The Making of an Influential Women and Youth Advocate: An Intern’s Story

The Making of an Influential Women and Youth Advocate: An Intern’s Story

“Your voice is far reaching than your vision, so never let it be silent”. These are the words that were drumming in her ears in the middle of 2020. As COVID-19 struck and ravaged Ghanaians including vulnerable groups such as women and youth, she could not help but develop a growing desire to find ways to develop the skills needed to be at the fore front of advocacy efforts to create a more resilient a society that can be more prepared to face such tumults in the future.

These words however remained too galactic for her to understand. She knew those words were not spewed in isolation; they were probably signals her heart sent to her mind. Yet the desire to make a difference and make her voice heard just would not synchronise with what it takes to make it happen.

Nonetheless, she kept the passion in burning in her heart and continued her job hunt. Then out of the blue, WACSI’s Next Generation Internship Programme (NGIP)? Call for applications (January-June 2021)? It was in the last quarter of the year that she stumbled on this. “Could my days of sleepless nights be about to pay off?” She quizzed. She remained focused and garnered her zest to give the best shot at this rare opportunity after scanning through the call.

With the ambition of every sharp, ambitious job seeking youth of this generation, she exclaimed; “But I want a permanent job, not an unpaid internship!”

In a country where graduate unemployment is rife, your last bet would be an internship. However, it seems this should rather be the first bet. Such could be the rare opening of a tunnel where you glean a few rays of hope at the end of the tunnel. Try one, it may just be the ‘magic-wand-like’ opportunity you were looking for.

The Ghanaian job market is shrinking faster than the tolerance/space given for citizens to freely express their disgruntled views against respective governments across West Africa. With very limited opportunities, the many unemployed and underemployed youths are ready to serve in any capacity to secure a job. Many a young people, have been duped by unscrupulous individuals in the process, while others have been compelled to pursue higher learning to increase their chances of landing one.  In a rather melancholic tone, she reflects on the mishaps of some of her female friends who have been lured and or deceived to migrate to the Middle East in search for greener pastures, only to meet their doom. Sad as that may sound, that is conversation for another day.

In these challenging circumstances, when the search for the ‘ideal’ job crowds our minds, an internship is usually the last option people take. And when many do dare to take such opportunities, they are filled with the hope that the organisation would recruit them when they are done with the internship.

So, with zero enthusiasm, this young lady applied for the NGIP to serve as a Policy Influencing and Advocacy Intern. When she was selected, she defied her friends and family’s opinions on doing an unpaid internship after completing a Masters’ Programme in International Affairs. More interesting is the fact that she was clueless about the wealth of exposure and training that awaited her at WACSI. After a brief session at her first staff meeting on her first day at work, she was still very skeptical that she had made a good decision. Little did she know that her career was about to gain a frog lift!

It has been 3 months into her journey, and Angela Apedoh, has a lot to share already. With determination burning inside her and observation as her vital learning tool, she quickly noticed how diligently every unit in WACSI carries out their daily tasks. Another thing that spurred her on were the words of her Unit Head.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are an intern, you can make your voice to be heard. This is what we do as advocates,’’ Omolara Balogun, the highly charismatic advocate shared with her.

The words resonated with her inner sensibilities. They very much aligned with the thoughts she harboured when her country was going through its worst share of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Working on almost every assignment in her unit, she begun learning the policy and practice of advocacy, and more generally, her understanding of the dynamics of the civil society sector and the special role of advocacy in strengthening the third sector, became clearer.

Furthermore, as part of the internship programme, she undertook a series of well-structured and insightful training sessions tailored to harness both the soft and hard professional and personal skills of interns. These included sessions on leaderships, the use of technology tools to facilitate work in a fast-evolving world, project management, CV writing and interview skills, blog writing, among others.

“I have never seen such a structured internship programme as is delivered at WACSI”, her ever thinking mind pondered.

On a professional level, Angela has learnt to be more proactive in her approach to work. She is gradually expanding her professional network and she cherishes the diversity WACSI’s multicultural working environment offers.

Now, more than ever, she believes her stint with WACSI is equipping her with the right skills set and tools needed to make noticeable contributions for strengthening the resilience of women and other vulnerable groups in these precarious times.

Regarding what she makes of all this, Angela is quick to add, one of the lessons this life transforming journey has taught her is the fact that “in life, if you do not get what you want, make the best of what you get.” She therefore recommends the Next Generation Internship Programme to all young people who need a good head start to their professional lives.

 

Are you ready to be part of the next cohort?

Write to info@wacsi.org for more information.

NB:  Angela wrote this article after taking part in a session that guided interns on how to write blogs and commentaries.

 

About the author

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Angela is bilingual (English and French) with strong communication and research skills. Passionate about International Development and Diplomacy, Angela obtained a master’s degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy from the University of Ghana. She also has a keen interest in women and youth empowerment and hopes to establish a mentorship and empowerment centre for young women in Ghana.

At WACSI, Angela supports the Policy Influencing and Advocacy Unit to drive change in West Africa through policy influencing and advocacy in areas of civic space, women and youth leadership and civil society sustainability.

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Angela Akofa Apedoh

Angela is bilingual (English and French) with strong communication and research skills. Passionate about International Development and Diplomacy, Angela obtained a master’s degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy from the University of Ghana. She also has a keen interest in women and youth empowerment and hopes to establish a mentorship and empowerment centre for young women in Ghana. At WACSI, Angela supports the Policy Influencing and Advocacy Unit to drive change in West Africa through policy influencing and advocacy in areas of civic space, women and youth leadership and civil society sustainability.

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