A protector for the voiceless: 20-year-old Sarafina advocates for girls’ rights to education in Ghana and all over the world, online and in person. “I must be a keeper of others,” she asserts, “rising up to speak for the voiceless and always reporting any suspicions of violence against children in schools.” A global changemaker for eight years, Sarafina inspires her peers to envision a better future for themselves and mobilises them to take actions to end child marriage and stop climate change.
Q&A with Sarafina
lightly edited and condensed for clarity
What is your favourite food to eat?
My favourite food is rice balls with groundnut soup.
What is your favourite thing to do for fun?
I have quite a number of favourite things I do for fun, including listening to spoken words, researching new words and ideas, and chatting with friends.
Who is your favourite actor/singer/dancer/influencer?
My favourite influencer is the late Dr Myles Munroe. I have two favourite singers: Dunsin Oyekan and Don Moen.
What is your favourite memory from your childhood?
My favourite childhood memory dates back to basic school, primary 3, when our creative art teacher taught us designing. After the teaching, he asked that we all take our books and design with the elements he taught us. I did mine submitted to “sir” and he was so impressed, he said I had the best design of all the students he had marked so far. I was very happy because I actually never liked creative art, but here I was with my design ranked as the best. To this date, I can still picture that design in my head, and I still have that book with me. He made me feel I could be a designer in the future. The feeling was nice.
What would you tell a future Changemaker?
The ability to desire something in itself means you are capable of achieving it. If you have seen yourself as a changemaker it’s because you have the inherent ability within you to change the world. Know that your tomorrow begins today, believe in yourself, don’t be intimidated by the world, and start taking actions.
What would you say to yourself 5 years ago?
Five years ago, I used to tell myself that I want to be a global leader who changes and impacts lives. I used to tell myself I will become a medical doctor. I would have told myself five years ago that whatever you put your determination and effort in, you turn to achieve.
What is the issue you advocate on and what made you decide to take on this issue?
I advocate on child marriage, and I decided to take this on because it was the leading cause of school dropout among girls in my community and regionally. I have recently been doing research on climate change because of the changing season pattern in my country and will be advocating on it as well.
Why is ending violence against children and the issue you advocate on so important to you?
Child marriage is important to me because it denies children the right to a better future. Where lies the future of my country and the world at large when issues of this kind persist? I believe we share what we have within; if filled with love, you spread love, if filled with violence, you spread violence. If I do not put in my best to stop it now, the growing children today will practice it in the near future, and the cycle will never break.
On the other hand, climate change is becoming a rising global problem. The natural environment is no longer safe for both humans and animals. Our ozone layer is gradually fading, putting us at a risk of health issues. Even the air we breathe is no longer safe, all because of human actions. If actions are not taken now, where lies the lives of the future leaders? Our lives matter, and that’s why climate change has become so important to me.
What difference would you like leaders to make to create real change on the issue you advocate on?
Leaders should take actions. Community durbars and national durbars should be held in the general public and not in offices, where the general public will be educated and brought to light on the dangers of issues of child marriage. We have heard them talk for a while now, enough of the talking. I want actions.
What would you say to leaders if you had the chance to talk to them directly?
I will ask them questions. I would ask them what they are doing, in their own way, to help grow changemakers to influence the world. I will ask them what ideas they have for young leaders and what advice they have for children.
What is something you hope to accomplish in 1, 5, 10 years?
In the next year, I want to build and improve on my leadership skills.
In the next five years, I should complete my degree in nursing and be one of the best influencers in my field of work academically.
In my advocacy work, I should meet at least ten global leaders petitioning and charging them to take actions. Also, I should have reached out to the general public and bring them out of the ignorance of child marriage. In the next five years, I will become not just a child marriage activist but a climate change activist. In the next five years, Sarafina Foundation, which I started working on after winning the WV young leaders award, should be on its feet.
In the next ten years, I should complete my master’s degree in my academic career and still be a great influencer.
In the next ten years, I should have made child marriage a rumour and not a reality in my community.
In the next ten years, Sarafina Foundation should have reached and changed thousands of lives and be in collaboration with organizations that advocate and protect children.
In the next ten years, I equally want to collaborate with more young leaders so together we impact, inspire, and influence young people across the world positively.
What is the most encouraging thing that has happened during your work with this issue?
The encouraging thing to me in my advocacy work is that girls have been rescued from child marriage just because of our interventions. It keeps me moving, knowing all the odds around me, yet we still save a future because we persisted.
What five words would you use to describe why the issue you work on is so important to you?
A barrier to future success.
What challenges have you encountered in your advocacy work?
Some of the challenges I encountered in my early advocacy work was mockery from my peers and parents not willing to listen because they felt I was a child and can’t tell them what to do.
Do you advocate alongside other children and young people, and how do they inspire you?
Yes, throughout my advocacy work I have always worked alongside children and young leaders. Seeing others equally putting in their all as young leaders always inspires me to thrive harder. It made me know that we are in it together, and together we can produce a best - and not just a better - change.
If you could pick one personal memory or achievement around ending violence against children, what would it be?
There are a lot of personal achievements I have gotten through this advocacy work. I was once a timid child, but today I look at myself in the mirror and I’m amazed at how this advocacy has built my confidence. Last year, I won the World Vision young leaders award all because of the advocacy work.