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Ghana: migration training for traditional opinion leaders

Three Nanas, traditional authorities in Ghanaian communities, want to reach many people with their messages.

Ghana: migration training for traditional opinion leaders

The Ghanaian-European Centre for Jobs, Migration and Development has provided training to traditional and religious opinion leaders concerning all aspects of migration. They are important conversational partners for many people in Ghana.

People who are considering leaving Ghana and heading to Europe, for example, frequently have a lot of questions. They often turn to traditional and religious opinion leaders whom they know and trust. These leaders therefore have a major influence on migration behaviour, but also on the public image of migration and thus on opinion regarding returnees who often struggle with rejection and need support with their reintegration.

Since these leaders play such a significant role within their communities, the Ghanaian-European Centre for Jobs, Migration and Development (GEC) has been offering a special course dealing with regular migration to provide them with training. 45 of them met for a week in the Bono region in western Ghana to learn about some aspects of migration and the principles of counselling.   

45 leading personalities from the Bono region in western Ghana took part in a training course dealing with aspects of migration.

Basic knowledge about migration

The training was organised by Kwaku Yeboah, an advisor at the GEC in Accra. The GEC team has been in contact with the 45 participants for some time. “Three aspects of the training are especially important”, explains the advisor. The first two concern a basic understanding of regular and irregular migration. The third aspect is mental health.

The trainers impart fundamental counselling knowledge to the participants. This includes strategies for dealing with vulnerable people who feel stigmatised. The participants also learned about stress and depression management: they were taught to recognise when people are at high risk and therefore need to be referred to experts, such as therapists or doctors. There are many returnees in particular who have endured difficult experiences.

Nana Afia wants to inform people about the dangers of irregular migration.

Role models with substantial influence

Traditional and religious leaders play a significant role in the dissemination of information. They are accepted and are highly regarded as social role models. They enjoy respect and can even intervene when there are disputes or when returnees may be verbally attacked. People who return are often scorned and badly treated by their families and their circle of friends. They are seen as failures because their start abroad was unsuccessful.

“People who have returned should not be marginalised”, emphasises Nana Afia from Japekrom. Nana is a term used to denote a societal leader. “We need to recognise the positive role of these returnees”, Nana Afia says. “There are some who return and pass on their knowledge and experience to others.”

Es ist wichtig, dass sich Meinungsführer*innen für den Kampf gegen die irreguläre Migration einsetzen, denn viele Migrant*innen sterben bei dem Versuch, nach Europa zu gelangen. „Ich habe jetzt die Bedeutung unserer Rolle erkannt. Wir als traditionelle Autoritäten können die Menschen für die Gefahren der irregulären Migration sensibilisieren“, sagt Nana Afia.  

It is important that opinion leaders are committed to combating irregular migration, since many migrants die in their attempt to reach Europe. “I now understand the significance of our role. We’re traditional figures of authority who can make people aware of the dangers of irregular migration”, says Nana Afia.

Anyone who wants to leave the country must apply for a passport from the competent authority, for example. They must also be able to provide an invitation letter, a bank statement, a health insurance policy and much more documentary evidence.

Philip want to combat the stigmatisation of returnees and his new knowledge from the training course is helping him with this.

Information about opportunities in Ghana

It is especially important that young people in Ghana are given proper information. The training course tells participants about the opportunities that young people have within Ghana. Only when they really understand these opportunities in their own country can they begin to consider whether they really want to leave their country. And if after careful consideration they decide to go ahead with their plan to leave, they should only do so with the proper documentation.

This training course equips the traditional and religious opinion leaders with the necessary knowledge regarding career prospects in Ghana to enable them to pass it on to their networks. Philip is a journalist and at the same time a pastor in the Christ Embassy Church. He is pleased with his new knowledge and the methods he learned during the training course.

“I’m fortunate to perform two roles: broadcaster and pastor. I’ll be using both platforms to explain to young people the differences between regular and irregular migration. I find what we learned about mental health and stigmatisation to be particularly useful. There are many returnees in the Bono region who took the hazardous route to Europe through the desert”, says Philip. He now knows after the training how he too can combat stigmatisation. He also learned what possibilities there are to introduce countermeasures to prevent mental illnesses from developing.

The training course also involved mutual discussions and the search for prospects in Ghana.

Eliminating preconceptions about mental illness

Nana Adjoa Mary, a teacher and mentor, wants to inform her pupils and colleagues about migration. That’s why she took part in the training course. “It’s important that we discuss the topics of regular and irregular migration as well as mental health, even in the classroom.”

Young people and children also need to be made aware that they shouldn’t stigmatise people with mental health issues. The teacher emphasises that they have to learn to accept mentally ill people as members of the community. There is a widespread misconception that mental illnesses are incurable. The training course also imparts how to care for people and show them compassion when they have already been stigmatised.

It is hoped that the training course will from now on enable participants to act even more vehemently as ambassadors in disseminating information to educate their communities. In doing so, they can shape the narratives and experiences about migration that people in Ghana continue to share. They will thus make a significant contribution to Ghanaian migration policy.

We’re traditional figures of authority who can make people aware of the dangers of irregular migration.
Nana Afia

Other experiences