November 1, 2016
In 2014, when one of Beryl’s closest friends was raped, she witnessed how her friend struggled with the harrowing aftermath of the incident: humiliation, withdrawal, a long drawn-out recovery process and a draining battle for justice to be served. Eventually though, the case was dropped and the assailant left to walk free, while the victim continued to suffer. Following this ordeal, a combination of dread and concern pushed Beryl to start a personal campaign to raise awareness on sexual health.
“Out of a rising personal fear that we will continue to create a society which has normalized rape culture and created muzzles for victims, rendering them powerless, I felt a need to do something,” explained Beryl Nana Ama Akuffo-Kwapong ‘18. “Instead of focusing on just sexual assault, I wanted to expand to sexual health education in general.”
On the back of the incident, Beryl has worked in various capacities to raise awareness on sexual health education. This fall, while studying abroad at the Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts, Beryl took advantage of the Millennium Campus Network conference at Howard University, Washington D.C, to forward her agenda on sexual health education. The Millennium Campus Network is a Boston-based non-profit focused on training the next generation of global development leaders on college campuses, worldwide. “I saw this conference as an opportunity to present something I was passionate about,” explained Beryl. “I am interested in social justice, so decided to talk about sexual health education, which is in a huge way related to gender equality.”
At the conference, Beryl’s campaign was shortlisted and subsequently chosen to be part of a network of three other women, tagged the Gender Network. The Gender Network is a harnessed potential of ambitious women from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana and the United States. Together, they seek to tackle gender inequality in their chosen localities, focusing on issues of rape culture on college campuses, education, prostitution, and sexual health education. Through this, Beryl is working towards a six-week comprehensive program for high school boys and girls to inform them on sexual health.
[Beryl and her colleagues in the Gender Network]
“I want to nurture an informed public, a new generation of Ghanaians who hold their own view of pre-marital sex, homosexuality, abortion from a very informed perspective and not just because ‘society’ thinks it’s not right,” she said. “I hope the curriculum will be easily replicable to expand reach. I also hope someday we will be in the capacity to challenge policy, to teach educators and to make sex education effective.”
Currently Beryl is working towards launching an organization to help drive her campaign for sexual health education.
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