Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans

by Self-Help International
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Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Empower 600 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans
Gladys and one of her children.
Gladys and one of her children.

Gladys is a 34-year-old mother of four from Abompe, Ghana, a small community outside of the city of Kumasi where Self-Help International headquarters is located. She has been with the Micro-credit Program for less than two years - she joined the program in October 2019 when Self-Help’s micro-credit team was restarting the program in Abompe. 

Prior to joining the program, Gladys relied primarily on subsistence farming.

“I could barely produce enough food for my family’s consumption. Even though I was farming for the family, it wasn’t appreciated much because I could not financially contribute to the family’s income,” Gladys said. “Life was so difficult for me as a woman. I couldn’t afford anything for myself, even basic necessities.” 

When the women in Abompe were forming their lending groups, nobody wanted Gladys in their group because they did not see her as credit worthy and able to pay back loans. But the Self-Help’s team took a leap of faith on Gladys because they believed in her potential. 

“When I received my first money of GHC 200 (around $50 USD), I had still not settled on where to invest. I didn’t know how to begin; but because of the training Self-Help provided, I started looking around my community for a sought-after service that nobody was providing,” Gladys said.

“Because I wanted to start a new business and my financial capital was limited, I needed something that wasn’t capital intensive. I eventually settled on selling locally manufactured alcoholic beverages, and business was very good,” Gladys said.

In time, everybody was impressed with Gladys’ loan repayment. 

“When I started my business, the first thing I bought was a “susu adaka” (savings container). I saved a portion of my profit each day in it, so that by the end of the month, I had enough to pay back my loan,” Gladys said.

“ Things started improving in my life. I could afford the basic necessities now. I could also support my family’s budget and the kids’ school expenses,” Gladys said. “My husband started showing me more respect and my opinion started counting in the house - that was very surprising and unusual.”

When Gladys’ loan amount was upgraded and she started receiving GHC 1000 (approx 180 USD), she had other plans in mind. 

“Drinking alcohol makes people hungry, and I realized most of my customers would buy my drinks and go to a different place looking for food to buy. When my loan increased, I decided to start selling food and it was going so well,” Gladys said. 

“When I compare my life then and to my life now in 2021, it leaves me crying uncontrollably. I know if I had met Self-Help’s team earlier, my life would have been better than it is now - but as the saying goes, ‘It’s better late than never.’“

Gladys is an example of the strong, entrepreneurial women with which Self-Help’s Micro-Credit Program partners. These are women who want an opportunity to make a living for themselves and their families and who are willing to prove a point to themselves and their community and to all the people that doubted their ability to change their lives for the better.

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Adwoa getting ready to sell for the day.
Adwoa getting ready to sell for the day.

Adwoa is a 40-year-old mother of five, and she is a pioneer of the Self-Help Micro-Credit program in Beposo, Ghana. She is a farmer, trader, and shop owner. She first learned about Self-Help’s micro credit program from an acquaintance who traded in nearby Bedabour, and she is the embodiment of hard work.

“When I decided to join the program, people around me made so many negative comments that I almost stopped being in the program; but, I realized that to get to the place I wanted to go, I needed to take some risks - calculated risks,” Adwoa said. “I had to let go of my personal fears and embrace the opportunity to become financially independent”

In 2011, Beposo started with two groups of nine women in the micro-credit program. As of late 2020, the groups have about 50 active clients. According to Adwoa, there have been huge benefits to joining the micro-credit program.

“I was initially selling womenswear. I carried them to surrounding communities. It wasn’t stable because my business capital couldn’t support the credit selling I engaged in,” Adwoa said. “I invested my first loan from Self-Help into my business, just as the staff had taught us. By the time the third loan came, my trade had stabilized; I could sell on credit and still buy new products.”

“As time went out, business was going well, and I was tempted by the potential to expand my business. I started by expanding the number of communities that I served. I added other sought-after items like cloth pieces, handbags, and footwear,” Adwoa said.

As Adwoa points out, the training sessions that Self-Help’s micro-credit team provide make it stand out from other lending programs in the area.

