This year’s International Women’s Day is in celebration of the women and girls who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation and response, recognising their leadership and contribution towards a sustainable future.

Today we honour Felicia and Regina, two accomplished women who have been recognised as some of the best kindergarten teachers in Ghana. Felicia was the winner of the 2020 National Best Pre-Primary Teacher Award at the Ghana Teacher Prize which is organised by the National Teaching Council of the Ministry of Education. She is a kindergarten teacher at E.P Kpodzi Basic school in the Kpando Municipal, Volta Region. Regina was a top ten finalist in the National Outstanding Teacher Award, also at the Ghana Teacher Prize, she is a kindergarten teacher in Dompoase Kokoado M.A. Basic school in the KEEA municipality, Central Region. They are both working hard to bring equality to their classrooms and to teach the next generation about our planet and climate.

Research suggests that girls’ education can strengthen countries’ climate strategies. By increasing gender equality through education, girls can be made less vulnerable to climate change, particularly natural disasters through extreme weather events such as flooding. When girls and women are better educated and included in decision making at all levels, their families and communities are more resilient and adaptable to climate change.

Regina told us how she is using activities in the classroom to support children to understand climate change:

Regina engaging her children on various weather conditions in Ghana

“I ensure that learners are taken through weather changing activities so that they can understand the different weather conditions we have in Ghana. Learners are taken outside every morning to talk about the weather and record it on a weather chart, or they spin the weather wheel to the specific weather condition. I use the school environment and resources available such as our weather centre, the garden in the school and other prepared resources to demonstrate and highlight our everyday life experience.

To make them responsible, I emphasise the importance of appreciating and eliminating waste. I encourage the children to demonstrate and discuss different weather conditions experienced during outdoor activities and how the trees and plants are useful to humanity. This keeps them informed and aware of their responsibilities towards climate change.”

Felicia explained some of the activities that take place at her school to help to encourage children to be responsible citizens:

“We as teachers are very conscious of what we teach our children. We know that introducing children to climate change and bringing them to a certain level of understanding will help them to make good decisions in the future. We have a weather strand of our curriculum where we take the children out to the school’s garden to teach them about caring for plants during the dry and rainy seasons (the two seasons in Ghana).

In the dry season we nurse some seedlings of plants and in the rainy season we plant some trees. We do this to instil a culture of taking care of plants because they are needed for our survival. We make the children aware of the importance of trees. Parents tell us that children pass this information onto them at home, informing the whole family. We teach children to plant, water and look after trees especially in the dry season which is a way of consciously teaching them about climate change.”

Regina and Felicia believe that an equal society is essential for girls to do well for themselves, others and the future of the planet.

“An equal world is an enabled world. I hope to see girls that grow to be responsible women who empower and support other women because every girl has the potential to excel. We need to do more to urge parents to send their children, especially girls, to school and we must create an environment where girls are comfortable to express themselves. To do this, children at kindergarten must be our target,” comments Regina. Felicia adds, “The knowledge of young people will make them more responsible in taking care of things around us, especially trees and plants that are essential for human survival. The essence of teaching young people about climate change lies in the fact that they grow up to become responsible adults who will take the right decisions to avert the growing concern of climate change.”

Felicia and Regina have become role models following their success at the Ghana Teacher Awards. They are influencing the younger girls to work hard and they urge parents to support their girls in school and create equal opportunities for them.

Felicia said “As a teacher and a promoter of equal rights, I am facilitating the understanding of early years education in my district. I am particular about parents bringing their children to school at the right age, especially the girl child. With the recent award, I inform parents about the importance of sending their girls to school and supporting them up the ladder of education. I realise I have a very important role to play if things are to change”

Breaking down stereotypes at this young age is essential. It is the early years where many ideas and norms that will last into later life are established. Regina explained:

“Every child wants to grow up to be equally valued, heard and respected and with equal access to opportunities. I believe that education for all is a fundamental human right and providing an education that helps to achieve gender equality by challenging stereotypes and creating equal opportunity for boys and girls is vital. In creating a conducive learning environment which makes all genders feel welcome and respected, I provide equal opportunities for boys and girls at various learning centres in the classroom. I avoid assigning stereotypical roles that relate to a specific gender. Boys take up traditionally female dominated roles while girls take up roles that are mainly male dominated during play activities. Boys and girls are engaged in activities like sweeping, arranging chairs, sharing books and leading self-registration. Boys and girls get an equal opportunity to share ideas by sitting in groups.”   

Regina shared that, “Everyone feels the presence of an effective teacher. As such, I see myself as someone making a difference in the lives of learners through the knowledge and skills I share. As a teacher I am a key role model in influencing the attitude, values and behaviour of my learners and being a woman, the girl child looks up to me and believes that she can become like me or more. My continuous presence motivates them even outside the classroom and I feel I have the capacity to influence their learning and choices in life. I strongly believe that some of them will be aspiring to be like me in future and I feel proud to be their role model, especially being a woman.”

Happy International Women’s Day to Regina, Felicia and all the incredible women around the world working on gender equality and mitigating climate change.