CAMFED Association leader, Ghana

I am the thirteenth born in a family of 14 children. My struggle to get a secondary education and fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a nurse began as soon as I had completed primary school. With no money for school fees, my mother gradually sold off my possessions to support me, whist I worked before and after school selling chewing sticks (sticks used for cleaning teeth) at the market.

Over many years I faced a daily battle to remain at school and avoid early marriage. Waking at 4am, I embarked on a three hour walk to school, working at the market each morning and evening, and studying late into the night by a smoking lantern, which has permanently damaged my eyes. Recognizing my determination and hard work, my father eventually contributed by selling one of his two sheep to help with my school-going costs.

I passed my exams and was promised paid work in Accra, but once there, I found myself working long days in several jobs with no remuneration. My health suffered, and I returned home to recuperate, relying on local medicine, as there was no money to send me to hospital. When I was better, I found work in an orphanage, and continued to sell chewing sticks.  

Still determined to pursue my dream, I applied for nursing school and was one of 94 students accepted from over 600 applicants. But my  hopes were soon crushed when I realized I did not have sufficient money to pay the fees.

Every day I was indoors crying until a friend came by and told me about CAMFED. They rekindled my hope of becoming a nurse in the future… And every day I studied hard, because I had to make CAMFED proud, and I had to make my mom proud.

With support from CAMFED and the Mastercard Foundation, I was able to complete my training course, and today I am a professional nurse in Ghana. I joined the pan-African CAMFED Association network, as an education ambassador and health advocate, speaking on issues including maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. In 2017 I was elected Northern Regional Chairperson of CAMFED Association Ghana, and often lead talks, marches and media appearances with CAMFED Association and community members in my efforts to end child marriage and other violations of women’s and girls’ rights. 

Fatima speaks at a forum on child marriage prevention

Here I am speaking at a forum on International Day of the Girl Child 2018 on preventing child marriage

Fatima conducts a community outreach session

I have trained Traditional Birth Attendants across eight communities.

I serve as a role model to a lot of people. Young women always come to me for advice. I do a lot of advocacy. I make sure girls out there take their studies seriously. I teach girls about teenage pregnancy, contraception, and how to keep themselves safe.

As well as local leadership and activism, I have been invited to participate in events at national and international level. In March 2015, I travelled to the UK to speak on a panel entitled ‘The Education Emergency’ at the Women of the World Festival in Cambridge. In November 2015 I was selected as one of a handful of ambassadors to join the US government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) for the West Africa Leaders Program in Accra.

Fatima at the Women of the World Festival

Me (center) at the Women of the World Festival with Professor Pauline Rose, Dame Barbara Stocking , Mariam Khalique and Lucy Lake

Fatima's cohort at cohort at the YALI West Africa Leaders Program

Me (wearing pink) and my cohort at the YALI West Africa Leaders Program in Accra

I am passionate about maternal health. In 2017 I started training Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), who support women to safely deliver their babies, as well as supplying important nutrition and reproductive health information.  By 2018, I had already trained 200 TBAs across eight communities. At the same time I began studying for a BSc in Midwifery at the University for Development Studies in Tamale, bringing me a step closer to my long-term goal of starting a maternity home.

Read video transcript

I spoke at the Women of the World Festival 2015 in Cambridge, introduced by Lucy Lake. The panel chaired by Dame Barbara Stocking includes Malala’s teacher Mariam Khalique, Professor Pauline Rose and Zoah Hedges Stocks. 

As the regional chair of my CAMFED Association chapter, I have thrown the full weight of my medical experience and expertise behind my efforts to fight child marriage and teenage pregnancy.  Through advocacy and action for girls’ education, I see the influence of the CAMFED Association as a driver of development.

Soon CAMA, the great CAMFED Association, will rule the whole nation, because the hand that stirs the pot can equally rule the nation.

Fatima in the News

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