 “Business kept booming with more clients by the day, and Self-Help always kept telling us not to rely solely on one business as long as there is capacity to expand. I decided to get a shop so I could sell to surrounding communities in the morning and return in time to continue selling at the shop in the afternoon,” Adwoa said. “Initially, it was very tiring, but I needed to do well to support my family after my husband passed away.” 

“I keep three savings boxes like Self-Help taught our group: one is for loan repayments, one is for all the sales I make in a day, and one is for my wages. I pay myself on a daily basis after the day is over,” Adwoa said. “This practice ensures that I handle my money responsibly and smartly. I can also pay back my loans without any difficulty because I save my repayment money monthly.”

Since becoming a widow in 2015, Adwoa has refused to marry again and she shares an interesting insight as to why.

“The women from my community are always eager to remarry when their spouses pass away, even when the terms of the marriage are not favorable to them. It is because they are so financially dependent on the men that they think they can’t survive without a husband,” Adwoa explained.

“My husband left behind five kids, two of which are learning a vocation. The other three are in school. Look at me now - I don’t think I want to marry again because I can take care of them on my own. I make money every day, and I am very confident that if I keep working hard and planning well, everything will be fine without a husband,” Adwoa added.

Adwoa’s success shows just how valuable access to resources, financial capital, and information can be in providing for families and ensuring that rural women are able to live independently and sustainably.

Adwoa in front of her shop.
Adwoa in front of her shop.
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Felicia the pottery maker!
Felicia the pottery maker!

Felicia is a 56-year-old mother pottery maker from Afari, Ghana. She has five children: two of them are teachers, two are practicing nurses, and one is training to be a nurse. She has been partnering with  Self-Help International’s Women’s Empowerment Program since 2006 and joined the program through the recommendation of her friends. 

Felcia’s work as a potter is capital intensive because of the materials she uses and the fact that she always buys in bulk. She shared with Self-Help’s staff about how she used to take loans for her business from other lenders before she began partnering with Self-Help’s program.

“I had been taking loans from other sources because I was so determined to be successful in my business and give my children quality education,” Felicia said. “But I realized along the way that I was so overwhelmed with debt. Sometimes, I even had to borrow from one place to offset the other loans.”

“It was like this until a family friend introduced me to the Self-Help’s program,” Felicia added. She shared how a payment plan helped her manage her loan from Self-Help, and talked about how she invested her loans.

“I wasn’t sure how different this loan would be from the other ones I had taken; but, my first daughter was about entering nursing school, so I needed money more than ever,” Felicia said.

Self-Help provides loans on a 6-month repayment plan, but the team is flexible with each business owner to determine what makes sense for them, their family, and their business.

“I was intrigued by the systematic payment plan that Self-Help put in place,” Felicia said. “My first loan was very disappointing because it was lower than the kind of amounts I was used to getting from other lenders, but I liked the payment plan. It afforded me time to invest the money into my business before the repayment started.”

“Whenever I received the money, I made sure to buy the materials I needed for my pottery before I purchased anything else - things like clay and firewood,” Felicia said. 

In addition to receiving much needed financial capital, Felicia attended business training sessions run by Self-Help’s staff. Self-Help always provides education and training as an integral part of the Women’s Empowerment Program. 

“One of the things I enjoyed most was the basic business skill training that came with the loans,” Felicia said. “I learned about topics like credit management, savings, and record keeping.”

“In my line of work, the information about how many pots you make and sell in a month should be at your fingertips. This information helps to keep track of your progress and creditors, and this should be done on a daily basis,” Felicia said. 

“The savings and credit management lessons were very relevant and helpful,” Felicia added. “With my previous lending, I didn’t know how to manage it, which caused my indebtedness.” 

The ultimate goal of Self-Help International is to alleviate hunger by helping people help themselves, and helping mothers give their children a quality education is an integral component to helping people break the poverty chain.

