Akosua Afriyie Osei-Appaw is a photographer by Passion, a
Regional Development Planner by profession and a social worker at heart. She
founded an organization known as Dare 2 Dream Ghana which uses creative arts
and reading of African literature to help develop the intellect of children and
the youth in her community and beyond. She believes that education does not
need to be a chew-pour-pass-forget syndrome. Rather, it needs to be made fun
through arts and reading. She was born and raised in Koforidua. As such, most
of the projects take place in Koforidua, as a way of giving back to her
community.
WHAT FUELS ME?
Kindness: In my life and
work, I realized that being kind to people is always a blessing. Life can be
cruel sometimes. The least I can do is to be kind to the people I come into
contact with. I don’t expect anything in return. I’m just glad that I’m able to
help. People have been kind to me on several occasions. The least I can do is
to be kind to others. I always keep this in mind because what you give always
comes back to you.
Passion: Finding something
you are passionate about isn’t always an easy thing. I realized photography was
my passion later on in my adult life. Since then, I have been amazed at the
lengths I go to just to enhance my skills in photography. It has not been an
easy journey. There have been times when I just wanted to quit and find a
‘real’ job as people put it. However, I found no satisfaction in that. True
satisfaction comes when you go against the odds, get out of your comfort zone
and make the impossible possible. That can only happen if you are truly
passionate about what you do.
Vision: I’ve been told a
couple of times how important it is to have a vision. I’ve realized over the
years that our vision is shaped by our experiences, the people we come into
contact with and the environment we find ourselves in. It is important to have
a vision but it is equally important to be able to adjust our vision based on
the experiences we go through.
MY GREATEST INFLUENCE:
I know this may sound cliché, but honestly it has been my mum.
After my father passed away, she single-handedly took care of me. It was not an
easy journey for her but she made things happen for me. She never gave up on
me. Even when I told her about pursuing photography as a career, she did not
yell at me or discourage me, especially after she paid huge sums of money for
me to pursue a higher degree. Rather, she encouraged me and groomed me to be
better. She is an educationist so I was quite surprised with her decision. But
that shows how much she believes in my passion and my dreams. I’m forever
grateful to her.
MY TOP THREE ROLE
MODELS:
Obviously my mother. She never gives up. She has taught me never
to give up on something that I really want. Her inner strength transcends into
her outer beauty and it shows in her work and in her relationship with others
Barack Obama – I want to be as charismatic a leader as he is.
Although he is the most powerful man in the world, he still stays grounded and
still fulfils his role as a dad. I hope to do same when I ‘grow up’.
Susan Stripling – She is an amazing photographer. I look at her
images and I wonder if I can ever take such beautiful photos. I know that I may
not be as good as her but I’m determined to carve my own niche just as she has.
IN THE NEXT FIVE
YEARS…..
After figuring out my passion for photography, I made it my
mission to help children to identify their talents and help them pursue it. The
journey so far has been worthwhile. I’ve come into contact with multi-talented
kids and it’s so overwhelming. I want to establish creative arts institutes all
over Ghana which would offer free after-school programmes for children and the
youth to explore their talents. These children would be linked to mentors in
society to help groom them as well. Currently, I’m working with friends and
young talents within the town of Koforidua, in the Eastern Region of Ghana, and
in other cities like Kumasi, Sunyani, Takoradi and many others. Through the
Mandela Washington Fellowship, I have made friends all over Africa who are
working on similar projects. I talk to them about ideas as and when they come. I
also have friends who constantly talk to me about projects we embark on. We go
through programme details together. Whenever I’m getting too excited or too
rigid, I have friends who keep me grounded and that helps a lot. Great things
would come out of all these. I’m excited about the endless possibilities.
THE AFRICAN WOMAN’S CHALLENGE:
I think once you hit your mid-twenties, everyone expects you to
get married, have children and secure a regular job. That is good but I think
the definition of success needs to be looked at again. I think just as men are
able to put off marriage and go after their career and wait till they are
‘ready’ before they settle down, women should be given the benefit of the doubt
to do same. In the same way, certain job types are not for men only. I’ve had
people walk up to me to ask why I dropped out to school to pursue photography.
The irony is that I have double Master’s degrees. Such prejudices need to stop.
I encourage all the girls I work with to reach for the stars. Nothing or no one
should stop them from achieving their goals in life.
WHAT
I DO TO RELAX:
I love going to a quiet beach with a book in hand. It helps me
to clear my mind. Other times, I just lock myself in my room and listen to
music. I like being in quiet places and tuning everyone else out. However, when
I’m under a lot of pressure, I just make arrangements and travel somewhere
nice. Travelling is very therapeutic.
MY   –
I.C.E. [INSPIRE|CELEBRATE|EMPOWER] VISION
It’s challenging to be a woman in general. As women it is our
responsibility to inspire other women. That is often not forthcoming. Sometimes,
the only thing someone needs is inspiration from a friend. Just a word of
encouragement. That’s all it takes. We all have talents and dreams and goals to
cultivate and achieve. We all need the shoulders of others to stand out to
achieve greater heights. It doesn’t always have to be about cash. It could just
be a listening ear. Do you notice how hard African women work? Can you imagine
the things they can achieve if they have the right tool to work with?
Empowering African women is a much needed revolutionary change for a brighter
tomorrow for the continent and the entire world.
MY
AFRICAN UNION PLANS:
I would love to work on inclusive education for girls and women
which would also including accessibility and quality of education. I strongly
believe that we need to create a level playing field for both men and women and
that starts with education. This would have ripple effects in health,
technology, the environment and others. The emphasis here is on quality education
and not one-size-fits all. Whatever is being learnt must be beneficial to
Africa. Our greatest asset as people is our brain. Education is the tool we can
use to develop our asset to the highest potential.
FINAL WORDS OF ADVICE:
You can achieve anything you set your
mind to. Let no one, including yourself, tell you otherwise and never ever give
up on yourself.