In 2000, Simona began receiving take-home rations from WFP while attending primary and junior high school in northern Ghana. Like other girls, she was encouraged to attend school regularly in order to qualify for the food package distributed at the end of the month. Today, she is a skilled midwife who attributes her success to the take-home ration programme and the related girls’ education scholarship programme, both of which motivated her to work hard in secondary school and at midwifery college.
Three years after graduating from midwifery school, Simona’s passion for her work continues to grow. Her greatest joy is to be the first person a baby sees when it is born and to help prevent maternal deaths at all costs, even if it means monitoring a pregnant woman continuously for two days without taking a break. In 2013, her workplace, Bongo District Hospital, achieved the enviable target of zero maternal deaths, which strengthened her resolve to work even harder to help maintain the record. According to Simona, her commitment to hard work began in 2005, when she received a scholarship from WFP and the Ghana Education Service, in recognition of her excellent grades at Sandema Preparatory and Junior High School, where WFP assists with take-home rations.
WFP and the Ghana Education Service implement a take-home ration programme in parts of Ghana where there are wide disparities in girls’ education. From class six to form three in Junior High School, Simona and other girls in schools across northern Ghana were given rations of rice and a can of oil each time they attended school for 85 percent of the month. Fifteen years after she received her first food package, Simona says that the food was an excellent incentive to draw girls to school and keep them there, particularly in Sandema, the food-insecure community where she grew up. She recollects how Mariama, one of her classmates who used to skip classes, started attending school regularly as soon as the take home ration programme began. Currently, 30,000 girls in the Northern and Volta Regions receive take-home rations which include maize, vegetable oil and iodized salt.
Motivated to succeed
The Ghana Education Service and WFP instituted a scholarship programme in 2001 to ensure that brilliant but financially constrained students who complete take-home ration schools are able to complete secondary school without having to drop out due to lack of money.
In 2005, Simona was one of nine girls who received a scholarship in recognition of her outstanding performance at the Basic Education Certificate Examinations. The scholarship helped her complete Tamale Senior High School, where she excelled in the West Africa Secondary School Certificate Examinations. After the exams, she was accepted to Bolgatanga Midwifery Training School. Like the other recipients, the scholarship was a turning point in her life because younger girls in her community began to look up to her and considered her a role model to emulate, which motivated her to strive even harder academically. In 2012, she completed a three-year midwifery course, graduating as one of only twelve students who managed to pass the final exam in a single attempt.
Her professional life has reflected her hard work in her academics. A few months after graduating, she was sent to do her national service at Namoo Health Centre, where she delivered her first baby unsupervised on her third day of work. During the seven months that she worked there, she delivered over 300 children. Three years later, she has now lost count of how many deliveries she has made. Simona loves her job and all the hard work it entails. She is enthusiastic about monitoring pregnant women who are about to deliver, especially malnourished women whose condition was caused by poverty or inadequate knowledge on nutrition.
Now, she has come full-circle, as she refers malnourished mothers and children to her colleagues who work on the WFP-supported nutrition programme for malnourished mothers and children.
“It all began with the take-home ration programme which led to the scholarship that changed my life forever,” Simona said. “I resolved then, that I would work hard and strive to be the best at all times.”