“I am most grateful for all the assistance for my children’s education,” Felicia said. “When I joined the program, my first daughter had just entered the nursing training college. My kids are very close in age, so it was very difficult enrolling all of them in school. [Self-Help was] there with me through it all.”

“Sometimes, I visited the staff because I needed money for the kids’ school; and even when I didn’t qualify for another loan, Self-Help still worked with me so I could afford their education,” Felicia added. “Now all of them except the youngest one are financially independent. In a year’s time, the younger one will also graduate and be independent.”

“I have achieved my dream of raising scholars in my home, and Self-Help worked with me to make that happen.”

Felicia working with her pots.
Felicia working with her pots.
Felicia's pots.
Felicia's pots.
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Monica in her shop.
Monica in her shop.

This report was written by Lydia Adomako, Micro-Credit Program Officer. It was edited by Jessica Crawford, Africa Program Specialist, and Megan Sehr, Development Director.

Monica is 40 years old, a family woman, and a business owner in Nkawie Panin, a bustling small town outside of the city of Kumasi. She has been with Self-Help International's micro-credit program since 2010. Monica is a seamstress by trade, but now she runs a small food store.

Before joining the micro-credit program, she had been operating her sewing  business from a tiny section of her family’s home because she wasn’t able to rent a space for her small business.

“It wasn’t easy attracting customers and getting people to do business with me in such a place. The house wasn’t well-positioned geographically,” Monica said. “It was almost impossible for people to identify the place; and with a sewing business, people need to see your designs and like them before they decide to bring their things to you. They must be convinced that you will meet their specifications. But here I was, operating from home!”

As Monica was thinking about how to make her business more well-known, she encountered Self-Help International.

“One day, my mother, who was a member of Self-Help’s micro-credit program, told me that Self-Help would be able to help me get my business established. I was overjoyed and I wanted to visit the Self-Help office that same day,” Monica said. “It was late in the day, though, and my mother said that her micro-credit group already had a meeting set up with Self-Help. She said I could meet the Self-Help team when they came to town.”

“I met the Self-Help team the following week, and I was so impressed. They were very nice and so courteous,” Monica said. “I felt like they knew about my struggles before I even shared them.”

“My first loan wasn’t enough to rent a space for my business, so I engaged in petty trading in the morning and, by mid-morning, I could start sewing the few fabrics people entrusted to me,” Monica said. “Self-Help taught me effective ways of saving money, and I made a conscious effort to practice those methods.”

“When I received my second loan, I showed the Self-Help staff how much I had been able to save, and they helped me buy a shop by the roadside that had been put up for sale. Business started booming,” Monica said.

Then, the unexpected happened.

“Business was going well, but there was this nagging pain in my back and it kept worsening by the day,” Monica said. “It forced me to reduce the number of hours for working, which meant I was losing money. I visited the hospital, and the doctors told me to stop sitting for long hours or I would severely injure my spine. It was such a big blow to my family and me.” 

All hope wasn’t lost - Self-Help was with Monica through that difficult time. The Self-Help team worked with Monica to help her change her business to a shop selling food and other necessities.

“Changing businesses wasn’t an easy thing to do. I didn’t even know where to start, but the Self-Help staff was there to guide me,” Monica said. “They helped me convert my shop into a store for food and other necessities, and they helped me fully stock it.” 

“Self-Help’s assistance has been invaluable in my life, and the team’s help has also impacted my family’s life,” Monica said. “Now, I am able to provide for the needs of my three girls and send them to school. I also enjoy a lot of respect at home from my husband and my kids because I am able to contribute to the financial needs of the house.”

Monica's shop.
Monica's shop.
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Vivian getting ready to care for her chickens.
Vivian getting ready to care for her chickens.

We're celebrating mothers this Mother's Day, and we wanted to share this story about Vivan, an ambitious and passionate mother, business owner, and community leader.  Happy Mother's Day to all of the women like Vivian who are serving as inspiring role models for their families and their communities!

