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In a small village in Ghana called Anwiam, Mary Amo shows us her house, or what’s left of it. A massive outflow of waste water from an underground mine shaft had submerged her neighborhood, washing away the entire back of her house. She and her mother and sister had taken some sections of metal roofing to build a make-shift wall, but did not have the resources to properly rebuild.
Amo had an opportunity to attend a workshop with Oxfam’s partner in Ghana, Wacam, about two years ago. She learned that having half your house washed away was a violation of her basic right to live in a safe environment, and how to engage in dialogue with the international mining company responsible for the outflow, AngloGold Ashanti. Before she and her neighbors understood their basic rights, Amo says “no one respected us here.”
Amo is now in negotiations with AngloGold Ashanti staff and trying to work out the many problems related to mining in her community, such as access to drinking water, and ways that the company can manage its water releases and blasting to protect the safety and rights of Anwiam’s residents. You can read more about Amo and her story in a web article we posted last week, along with others who are going through the same training and similar struggles.
While we were interviewing Amo I could see out of the corner of my eye Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, who is in charge of training at, Wacam. She was listening and was obviously very proud, with a broad smile across her face. After hearing Amo describe what she and others in her village are doing to sort out their own problems and gain some respect for their rights, I asked Owusu-Koranteng what she thought about the interview.
“Mary is still learning; she’s been to about five training workshops. So now she is using that knowledge to address some of the concerns of community members. This is knowledge that can transform lives and give power back to the people who are vulnerable.
“This work can be quite tedious, I’m traveling all over the country to build capacity. At times if you are not careful, and you don’t have a family that understands, it can look like you are neglecting your family needs for the needs of other people. But hearing Mary, I am so happy and content, it is as if I have given back to society what I have taken out of society.
“I have knowledge because I had the opportunity to have an education. In Ghana, education was free when I was in school. So the cocoa farmers, the oil palm farmers, they paid for my education. So if I am in a position to give this knowledge to others, so that people who did not have the opportunities that I had in my days, can have such an education, then I can say I can die today and know the struggle will continue. It makes me very, very happy.”
Anyone interested in supporting the work of Wacam and Oxfam’s many other partners working in communities affected by oil, gas, and mining industries can get involved in the Right to Know, Right to Decide campaign.