Branding, the fear of being labelled a braggart and the ‘docility’ of the average Ghanaian.

Sunday, May 16, 2021.

“This world is all about branding and marketing. The number one branders in the universe is the United States. They made the United States seem like, it’s the best place in the world to be. It’s the land of the free, home of the brave, I go there to find and chase my dreams.” – Akon.

The last two weeks have been very busy but fruitful for us at the Cervical Cancer Prevention and Training Centre in Catholic Hospital, Battor. Twelve health workers from 12 institutions in 7 out of the 16 Regions of Ghana were with us for Module 2 of our cervical cancer prevention course. All of them had completed Module 1 of our programme earlier. It is amazing the kind of work some of these health workers are doing across Ghana, some in very difficult situations. I always encourage our trainees to share what they do. That can encourage others around the world. I try to do this myself.

I had a chat with one of those who came for the training. She is doing amazing work! I asked her why she was not sharing her work on social media and other places. Then the sad truth came out: typically in Ghana, people who do that are labelled ‘braggarts’ and can face all kinds of intimidation and abuse. I had to console and encourage her.

I told her my story. We have done novel things in Battor over the years. We have developed a unique cervical cancer prevention course for low (middle) income countries that involves basic colposcopy and is higher than the traditional training using Visual Inspection with Acetic acid (VIA). We have developed algorithms and apps based on these algorithms for cervical precancer screening and treatment of precancerous lesions of the cervix. These apps are currently being used by health workers across the country. We raised funds by crowd funding using WhatsApp to buy a machine for HPV DNA testing and for treatment of cervical precancer, reducing the cost that is transferred to clients to use these services etc etc. I try as much as possible to share these experiences (we have even done peer reviewed publications) so that others around the world would learn from our experiences.

But be prepared to face the typical Ghanaian reaction. I even had a senior colleague on a public platform ask me if ‘I think I am the only person doing something great in Ghana.’ Interestingly, this same person later sent nurses from his private hospital to come for the training in Battor. I was very surprised the day he called me to arrange this. How would he have known about our work if I had not ‘advertised’ it?

An anonymous donor in the United States donated $20,000 to our training programme. The person got to know about us through somebody who got to know about us (and visited us) through another person who got to know about us online and visited us first to see what we were doing. The money donated to our programme is being used to train health workers in the Upper East and Eastern Regions to set up cervical cancer prevention programmes in their institutions.

The reactions and sometimes ‘intimidation’ from Ghanaians when people try to express themselves or showcase what they do have made many Ghanaians ‘docile’. Many prefer to do things quietly in their corners but there is a limitation to what one can achieve without showcasing what they do. Other nationalities are not like this. Even close to us, the average Nigerian is not as ‘docile’ as the average Ghanaian.

We can continue to hide in our corners and do wonderful and novel things that others from around the world will come and learn and showcase (because we fear we will be labelled ‘braggarts’) or we can change this to go all out and display what we can do to the world.
As Steuart Henderson Britt said: “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.

Change begins with me and you.

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