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A Human Rights Placement in Accra, Ghana

Ishaq Mahmood in Ghana on his human rights gap year placement with Projects AbroadIshaq Mahmood is an undergraduate with a strong interest in Human Rights and inter-faith relationships.  In August 2011 he spent two weeks in Accra, Ghana on a human rights placement arranged with Year Out Group founder member Projects Abroad.


"I decided to choose Projects Abroad after finding that they would be able to support my needs for my trip. I took part in the Human Rights placement in Accra, Ghana, for 2 weeks in August 2011. In addition, I undertook my own project as part of my University degree. After speaking to Projects Abroad I was confident that I had chosen the right organisation.

First impressions of Ghana

I arrived in the evening after a long day's travelling. When I entered my host family's home, I was warmly greeted and shown to my room. I was somewhat shocked by the simplicity of the room and the facilities, however I soon got used to them.

The induction day was very useful, although somewhat confusing with all the new place names and bus stops to remember.

My placement at the Human Rights Office

The office comprised of several volunteers, a lawyer and supervisors. Everybody was so friendly, Projects Abroad had several other volunteers in their human rights office in Accrathat I felt as if I had been there before. I had an induction with my supervisor and started research straight away. I was placed on the Mobile Complaints Clinic Project. This project aimed to give access to legal rights to Ghanaians who may have a case to make.


Firstly, the legal rights, especially Policing rights, were given as a short talk. Then attendees were invited to file a case by providing information about the problems they have had. Many people expressed that they had been mistreated by the police, and this was another area of work in the Human Rights Office.


I took part in meetings with fellow volunteers to create ideas for future projects and I also went to Tema with the supervisor and volunteers to try and organise a clinic there.


My personal project


In addition to the placement, I was undertaking my own project for my university elective. The title was ‘Investigating Interfaith Relations in Ghana'. This project involved meetings with several religious leaders, including Imams and Priests, and non-religious organisations including the Interfaith Ghana team.


I discussed issues relating to the way Christians and Muslims in Ghana live together. Ghana has enjoyed stable interfaith relations, and my project aimed to discover how this was achieved. I organised some of the meetings and others were done with the help of the Projects Abroad Human Rights Office staff. I also did some of the interviews on the weekend, due to time constraints. One of the highlights of my trip was meeting with the National Chief Imam of Ghana, Dr Sheikh Usman Sharubutu.


I also distributed and completed questionnaires with locals for the project. Survey locations included mosques, churches, the markets at Circle, the beach, Independence Square and tro-tro stations. Many of the questionnaires were distributed with the help of some volunteers from the office. It was fantastic to have such support, and to be able to lead a team of people. I found most of the respondents extremely welcoming and happy to help. They were very keen to see what we were doing, and to become a part of it.


When I returned home to the UK, I analysed all of the data, and formed a report, which will be presented to colleagues in the University.


Living in Accra


Although I didn't have much time in Ghana, I was determined to make the most of it. I travelled on the local tro-tro's around the city, and got lost on quite a few occasions! Thankfully, the other commuters were happy to point me in the right direction.


Ishaq visited the beautiful Labadi BeechI visited Independence Square and the arch, and Labadi beach, which was one of the best parts of the trip! It was an absolutely beautiful place. I watched the sun setting in the sky, and I felt so relaxed. There were artists on the beach trying to sell their African artwork, and other vendors selling things like necklaces and wristbands. I also visited shopping centres such as Accra Mall, and the local markets. Some of the other volunteers organised trips to nearby cities including Cape Coast on the weekends.


Every Tuesday evening, there was a Quiz night. Volunteers from all projects in Accra would come down to the Projects Abroad office and take part. We had to form small groups, and answer general knowledge questions. Although our group wasn't particularly good at answering the questions, we had a great time!


At the second quiz night, we had to ask the questions, which was much easier. The nights were a fantastic way of meeting new people from all over the world, and getting to know more about the work they were doing.


My host family


My host family consisted of three people altogether, my host mother, and her son and daughter, who were a similar age to me. I felt comfortable in their home, and was made to feel welcome. They ensured I felt at home, and catered for anything that I needed. I was the only volunteer at this home, however, there were other volunteers living nearby.


My host mother was interested in my elective project and she even gave me some very useful Ishaq Mahmood making new friends in Accrainformation. Although the facilities at the house were not like at home in the UK, including no running water, I soon got used to them and actually enjoyed the change in lifestyle. I got on very well with the son of the family, who was also a University student. It was the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and as I am a Muslim, like my host family, we were very close.


I loved experiencing fasting in a different country, and opening my fast with the family as well as going to the mosque and praying together. Although I had only been in Ghana for 2 weeks, when it came time to leave, I was very upset at having to go.


The whole time in Ghana was special for me. From the moment I arrived, I felt comfortable and safe. I had an emotional rollercoaster the moment I left my host family. I felt so upset at leaving these special people. On my flight back, I was constantly thinking about my time in Ghana and when I arrived back home, I couldn't stop thinking about it! I only wish I could have stayed for longer, but I always remain hopeful that I will be able to go back again! I would definitely recommend Projects Abroad and Ghana, and I feel that you should be brave and experience something amazing!"<-->

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That's cleared my thoughts. Thanks for cornitubting.
Comment made: Thursday 9th February 2012

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