VOF MONTH 1 (“Young and Bold Bernice!”)
“I am passionate about seeing that all people-children, youth, men and women are given the rights due them every where” Says young and bold Bernice confidently and passionately.
Young reporter, UNICEF Digital Diarist, young people and women’s rights advocate are the multi-tasked roles that Bernice Akuamoah plays in her quest to contribute to a world fit for all nationally and globally. Bernice does not mince words in describing herself as a community activist. “For over 10 years, l have been involved with a group of young people who have worked over the years through the media to ensure that the lives of children and women become better. I think on this score l can be described as an activist”.
Children’s rights are pertinent development issues that affect children every corner of the world hence the need to share with the world the contributions of Bernice Akuamoah. Beginning as child interested in discussing children’s rights, responsibilities and development issues with her peers on radio at age 13, Bernice is now 23 living and working with and for children and young people in Ghana on young people and Women’s Rights, responsibilities and development projects and programmes.
Though many children all over the world enjoy some rights, a lot more are deprived of their right to Survival, Development, Participation and Protection as spelt out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
There exist more than ever emerging challenges that threaten the total development of young people and women all over the world. In a number of cases, women and young people bear the brunt of today’s harsh challenges - poverty, economic recession, diseases, conflicts, natural disaster and climate change. In most cases children and women have little or no voice at all in articulating their challenges and being part of the solutions in society. What is more, political issues and figures are given voice and face in the media everyday whereas young people and women issues are many times treated lightly and most times reported negatively or swept under the carpets. It is for these reasons and more latent ones that, Bernice since a child has been an ambassador of young people and woman’s rights advocate.
“Before l even came to fully understand the issues that negatively affected women and children, l always felt a deep sense of the need to make my voice heard and to take a stance as a person on these issues. “
So what has this young lady been doing exactly?
Working as a youth reporter for children’s issues using radio and Digital diary, Bernice advocates for children, youth and women’s rights nationally and internationally. She also helps to produce news stories for Al Jazeer sometimes. Her “48 Accra” story for instance looked at he serious issues of child labor involving young women from the Northern Ghana.
Bernice believes “young people are the solutions not the problem and investments that must be protected” .Her belief in this philosophy motivated her to work with young people in rural communities in Ghana -Curious Minds / Plan Ghana Rights of the Child radio Project and with UNICEF – Guyana. She worked to ensure that young people’s voices are heard on the issues that affect them.
By working on these community projects, Bernice is able to educate young people and community about children’s rights, responsibilities and their development and encourage child/youth participation in all issues that affect them. She believes in “letting people know that children have rights and responsibilities and seeing young people as agents of change in their communities”.
Of the many children’s rights issues, Bernice is interested in the right to education. “I believe in the power of good quality education for all children everywhere. As the only female of my mother’s children, the level of education that I had is contributory factor to who and l am today. Research has shown that an educated woman knows her rights and responsibilities and ensures that these rights are implemented. This year’s state of the world’s children report, the annual flagship of UNICEF, shows clearly how an educated mother can ensure her children are properly immunized and how education also reduces the issues of early pregnancy with its related fatal consequences, education has the power of change”.
It is this belief that Bernice holds strongly that led her to report on UNICEF- Ghana and New Zealand‘s bicycle project when UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Hayley Westenra visited Ghana. This project was mainly in the Northern part of Ghana and was meant to give girls the opportunity to go to school early and fully participate in class. “The girl’s education project for me is very important as l saw how the lives of young woman had improved with simple strategies “.
What changes and solutions has her involvement and efforts as a young activist brought to society and communities?
According to Bernice, she has seen many changes since she joined forces with many to contribute to a world fit for all:
-“Children are now given the opportunity to participate in issues that affect them. When l begun advocacy with my colleagues, Ghana was at a point where children were seen but not heard. After years of advocacy, this trend has changed”.
- She has drawn the attention to the international communities on issues that affect children/young people nationally and globally by her reports and digital diary entries
- Today, many people know about Children’s rights in both rural and urban communities.
-She has trained and mentored others educating communities about children rights.
Bernice’s strong and courageous voice and intelligence make her stand out. Her passion and drive to fight for children and young people catches like cold!
One lesson that can be learnt is people centered solution are most effective. By ignoring the victims, one cannot realistically solve the problem.
With efforts like Bernice’s, we can together create haven for children of the world.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.