Josanna Lewin

Josanna Lewin (Vital Voices - Business Women’s Network hub, the Eagle Women Empowerment Club (EWEC)). Born and raised in Hawaii, Josanna studied in Costa Rica for 6 months with the American Field Service (AFS) in 1998. She received her BA in Political Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2004. Upon graduation, Josanna spent a year working as an English teacher at the Universidad Central de Ecuador in Quito, Ecuador, and in Italy. Josanna spent three years working in San Francisco in the business development field. She is fluent in Spanish and has worked as a Sexual Health Educator with the Marin Aids Project (MAP) for at risk Latino youth. At the time of her fellowship, Josanna was pursing her Master’s in Public Administration AT the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS). After her fellowship, Josanna wrote: “It has been a summer of learning, sharing and laughing with some incredible women. They are beautiful women and it is these women, these mothers, these sisters, these leaders, who are the future of Africa. This was a truly incredible summer and I’ve had such a positive experience. I’ve fallen in love with Ghana!"

Do you know your Ghanaian name?

29 Jun

Last week I finally learned what my Ghanaian name is.  In Ghana there exists a tradition where ethnic groups base the first name of their newborn on the day of the week in which their child was born.   This tradition has widely spread throughout Ghana and West Africa and the majority of Ghanaians have part of their name taken from this tradition. An example that everyone would know is of ex Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.  Born on a Friday, he was given the first name of Kofi.

Interestingly, it has taken me 4 weeks of living in Ghana to finally figure out what day of the week I was born on.  This is surprising being that 75% of locals I have met here have inevitably asked me what my Ghanaian name was within minutes of meeting me.

After some Internet investigations, I learned that February, 5th 1981 fell on a Thursday.  In terms of my Ghanaian name, I am called “Yaa”(pronounced “yeah”).  Being that there are limited choices for a person’s Ghanaian name, additional names are often added for originality. Sometimes the additional name might have to do with what number child you are in a line of siblings.  Other times, friends or family might unofficially add a term of endearment to your Ghanaian name.  On that note, the incredible women of EWEC have recently deemed me “Nana-Yaa” which translates to Queen Thursday.  Initially, I was unsure about being called Queen Thursday, particularly due to the “queen” part.  But I’ve since been assured that this is a good name and has nothing to do with staff members perceiving my behavior to be queen-like!  My new name has taken off with ease and I’ve found it brings big smiles to everyone’s face.

Being given my name was a reminder that as with any new situation, it takes time to grow and cultivate a relationship.   Respect can come slowly and requires hard work on both ends of a relationship.  It wasn’t until my coworkers warmly gave me a Ghanaian name that I realized I’m slowly becoming a true member of the EWEC team.  Similarly, as a young organization trying to build a network of businesswomen, EWEC is also learning how to best cultivate long lasting relationships with Ghanaian businesswomen.   Through mentorship, leadership and training EWEC is slowly building upon its relationship with each member. And while this process is slow going and requires a great commitment from both EWEC and its members, ultimately, a common goal is shared by everyone:  To provide meaningful change in the lives of women and their families by creating independent and financially stable businesswomen.  I’m proud to be a part of such a great organization.

For those of you who are interested in what your Ghanaian name is, I’ve included the below information from Wikipedia for you.  Enjoy!

First figure out what day of the week you were born:

Monday: Kojo, Kwadwo, Jojo, Cudjoe
Tuesday: Kwabena, Ebo, Kobena, Kobina, Kobby
Wednesday: Kwaku, Kweku
Thursday: Yaw, Ekow, Yao, Yokow
Friday: Kofi, Fiifi, Yoofi
Saturday: Kwame, Ato, Atoapem, Kwamena, Kwami
Sunday: Kwasi, Akwasi, Kwesi

Monday: Adwoa, Adzo, Ajoba, Ejo, Adjoa
Tuesday: Abena, Abla, Araba, Abina
Wednesday: Akua, Akuba,
Thursday: Yaa, Aba, Yaaba, Yaayaa
Friday: Afua, Afi, Afia, Efie, Efua
Saturday: Ama, Amma, Awo
Sunday: Akosua, Esi, Kisi

Characteristics of Each Day

Monday’s child is the father or mother in the family; nurturing in nature, dependable and organized, and protective of his/her family.

Tuesday’s child is the problem solver and planner of the family. They are structured in nature, neutral in all matters and never takes sides.

Wednesday’s child is fully in control of every situation, does not want to be told what to do, knows it all, is spontaneous, vibrant and cordial. Be sure not to cross his or her path though…

Thursday’s child is quiet in nature and incredibly observant. They are generally listeners, not talkers, and analyzes situations very well.

Friday’s child is a leader, not a follower. He/she is very temperamental but has a big heart. Generally the instigator of everything.

Saturday’s child likes to take control of family situations. He/she runs the show and make the rules, but will go out of his/her way for others anytime.

Sunday’s child is the passive, sensitive and warm member of the family. He/she tends to be shy and likes to keep to his/her self, but is very aware of his/her surroundings and usually is the secret keeper of the family.

Posted By Josanna Lewin

Posted Jun 29th, 2010


  • Sandy

    June 29, 2010


    Building strong relationships, especially with people in other cultures does take time. I liked the way Greg Mortenson described the process in his book, Three Cups of Tea. A village elder in Pakistan told him that when you share one cup of tea with someone, you are a stranger. When you share two cups of tea, you are an honored guest. And when you share three cups of tea, you are family. So get the teapot out and start brewing!

  • Josanna

    June 30, 2010


    Three Cups of Tea was an excellent book and I recommend it for everyone. Greg had a great way of putting it and I’ll remember to keep sharing tea with my friends and coworkers in Ghana. Thanks for the response.

  • iain

    July 11, 2010


    Another very nice posting. I agree with Sandy: building respect between cultures starts modestly. Thursday is a relaxed day – well into the week, so work is humming, but with the weekend looming…

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