Vivian is 49 years old, and she’s an industrious client of Self-Help International as well as a leader in her community of Bedabour. She is involved in the microcredit program, receives agricultural extension services from Self-Help’s agriculture team, and serves as a community coordinator for the Teen Girls Club. She has been with the microcredit program for the past ten years. She is a community catalyst and bulwark for the Self-Help programs in Bedabour.

“In 2010, my sister, who was a business owner in Nkawie, told me about an NGO called Self-Help International that was engaging some women in Nkawie in business through a microcredit program. We wanted Self-Help to come to Bedabour, but Self-Help said they wanted us to mobilize ourselves first,” Vivian explained.

“I helped my community organize about 25 women, and Self-Help started a series of training sessions for the microcredit program,” Vivian said. “Even though I was a business owner, I felt like I had few options and limited opportunities to choose from. Self-Help opened a whole new world to me; I had a dream and Self-Help enabled me to turn it into reality. I am respected in my community because of my achievements with Self-Help.”

“My first loan from Self-Help was GHC 100 (around $20 USD). Over time, that amount wasn’t enough for my business. Because I was engaged in farming, raising sheep and goats, and palm oil processing, I needed equipment but didn’t have enough money for it,” Vivian said. “I negotiated with Self-Help’s micro-credit team for a larger loan amount, and the first equipment I purchased was a water pump to irrigate my vegetable farm during the dry season. It increased my yields significantly, and I’m able to maintain it.”

“My palm oil processing was growing, but the traditional way of processing it was too much to handle. I talked to the microcredit team, and they bought a machine that helped with the processing,” Vivian said. “It was such a relief, and I still use it and maintain it.”

“In 2014, my son was admitted into senior high school, but it wasn’t free and I needed help affording the school fees and meeting the requirements for his enrollment. The microcredit team also helped me by providing a loan for his school fees,” Vivian explained. 

“Throughout my engagement with the Self-Help microcredit program, I have demonstrated on several occasions my ability to pay my loans in full and on time,” Vivian said. “The list of how Self-Help has helped me goes on and on - they even helped me acquire a plot of land in Kumasi and helped me roof my house.”

Vivian is not only a microcredit client - she also receives agricultural extension services from Self-Help Ghana’s agriculture specialists.

“My success with the microcredit program prompted Self-Help to introduce me to their other programs because I wanted to do more,” Vivian said.  “So, I joined Self-Help’s agricultural extension program, too.”

“I have received training in poultry and rabbit farming from the agricultural training center in Nkwakrom,” Vivian said. “Now, my poultry and rabbit farms are doing well. I can even prepare my own feeds because Self-Help taught me, and because I get extra income from my other projects, I am able to save more money.”

Vivian is also a coordinator for the Teen Girls Club, and she is very committed to and passionate about the club.

“It was a privilege and a great honor when I was selected to be part of the leadership of the club,” Vivan said. “I felt like the least I could do was serve my community in whatever capacity. I have been given so much by Self-Help - it was my turn to give back.”

 “Getting the girls to trust me was a bit difficult initially,” Vivian explained. “But, I wanted to make a mark on their lives. I persevered, and I have been able to reach them.”

Vivian enjoys the trainings and relationship-building that happen as a part of Self-Help’s programs.

“Self-Help makes a conscious effort to employ respectful people to run the programs, especially the microcredit program,” Vivian said. “The quality of the programs improves all the time. The staff are very respectful and receptive to us. We feel worthy and human around Self-Help staff.”

“Everything starts with Self-Help’s trainings,” Vivian said. “Those of us who pay attention to the trainings are doing very well. They’ve inspired a can-do spirit inside of me, and learning more effective methods for running my business has helped me a lot.”

“I have vowed that even when I stop receiving the micro-loans, I will still attend Self-Help training sessions because there is always so much to learn,” Vivian said.

“I am so grateful for the opportunities Self-Help has given me,” Vivian said. “With Self-Help on our side, us women are certain that we can achieve great things if we work hard and persevere.”

Vivian caring for her chickens.
Vivian caring for her chickens.
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Self-Help International

Location: Waverly, IA - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @SelfHelpIntl
Project Leader:
Nora Tobin
Waverly, IA United States
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