By Mike Strathdee
As printed in The Marketplace - November/December 2017
Elaine Shantz and Miriam Turnbull took a long hike this summer, raising over $123,000 in the process to lift women farmers in Ghana out of poverty.
Their initiative, Women Walking to GROW, involved hiking the 555-mile-long Bruce Trail in Southern Ontario. Most of the trekking took place during the month of July. With matching funds from the Canadian government, their efforts were multiplied to provide more than $1 million in support for MEDA’s Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) program with women soybean farmers.
Weather conditions during the trek were far from ideal. Rains from a wetter than average summer made trails muddy and the mosquitoes thick. Tall grass and heavily wooded areas were particularly bad for bugs, and the hikers tried using multiple types of spray to minimize their involuntary blood donations.
Shantz, president and Chief Operating Officer of the peopleCare seniors company, convinced Turnbull, vice-president and general manager of ProRESP (a peopleCare supplier) to accompany her on the trek. peopleCare has supported MEDA’s GROW initiative for several years. Company staff will visit Ghana for the second time in November.
In reflecting after the fact, Turnbull realizes that the bugs, the rain and the ankle-deep mud, all fade but other memories endure. “I remember some incredible vistas,” she said. “I remember an Escarpment trail, and I’m telling you, there is a Creator who put it all together, and it is integration in the highest fashion.”
Shantz believes the trek was designed to create opportunities for women in leadership. Her purpose now is not only to create opportunities for women to survive or give women jobs, but help them realize their dreams.
The GROW project has led some Ghanaian women to set their sights higher. Two of the woman lead farmers that MEDA worked with in Ghana have become members of parliament at the district level, MEDA president Allan Sauder said. When one of them was asked about entering politics, she replied: “Everything that I learned about leadership, I learned as a lead farmer in the MEDA project.” ◆