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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
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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Felicia in front of her new home.
Felicia in front of her new home.

“This organization is a wealth creation organization. When you become part of it, whatever you touch prospers and your children become well-off. Even the people around you flourish. It’s just contagious and very holistic!” - Self-Help Micro-Credit Program beneficiary, Felicia.

63-year-old Felicia is a resident of Bedaabour in the Ashanti region of Ghana. She is a mother of five and a farmer. Felicia has been with the Self-Help International Micro-Credit Program for the past ten years. Felicia missed learning about the program during its first visit to Bedaabour, and mutual friends briefed her afterward about the introductory meeting. 

“My response when I learned about the micro-credit program was an outright, ‘No, no way!’” Felicia said. “I even tried to discourage the women who had signed up, but Maame Kokroko [the woman who brought Self-Help Ghana staff to the community] said we should just try to take out a loan once. If it didn’t work, we would quit; so, I reluctantly joined, and my start up loan was 200 GHS (approx. $37 USD).” 

Felicia invested her first loan into her farming. This investment enabled her to access more farming land, which helped her increase her crop yields. She was able to use her increased income for her family, and three of Felicia’s children were able to enroll in the senior high school two years after she joined the micro-credit program.

”Previously, it was very difficult for my husband and me to take care of three boys at a time. Thanks to the loan I was receiving on a regular basis, we were able to support them through their education,” Felicia said. “They all want to be police officers; one has already gained admission into the Police Academy. The remaining two are also hopeful.”

In 2015, Self-Help trained the women in Bedaabour in soap making as a part of enterprise development.

“I needed extra income for my family, so I paid attention during the training. Self-Help helped set me up when I decided to take on the challenge of soap making. The business flourished so much that people from the neighboring communities came to buy from me on a wholesale and retail basis,” Felicia said.

“In 2016, business was doing really well and more people were purchasing my soap. My husband and I decided to acquire a plot of land in Sepaase, a suburb of Abuakwa near the city of Kumasi. We want to move the family from Bedaabour to the city in the future, so we bought land closer to the city.

“We have been able to put up an eight-bedroom house. Even though only three of the rooms are totally complete for living, it has been roofed entirely. Hopefully, by the end of 2020, the entire building will be ready for our family,” Felicia said.

Now, Felicia takes loans of 3,000 GHS (approx. $550 USD), which she reinvests in her soap making and farming businesses. She has also introduced the micro-credit program to other people, including her two sisters and their three daughters in a different community where Self-Help Ghana operates.

“I can handle large sums of money because Self-Help has taught me how to save and not mishandle my money. I have introduced two of my younger sisters and their daughters, and now they are better off than before,” Felicia said. “One of them has even bought a piece of land in the city of Kumasi. She hasn’t started building yet, but I know she will build along the way.”

“I would have never forgiven myself if I had let the opportunity to join the micro-credit program pass by me. What I like most about this program is that, if you are diligent in the loan repayment, it is assured that the amount loan will be increased in the next disbursement,” Felicia said.

“I also like that, if I use the money for the reason I took the loan, Self-Help’s staff will help me if I have an emergency or fall on hard times and need flexibility with my loan repayment,” Felicia said.

“Self-Help has helped us women feed and take care of our families. It has given us hope, and I feel empowered,” Felicia said. “I hope Self-Help can reach more women like me and give them something to live for - like Self-Help has done for me. The other women and I are forever grateful.”

Love to support Self-Help International? Then make sure to participate in the 2020 Girl Fund from Mar. 6-13 and vote for Self-Help's Teen Girls Club with a $10 donation! Terms, conditions, and details can be found here, and keep your eye out for more information next week!

Felicia farming.
Felicia farming.
Felicia farming.
Felicia farming.
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Salamatu
Salamatu

Salamatu is a dedicated mother working hard to provide a steady source of income for her three daughters. She is a member of a group of women in the Juaben Municipality who farm and produce palm kernel and palm oil. Due to Salamatu’s excellent leadership skills, her group has done very well, and it has became a model group for other women in Juaben.

“When cost of producing palm kernel becomes too high for my group of producers, we resort to farming until we are able to afford the production cost again,” Salamatu said. 

“One day, some of the women and I were farming on our cassava plantation by the roadside, and the district Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) officers saw us. They liked our group’s commitment to our farm,” Salamatu said.

“After talking with us, the MOFA officers found out that farming is a second income option for us, and that we struggle to compete in the market due to our limited funds. They gave us improved cassava sticks to use for cultivation,” Salamatu said. “The MOFA officers also introduced us to Self-Help International’s micro-credit program to help us boost our palm kernel production and farming. My startup loan from Self-Help was $15 USD.” 

Although Salamatu wasn’t among the first members of Self-Help’s micro-credit program in Juaben, she has been with the program since 2007. Her time with the program has allowed her to dream bigger.

