Access to funding is one of the biggest challenges on the African continent. Businesses that can guarantee high returns to investors struggle to raise; how about nonprofits that do not produce cash returns? How do they get money? What has been the leverage?
In today’s episode, we ask Ohenewaa Constance Ankoma, the founder of Erudite Women’s Empowerment Foundation which has raised over 100, 000 cedis (the equivalent of $13k) to implement projects such as the She Leads Project on how they got funded.
NCVO Ghana: It's great to have you here, Ohenewaa. Let's get started!
In less than 50 words, can you share with us what you do at Erudite Women’s Empowerment Foundation
Ohenewaa: Established in 2017, the Erudite Women’s Empowerment Foundation (EWEF) is a registered and an award-winning women-centered nonprofit organization in the Ashanti of Ghana that exists to create a better world full of opportunities for women and girls in underserved communities to thrive. Our key focus areas are menstrual health management; female leadership advocacy; and economic empowerment for rural women.
NCVO Ghana: Interesting. How did it all start? We want to hear the story. Any struggle, iterations, structuring, fun facts, etc?
Ohenewaa: From the moment I was a teenager, I had a dream to help others in the same situation as me. The neighborhood I grew up in wasn’t the best, but I had committed teachers and parents to get me through school. I vowed that when I got stable in my life, I would give back to the same community that shaped me. I saw the negative experiences of other teens who didn’t make it out. I wanted to change the narrative, and I just knew a nonprofit would help achieve that.
For years, I had dreams of starting an organization that provided opportunities to young people, especially women and girls, to avoid poor outcomes like early pregnancy or incarceration. Every time I got a free moment, I would write out my notes. I spent many late nights thinking through how things would look like. I dreamt of the day I could run my own organization and finally fulfill my dream.
After college in 2016, and after being posted to Nyinamponase D/A JHS to teach, I had a burning desire to be more than a classroom teacher. I have always been a leadership enthusiast, thus I didn’t want my leadership journey to end with my college completion. I, therefore, made a decision to contribute to the holistic development of my students, especially the girl child.
NCVO Ghana: Why the focus on the girl child?
Ohenewaa: I realized some of them would face some of the major challenges I had to battle while growing up as a young girl in Kurofa. Talk of low self-esteem, period poverty, and zero mentorship opportunities; I experienced them all. These challenges literally washed away my self-confidence.
In November 2017, I found my calling. I found something that makes me happy, and that is advocacy for women's and girls' empowerment. After months of praying, researching, and planning, the Erudite Women’s Empowerment Foundation(EWEF) transitioned from imagination to reality! EWEF, with God, the immense support of my executive board, dedicated volunteers, generous donors, and partners, has impacted the lives of over 2, 846 women and girls in underserved communities within the Ashanti Region of Ghana!
The vision has traveled beyond the community where I worked as a teacher!
We have encountered numerous challenges along the way, but we are not giving up yet! We are doing our best possible to empower the lives of as many women and girls as we can; one girl at a time!
NCVO GHANA: How have you been able to raise money for your project? -Can you tell us the who, where, when, and how...?
Ohenewaa: The biggest breakthrough for our organization since its establishment was in 2021!
Later in 2019, we submitted our proposal to an open call for a grant application by Defence for Children International- Ghana, and in February 2021, we received a heartwarming email from their outfit that we have been selected as one of the two contracted partners to carry out the She Leads Project in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
The She Leads Project is a five-year (2021-2025) initiative of Plan International Netherlands (PIN), Defence for Children - ECPAT the Netherlands (DCI-ECPAT), African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), and Terre des Hommes the Netherlands (TdH), and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands. The main objective of the project is to increase sustained influence of Girls and Young Women (GYW) on decision-making and the transformation of gender norms in formal and informal institutions.
Thus, within a period of five years, EWEF would access funds from our implementing partner, DCI-Ghana, to execute the project in the Asante Akim North Municipal. From 2021 to 2022, we have received a little over GH₵ 100,000.00 from our funding organization to implement the project activities in our selected intervention communities.
NCVO GHANA: Any top fundraising tip/advice (concluding statement)
Ohenewaa: My advice is very brief:
1. Nonprofit fundraisers should know their ‘why’ before applying for any funding opportunity.
2. Fundraisers are encouraged to be honest in their applications. There is power in vulnerability. From the She Leads Project, we have learned that funders are not only interested in awarding grants, they also prioritize building the capacity of grantees to ensure sustainability.
Ohenewaa Constance Ankoma is a professional teacher and a passionate life-changing social entrepreneur; an ethical woman building a hub for Ghanaian girls and women's development.
Ohenewaa is the Founding Executive Director of Erudite Women’s Empowerment Foundation (EWEF), a registered women-centered nonprofit organization in Ghana that exists to create a better world full of opportunities for girls and young women in marginalized communities to thrive. Her organization provides economic empowerment for rural women; advocates for the leadership and inclusion of girls and young women in decision-making at all levels; and champions menstrual health awareness among schoolgirls in deprived communities to help them not miss school during their periods as a result of period poverty.
Ohenewaa graduated in 2016 with a Diploma in Basic Education from the Agogo Presbyterian Women’s College of Education. She then furthered to attain her Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics Education from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. She also holds a Certificate in Public Service Leadership and Governance from the Presbyterian University College, Ghana.
Ohenewaa was privileged to serve as the SRC President – 2014/2015 during her days as a student at Agogo Presbyterian Women’s College of Education. She pursued her leadership journey to serve as the ASHBA Sector Vice President for the Teacher Trainees’ Association of Ghana- 2015/2016. She also became the SRC Vice President- University of Cape Coast- Sandwich Programme (Kibi Center)- 2018- 2021.
For her amazing contribution to the development of humanity, she was named as a Global Goodwill Ambassador to Ghana in 2018. She was also recognized as one of the top 60 African Women in Development during the 2022 International Women’s Day celebration by Donors for Africa.
Ohenewaa firmly believes that women have the potential to lead a wind of change in the African continent, and wants to be a part of that enormous transformation.
Ohenewaa has plans to establish empowerment centers in Ghana and Africa at large to enable her to fulfill her purpose to empower as many women and girls as she can during her lifetime, in ways that significantly improve their lives. She, therefore, invites like-minded individuals and organizations to partner with her organization to make this dream a reality.