Mildred, age 17, is from Jirapa District in the Upper West Region of Ghana, and lives with her mother and three siblings. Her mother is a cleaner and cook, and the family’s sole provider. Mildred’s father died when she was only 10-years-old, and the family had to move in with an aunt, where the children shared a single bedroom. Although her mother worked hard and took out loans to send her children to school, there was not enough money for Mildred’s school supplies and fees. Food was scarce, and she often went hungry. Then Mildred was selected to receive a full CAMFED scholarship funded by The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program.
“People can come together and work together towards the same goal and show respect to one another.”
Now Mildred is in secondary school and can focus on her studies. Of CAMFED, she says,“You coming into my life was a very good thing. You have paid my school fees, helping me to concentrate in class. You have also provided me with stationery and books so I can learn and do my homework.”
Demonstrating her excellent writing skills, Mildred entered the 2014 Commonwealth Essay Competition, run by the Royal Commonwealth Society, to describe the transformative power of sport. She quotes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who describes sport as a common language, breaking down all the barriers. And when she talks about sport as a peace builder, she might also be describing her own experience of the community-led education programs which CAMFED and The Mastercard Foundation support. They bring together all the constituencies that have influence over a girl’s life, from teachers and social workers to district officials, traditional leaders and parents, in support of each vulnerable girl’s education, wellbeing and journey to independence: “At the community level sport has the unique power to attract, mobilize and create an atmosphere where people can come together and work together towards the same goal and show respect to one another. Sport can contribute to development, create jobs, support the economy and promote gender equality.” It’s no surprise that one of Mildred’s hobbies is football!
“I want to speak for the rights of women and children in my community.”
The experience of growing up as a vulnerable girl in a community at the margins of society, and the struggle to find the funds to finance an education that was her birthright, now informs Mildred’s life choices. She longs to become a lawyer to support her family and to stand up for the most vulnerable in her community. “I want to speak for the rights of women and children who are abused and those with disabilities in the community,” she says. “I want to help them so they can also enjoy their lives and know their responsibilities as citizens of this country. This will help increase productivity in my community and country.”
She continues, “Apart from football, I like writing articles on educational topics including human rights abuses and how to stop teenage pregnancy.” As a lawyer, she wants to raise the profile of girls, young women, and her country. “Some people think that we do not have professional people in Ghana because we are developing and that we do not have resources. I will tell them that there are talented young girls coming up who can help to develop Ghana.”
Read Mildred’s essay on how sports can build peace