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At the age of 23, Dorcas Apoore’s list of achievements is astonishing. A young woman from a vulnerable background, she has overcome all odds to run her own flourishing social enterprise and pursue tertiary education — a first for her marginalized, rural community in Ghana. Dorcas’ commitment to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) led her to be selected as one of 16 Young Leaders from around the globe, to participate in the 2018 European Development Days (EDD) in Brussels on 5 and 6 June.

“Investing in women and girls is one of the surest ways to reach our sustainable development goals.” - Dorcas Apoore, member of the Camfed alumnae network (CAMA) & social entrepreneur

Recognition as an EDD Young Leader has given Dorcas the platform that her extraordinary work merits. In the days leading up to the conference, she attended high level meetings with UN Women and the European Commission in Brussels. During the event, she spoke on a series of panels, including ‘Empowering Women in Sustainable Investment and Business through the EIP (EU External Investment Plan)’ with other participants including Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank, and Anja Langenbucher, Europe Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dorcas brought a fresh perspective - vital to the understanding and success of sustainable development - that draws on her lived experience of poverty, and her expertise as an agent of change at the grassroots. Her degree course in Development Planning, supported by Camfed in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, is honing her skills in effective planning. Combined with her close contact to the issues facing people in the Upper East region of Ghana, this places her in a strong position to lead change.

Dorcas Apoore in a video interview at EDD

Dorcas participated in several interviews with international media (Photo: Hermione Wace/Camfed)

Dorcas with ‘Empower a girl, empower a community’ placard

Dorcas shares a message at the ONE Campaign stand (Photo:  Hermione Wace/Camfed)

Dorcas went on to participate in debate labs on the topics of ‘Women entrepreneurs - spearheading implementation of Agenda 2030’ organised by Friends of Europe, and ‘How digital is a pathway for inclusive education and empowerment of women?’ with FRS Consulting. She described how through her social enterprise, Advocacy for Social Inclusion and Girls’ Education (ASIGE), she is working towards the Global Goals, particularly SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 13 (Climate Action).

Starting with empowering women, Dorcas has already equipped more than 200 with income-generating skills including basket weaving and shea butter production. Unleashing their earning potential in turn helps these women to feed and educate their children, and to improve their status in society. In addition, she has reached 2,000 young people with educational sessions on sexual and reproductive health, to address a prevalence of teenage pregnancy and early marriage. With her own means, Dorcas has also facilitated the return to school of nine drop-out students, some affected by early childbearing.

“When women are equipped with technical skills they can rise above the poverty line in Ghana and in Africa as a whole.”  - Dorcas Apoore, CAMA Member & Social Entrepreneur

The chance to hear Dorcas share her experiences, achievements and ideas was eagerly received by experts and leaders from across the development sector, none more so than Camfed Founder Ann Cotton. The first time the two had met, it proved an emotional and celebratory occasion. From the start Camfed has been about educating girls, and enabling them to step up as leaders of change. Not even out of university, Dorcas has already multiplied the benefits of her education with far-reaching positive impact.

And of course, Dorcas’ entrepreneurial spirit was not inactive whilst at EDD. She brought with her a selection of beautifully crafted baskets and high quality shea butter products, which were in great demand from other delegates. The increasing international interest in these items (now for sale in the US, UK and Australia) has the potential to transform Dorcas’ poverty-stricken community and she works tirelessly to expand her market.

Dorcas Apoore and Ann Cotton, holding a basket woven by women in Dorcas’ community

Dorcas Apoore and Ann Cotton, holding a basket woven by women trained through ASIGE (Photo: Hermione Wace/Camfed)

Along with the 15 other Young Leaders at EDD, Dorcas is helping to rewrite the traditional rules surrounding leadership. Together they injected a new energy into the EDD proceedings, demonstrating that strong and effective leadership does not have to come with age and privilege. As a member of the CAMA network, Dorcas is also part of a pan-African movement of young women leaders, who are breaking down gender norms and paving the way for a new generation.

Read Dorcas’ remarkable story here.