Sophomore Government and Politics major Winifred Edjeani created the non-profit organization Wekem to help children in Ghana pursue their education. Winifred, who is a native of Accra, Ghana, started the organization after completing a research project on women in Ghana with Government and Politics Chair and Associate Professor Fred P. Cocozzelli, Ph.D.
After completing the research project, Winifred wanted to do more to help Ghanaian children pursue education. Because of government corruption, Winifred found that much of the money allocated for education in Ghana doesn’t actually reach children, and she wanted to work to fill that gap. She started Wekem, which means “God’s making” in Kasem, in 2018 to support women’s education in Ghana, and subsequently broadened the organization’s scope to include all school-age children.
“There’s a difference between doing research and being on the ground working to provide what children need,” said Winifred. “When I meet students, I ask them, ‘What do you need to stay in school?’”
Wekem partnered with Kasapreko, a water production company, and raised $3,000 with the help of contributions and donations to provide scholarships for 10 girls. The organization also provides feminine products for school girls to help them attend school and focus on their education.
In July 2018, Wekem partnered with Renegades Africa Advertising Agency Limited and Royal Crown Packaging Limited to host an “Our Day Party” event for the 1,200 students of the Kotobabi No. 2 Cluster of Schools to mark the end of their academic term. The event, which took place on the school grounds, included students, faculty, and school staff and featured face painting, a bouncy castle, musical chairs, and dance competitions sponsored by Royal Crown. Companies including Yummy Noodles and Equator Foods of Ghana Limited sponsored the food.
Winifred’s mother, Cynthia Aziiba, is the factory manager for Royal Crown and has hosted Winifred for an internship with the company. “My mother inspires me with her work ethic and ability to balance work life, family, and a big manufacturing company,” said Winifred.
Her family has also been an inspiration to her in her mission to help Ghanaian children – especially girls – achieve an education. Winifred’s aunt, Constance Afenu Edjeani, is the first female Brigadier General in Ghana and has her own nonprofit organization, JaniGre, which supplies sanitary pads and menstruation products to women. Her father, Eli Edjeani, who passed away in 2018, was a champion for women’s education. “My father always said that if you educate women, you education a whole nation,” she said.
“My family has been motivated to go to school and to remedy the gender difference in education that persists in Ghana,” said Winifred. “I want to serve that role for other girls.”
Winifred moved to the United States at the age of 13 and attended White Plains High School. She intends to plan yearly trips to Ghana to visit more schools, as well as manage Wekem while pursuing her own education at St. John’s. “The determination of the students we serve is amazing,” she said. “It’s such a joy to see their smiles, and it makes me want to do more for them.”
“Winifred has a natural sense of social justice that drives her to always look for ways that politics has a meaningful impact on people’s lives,” said Dr. Cocozzelli. “Turning her research project into a service project is definitely the kind of thing that makes Winifred a special student."