Local youth help girls in Nigeria through jewelry production 

click to enlarge Allyson and Elizabeth Grantham with jewelry made of beads from Africa. - SHANNON CORNMAN
  • Shannon Cornman
  • Allyson and Elizabeth Grantham with jewelry made of beads from Africa.

When Oklahoma City sisters Elizabeth, 12, and Allison Grantham, 9, learned about poverty, they discovered their passion and knew they wanted to help make a difference.

Their solution is Beads of Good, a nonprofit that raises funds to provide shelter, education, vocational training, mentors and a sustainable income to young girls in Warri, Nigeria, who have run away from abusive families who forced them into prostitution or to become child brides.

“I have been challenged to act on behalf of those that have no voice and have even been forgotten,” Elizabeth said. “We live in a world that tells young girls they are an item to be possessed. My sister and I are not okay with that message.”

The vision for the girls in Nigeria is that they will use Ankara fabric native to their country to roll beads and create jewelry. Through this, they will generate an income that they can use to help pay for their schooling.

Level of education is an important factor in predicting whether girls will marry as children. Of women ages 20 to 24 in Nigeria with no education, 82 percent were married by the time they were 18, according to the girlsnotbrides. org website. But only 13 percent of women with a secondary education were married at such a young age.

Child brides are often forced to drop out of school and get married. They are at a greater risk of living in poverty, suffering life-threatening pregnancy complications, contracting HIV/AIDS and being sexually abused.

Elizabeth has been able to come to terms with issues like violence, abuse and choices at an early age, and her mother, Hillary Grantham, has learned to help her process her feelings of anger at the situation in Nigeria.

While attending a seminar about privilege, Elizabeth realized that because she has her basic needs like food, clothes and shelter met every day, she can focus her efforts on helping people who are less fortunate.

“Doing well and excelling doesn’t give you the right to be ignorant of injustice,” Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth plays a major role in the day-to-day workings of the nonprofit. She attends meetings with her mother, pitches creative product ideas and helps fine-tune messages to make them relevant to kids her age.

While the idea for Beads of Good began in 2009, the nonprofit only began fundraising about 9 months ago, and it has raised almost $10,000.

Registered as an NGO and with the Nigerian government, Beads of Good has the legal right to provide social services to 16 Nigerian girls in their care. The organization is using $3,500 of the funds raised to build a safe house and furnish it for the girls.

click to enlarge . Photo/Shannon Cornman - SHANNON CORNMAN
  • Shannon Cornman
  • . Photo/Shannon Cornman

“Not only are we helping girls in Africa, but we’re also encouraging girls here,” Hillary said.

Beads of Good is working with a local illustrator to create a children’s book to facilitate discussions between parents and girls about self-worth.

Hillary expects that the Ankara jewelry will be available for purchase in either late 2014 or early 2015.

For more information, visit beadsofgood.org.

Print headline:

Creating Good: Two local sisters are working to make a difference in Africa.

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Alissa Lindsey

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