Our Story

The YSYF Story

Our story begins with Esther Naa Ankrah, who, with a vision, an unrelenting will, and just a few dollars, laid the groundwork of what is now Yayra-Si Youth Foundation (YSYF).

Like many of the women she now supports, extenuating circumstances kept Ms. Ankrah from being able to obtain a formal high school education. This did not prevent her, however, from acquiring technical and vocational education and training in a variety of trades, including sewing, bead-making and catering, which she leveraged to economically empower other women as a trainer for Society for Women Against AIDS in Africa (SWAA), the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA), Women in Law and Development in Africa Foundation (WILDAF) Ghana, Women Action Group, and Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative for Employment (YIEDIE).

Despite her success, she remained cognizant of the fact that her experience was a privileged one that few young women from remote communities shared. One such community was Doryumu, located in the Shai-Osudoku District, where poverty and early maternal obligations prevented women from accessing education and vocational training, keeping them from achieving economic independence.

Her desire to give back to communities similar to her own led her to start a weekly vocational training program in this community in 2018, where she educated thirty unemployed women on bead-making. In speaking to the women about their experiences, she came to understand how meaningful the education she provided to them was, and how it was breaking cycles of teenage pregnancy.

Yet, to address the complex issues in this community, she knew that much more work had to be done. Sharing the work she had started with Sauliha Alli, one of the volunteers from World University Service of Canada (WUSC) with whom she worked, she sparked her interest. She invited her to come along one Sunday afternoon, and meet the women in the community.

Hearing the stories of the women that attended the program, Ms. Alli felt connected to the community. She too had grown up in a village like this, in Guyana, where women were subjected to a similar fate. Listening and learning as much as she could, she eventually began to provide training as well, assisting when Naa could not be present.

Yet, her health promotions and life sciences background compelled her to understand that teenage pregnancy was a complex issue that, to be addressed, also required health education. She envisioned another component of their work, which focused on sexual and reproductive health education, and proposed a health seminar for the community educating residents on consent, family planning, and infection prevention. This landmark event, which involved collaboration with the assemblyman, Ghana National Health Service (GNHS), Ghana Police Service, and Society for Women Against AIDS in Africa (SWAA), collectively impacted over 400 residents and garnered national interest.

Along the way, Bunmi Afolabi, a social justice activist with years of experience in community and international development joined forces with Naa and Sauliha. 

Together, Ms. Ankrah, Ms. Alli and Ms. Afolabi founded Yayra-Si Youth Foundation (Yayra-Si meaning gifted hands in the local language Ewe), which is active in Ghana and Canada. The goal remains to continue empowering women and youth in the community, as well as tackle teenage pregnancy through health education, but on a broader platform with greater beneficiary reach, stakeholder collaboration, and impact.