and look forward to more years of this warm, wonderful relationship. We are proud of you.