Empowering Youth Through Internships

Empowering Youth Through Internships

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On 8 August 2023, I embarked on a year-long journey internship with the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), aimed at enhancing my research skills while immersing myself in the dynamic realm of civil society activities.  

It all started when I (along with 24 other colleagues) was offered the opportunity by Emerging Public Leaders (EPL) Ghana to contribute to promoting sustainable development whilst sharpening our leadership qualities through a year-long internship in various public sector institutions. EPL Ghana is a non-profit organisation that believes in equipping young leaders with the needed cognitive and affective skills to drive change in the public sector and the country at large. In this regard, seven of us were posted to WACSI, an organisation that has extinguished itself in the civil society and non-governmental organisation sector in terms of capacity strengthening and believing in youth leadership. 

WACSI is a prominent regional non-governmental organisation with a strong emphasis on promoting women and youth leadership, fostering an enabling environment for civil society sustainability, and harnessing technology for development. The Institute operates through three key program units: the Capacity Building Unit, Knowledge Management Unit, and Policy Influencing and Advocacy Unit. In addition, there are four integral supporting departments: Finance, Human Resources, Monitoring, Evaluation, Learning and Technology, and the Communications Unit. Despite these distinct divisions, these units work collaboratively to ensure the Institute’s central goals are effectively achieved. 

Early Monday morning, 8 August 2023, I set-off to the new experience finding my way to the office through google map. After 30 minutes’ walk, I was relieved to see a signpost of the Institution which stood right in front of the building in a calm neighborhood in East Legon. My colleagues and I later met Bless Belinda Ahiakonu – Programme Assistant, Administration and Human Resources – who was amazing with her hospitality. She introduced us to all the departments and together with Agnes Adwoa Anima the Head of Administration and Human Resources, we were placed in the various departments which aligns with our interests and aspirations. I was fortunate to have been placed in the Knowledge Management unit where a lot of research and documenting is done. 

My role within WACSI’s Knowledge Management unit is multi-faceted and impactful. In just about two weeks old in the unit, I find myself intricately involved in diverse research activities while meticulously curating and maintaining an expansive collection of publications on the WACSI website. This role is more than just a job; it’s a means to equip civil society organisations (CSOs) in West Africa. 

Spanning a year, this programme holds the promise of transformative learning and growth. My journey began with the goal of developing my research capacity, but it has evolved into something more profound – an opportunity to truly comprehend the essence of non-governmental organisations and civil society activities, and their pivotal role in shaping our societies. 

At its core, WACSI is a beacon of empowerment for CSOs across West Africa. These organisations are the driving force behind societal change – advocating for the marginalised, addressing critical issues, and fostering inclusive development.  

As Charles Kojo Vandyck, the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at WACSI indicated in one of our orientation sessions, “WACSI’s role is to strengthen the organisational, technical, and technological capacity of the civil society ecosystem”.  

In doing this, “we conduct research and gather information on the status of civil society groups across West Africa to see what challenges exist, and how we [WACSI] can contribute to strengthen [CSOs to respond to] them”, says Shu Mabel Lum, the Programme Assistant, Knowledge Management Unit.  

Nonetheless, to realise these, it requires resources, making funding an indispensable element in their activities since the organisation is a non-profit one. 

The correlation between funding and impact is obvious. The workshops, capacity-building initiatives, and research endeavors that WACSI conducts are propelled by financial support. My role, even though not a grandiose one, is contributing my quota in fostering sustainable change.  

Giving is not just about making a donation: It is about making a difference.” – [Mother Theresa] 

It is therefore up to everyone who believes in the power of change, school colleagues, governments, international organisations, donors, and everyone, to support in whatever role they can to ensure the match needed change in West Africa is realised. Volunteering as intern or national service personnel, and financial assistance from various bodies will go a long way to supporting the Institute to expand its engagements to have more representatives and create a ripple effect that spans nations and impacts lives all over the West African sub-region.   

As I delve into research and diligently contribute to knowledge, I am reminded daily of the immense potential of this internship. It is not just about records; it is about demonstrating the potential for growth and development. I believe in the end, my journey at WACSI will be a testament to the profound impact an individual can have on a larger cause. 

The road ahead is full of promise and potential. This internship isn’t just a personal voyage; it is a step towards shaping the future of West Africa. Support us in whatever way you can; for together, we can be catalysts for change, creating a more empowered and equitable region. 

Are you ready to be part of this transformative journey? Reach out today to learn how you can contribute to the impactful initiatives of WACSI. To get involved, you can send an email to info@wacsi.org  

About the author

Patrick K. Adu

Patrick K. Adu is an EPL Fellow and an MPhil student from the University of Education, Winneba. He is a professional teacher who teaches Government and History at the Senior High School level. Patrick currently assists in research and information gathering at the Knowledge Management Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI).  

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FIIFI BOATENG

Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.

NANCY KANKAM KUSI

Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.

AGNES ADWOA ANIMA

Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.

DORIS ODEI

Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.

PRINCE AKOWUAH

Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

MAXWELL APENTENG

Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.

GEORGE ADU-MINTAH

George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.

IBRAHIM KWAKU GBADAGO

Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.

RUTH YAKANA

Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

BETHEL KWAME BOATENG

Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.

WHITNAY SEGNONNA

Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.

STELLA YAWA WOWOUI

Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.

KWAME ASANTE

Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.

GRACE AKPENE ZIGGAH

Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.

LILLIAN DAFEAMEKPOR

Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

JOHN P. FRINJUAH

John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.

GERVIN CHANASE

Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.

LEANDRE BANON

Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.

SAMUEL APPIAH

Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.

JIMM CHICK FOMUNJONG

Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.

FRANCK A. SOMBO

Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.

OMOLARA T. BALOGUN

Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.

KWABENA KRODUAH

Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.

CHARLES KOJO VANDYCK

Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.

NANA ASANTEWA AFADZINU

Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.