“My oldest daughter was in junior high school when I started Self-Help’s program. She was barely 12 years old,” Salamatu said. “She was a very intelligent girl; she was at the top of her class all the time. She had always wanted to be a nurse, and I was determined to help her with that dream - an opportunity I never had” 

For a period of six years, Salamatu and her group were able to compete in the palm fruits business for the processing of palm oil and palm kernel because of their access to loans from the micro-credit program. Their cassava farm also yielded more produce due to improved techniques the MOFA officers taught them. The other group members were all doing well; their commitment and dedication to their group and loan repayment was unparalleled.

“Thanks to several trainings by Self-Help on topics such as financial management and resource mobilization, I really came to understand that I couldn’t survive the changing market without getting into the habit of saving money,” Salamatu said.

“I also realized I needed more ways to generate extra income because my daughter was finishing senior high school. Her examination results were good, but I didn’t have enough money to put her through nursing school,” Salamatu said. “I was due for another loan from Self-Help and I had started actively saving money, so I added all of the money to my savings to cover her school fees instead of reinvesting the money in my processing business.”

“I needed to find other ways to repay my loan because I couldn’t reinvest in my business,” Salamatu said. “I got jobs doing anything: being a janitor, farmer, petty trader - I just did whatever came my way in order to pay for my loan and keep supporting my daughter through school.”

Salamatu’s daughter, Ayishetu, is now 24 years old, and she is a registered state nurse with a district hospital.

“My daughter has successfully completed nursing training college as a state registered nurse and is currently enrolled as a national service person with the Duayaw Nkwanta District Hospital,” Salamatu said.

“Self-Help’s support has been so immense and timely. My daughter is now a nurse, and it’s because of the support I received from Self-Help,” Salamatu said. “I want to express my sincere gratitude to Self-Help for the trainings because they really equipped me with knowledge I needed to improve myself and my business.

“Now, I don’t have to solely depend on my processing or farming businesses anymore,” Salamtu said. “When one business is not doing well, I just have to look around and there are always other options. With the loans from Self-Help, I have been able to secure my eldest daughter’s future. The younger ones are emulating her success to pave a way for themselves.”

Salamatu in front of her home
Salamatu in front of her home
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“I can’t explain enough what Self-Help International’s Micro-Credit program has done for me. Who would have thought that I could also have a university student in my house?” 

Ayishetu is a mother of 8 children and lives in Worapong, a small community in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. She’s been the community’s food vendor for years. She began by selling koko, a popular porridge made from millet. She had always planned on expanding her business to also sell other foods but her resources were limited, and because of the size of her family, she felt that establishing a personal savings account at a traditional bank was not possible.

Ayishetu was introduced to Self-Help about four years ago through mutual friends. “Initially, I was nervous to join because I have witnessed similar programs [not work]. But, I also realized that life was a bit less burdensome for the ones who mustered courage and committed to the program. Besides, the people from Self-Help were very nice and polite; and after attending one of their meetings, I decided to join. They gave me GHC 200 (approximately $50 USD) for a start; it was too small for me but I gratefully accepted it and decided to commit to the program.”

Ayishetu has diligently managed the loans and accessed higher amounts to continue to grow and expand her business, and recently received a loan of GHC 1000 (approximately 200 USD). The financing has allowed her to diversify and add four other menu items in her food vending business: banku, abetee, emo-tuo (rice ball) and waakye, all popular local dishes, to her previous koko. 

“I started selling waakye with the initial GHC 200 I received; patronage was very high and thankfully, they taught us how to save, even with a small income. I started saving small amounts everyday with the rural bank in our area. By the end of the payment period, I was able to generate the initial capital from my savings, even after repaying my loan. They increased the loan a bit and I added the GHC200 that I have saved to the GHC300 they gave in the second disbursement. I started with the banku and abetee in addition to the kooko and waakye. I continued to intensify my savings to add my final venture, rice-balls.”

Ayishetu now operates five different food vending businesses. She has also hired extra hands to help with the preparation and selling of the meals, creating new jobs in her community. “The children used to help me a lot, but when our income started improving, my husband and I decided to enroll them in school. Through this program, we have been able to send our first child to the university; it was a miracle. Now I can also boast of a son who is a university student in the capital.” Two of her children have completed senior high school, and they want to continue to the nursing training college. Her other children are enrolled in Junior High and Senior High Schools. 

When Self-Help International staff last visited her home, they observed another endeavor Ayishetu has been able to pursue with the proceeds from her business. “I am renovating this room to await my son’s return from the university. I want him to feel welcome when he returns home.”

Though she was initially weary of the program, Ayishetu now fully endorses it and encourages others to join as well. “I am encouraging my fellow women to use me as a yardstick to measure the successes and the improvements in my family’s life. If they are ready to help themselves and improve their living conditions, Self-Help will help them to help themselves.”

October 16 is World Food Day! Celebrate by making a gift to empower mothers like Ayishetu to provide for their families!

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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
$78,743 raised of $90,000 goal
 
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