Empower 500 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans

by Self-Help International
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Sandra shows off her beaded sandals
Sandra shows off her beaded sandals

In addition to offering general business training and micro-loans, from time to time we are able to offer women skills training so they can learn new trades.  The most recent skills-based training session we held was on beading for women in the villages of Bedabour, Beposo and Kwame Dwaa, and it was a great success: 8 more women are using their new skills to start new beading businesses!

Back in May 2015, we taught several micro-credit trust groups from Kwaso village how to develop enterprises involving beaded products, such as making necklaces, bracelets, and beaded flip flops.  These sandals, locally called “charlie” are mostly used in the bathroom or when attending funerals. With beads added, they become multi-purpose and can be worn to church services or the market as well.

Sandra experienced great success with her beading business following that training session and also taught the trade to a friend who now earns her living from making and selling beads products. As her business grew, she demonstrated creativity in creating innovative designs to set her sandals apart from the standard ones sold in the market. Women from other villages began requesting to learn beading as well, so we invited Sandra and her friend to serve as the skilled trainers to teach others the trade and enhance their leadership development.  

The training was offered to any who were interested, whether they were already involved in our micro-credit program or not, and we expected about 15 women to attend the training session based on conversations with women leading up to the training day. To our surprise, thirty one women showed up to the three days of training sessions, demonstrating the demand and interest from community members!

Training on the first day was mind blowing as women tried their hands on what was being taught. Eager to learn and make a business out of the training, their attention towards the training was impressive. Unperturbed about making mistakes or not getting it right both young and old women tried their hands. All participants had the chance to make one, two, or three pieces of slippers and necklaces depending on their speed. It was also an excellent opportunity for Sandra and her friend to develop new leadership skills. It was beautiful to see how far Sandra has come from needed training to now offering the training. 

At the end of the third day, eight women decided to make and sell bead slippers and necklaces as their new business. We assured them that upon completion of the financial literacy training sessions, funds would be available to initiate the new business ventures and put their new skills into action.

Thank you for your ongoing support, which makes training sessions like this one possible, and enables women to start up new business ventures. We had funds to issue the eight women start up loans of $50 each. Your continued support of this project will provide the funds to help the women expand their businesses with higher loan amounts in the coming months. 

Trainees show off their first pairs of sandals
Trainees show off their first pairs of sandals
Learning beadmaking
Learning beadmaking
The final products: "charlie" sandals
The final products: "charlie" sandals

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Veronica enjoying her success
Veronica enjoying her success

Veronica is a fifty-seven-year-old mother of five living in Kwaso village in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Even though Veronica is from a poor background, she is very hardworking and a highly motivated woman, and is proud that even as a single mother, she has been able to provide for her five children.

Before joining Self-Help’s micro-credit program in 2012, Veronica’s life story was unfortunate. She worked many jobs to make ends meet. She prepared and sold kenkey (a local Ghanaian dish made from corn dough), and also worked as a farmer, cultivating maize, cocoyam, cassava and plantain. However, all her businesses were on a small scale. She did everything by herself with little support from anyone. Her husband was initially helpful, but his health deteriorated due to excessive intake of alcohol and they soon divorced. Lacking access to formal banking, Veronica’s sources of funding were savings and loans from friends and business partners. Despite being a farmer, Veronica didn't grow enough maize to support her kenkey business. She had to buy maize on credit and return to pay for it after the sale of her own kenkey or farm produce, which meant she had to pay a higher price than if she could afford to purchase the maize outright at the time of purchase. She did her best to earn enough to support her two daughters and three sons.

Then four years ago, Veronica’s life changed. Thanks to business training and loans from Self-Help, she was able to expand her business.  Whereas before she could only afford the supplies to prepare kenkey once a week, she now prepares kenkey as many times a week as she had demand from her customers, and enjoys greater income as a result. Additionally, Veronica is able to use her loans to purchase maize and farm inputs outright with cash, rather than on credit, saving her money in the long run.

The results of this business expansion have impacted Veronica’s family in so many ways. Thanks to her sacrifices and support, Veronica children have achieved self-sufficiency.  They will not face the same struggles she did.  Her two daughters are married now, her sons are also working in professional jobs; two are teachers in Accra (the capital city) and one is a skilled electrician.

On top of all of this, after renting a house in deteriorating condition for most of her adult life, Veronica has purchased her own land and is now building a two-room home using profits from her business earnings.  With her next loan, she will add a roof to her new home. She is proud of herself concerning how far she has come, and told us, “It is my fervent prayer and hope that the benefits of this micro-credit program be extended to many more women, to put smiles on their faces too.” Veronica is forever grateful to you for your support!

Thanks to your generous support, we've been able to empower 400 women like Veronica! Now, we need your help to expand the micro-credit to reach 500 women so that they too can achieve self-sufficiency.  Please give now. 

PS: Christmas is less than a week away! Is there someone on your list who would treasure a gift of empowering a woman in Ghana this season? Make a donation now in honor a loved one and print off a card to give as your gift - it's truly the gift that keeps giving!

Veronica in front of her soon-to-be new home
Veronica in front of her soon-to-be new home
Talking w/ Veronica about the changes in her life
Talking w/ Veronica about the changes in her life
Akosua selling her handmade soaps to the community
Akosua selling her handmade soaps to the community

Meet Akosua, a thirty-eight year old woman from Timeabu, a village of about 500 people in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Akosua is a mother of six: three girls and three boys. She and her husband share the house with two other wives and six children. Though Akosua is hardworking, she comes from a poor background. She grew up in tough times, as her family worked hard to provide for her. They passed on the trait of ambition, as Akosua has worked diligently to provide more income for her children as they grow up. Her success story began two years ago, when Akosua joined Self-Help’s micro-credit program in Ghana.

However, before she joined the micro-credit program, her story was different. She worked with her husband on their farm. They had cocoa intercropped with food crops like cocoyam, cassava and plantain to provide a variety of sustenance to the family. Apart from farming, she had no other income source and therefore relied on her husband for her basic needs. “I was very unhappy as I virtually had to beg for money all the time from my husband,” she said.

In 2014, she was introduced to the Self-Help micro-credit program by some of the women who had benefited from the program in her village. Akosua already knew how to make soap, but could not properly put her skills to practice because she lacked the funding. In the past she had borrowed from family members and friends at unfavorable conditions with high interest rates and irregular repayment schedules. There were times she had to halt production completely due to inadequate funding for the supplies.

That’s when an opportunity fell into Akosua’s hands, finally giving her some ease. Through the Self-Help micro-credit program, she was able to access a loan of GHC 100 (then about $50 USD) at a market-based interest rate, much lower than what she had previously been able to access. She used her first loan to purchase the supplies to re-start her soap-making business. She paid her loan back on time each month, and was able to access greater levels of loans. Whereas before, she had to buy her soap-making materials from other vendors on credit at higher prices, now she is able to use her loan to buy the materials outright at better prices. Akosua’s soap business has created an additional source of income for her, and enabled her to feel much more independent.

Currently, she produces and markets soaps in and outside her community. Creatively, she has added attractive colors to add more value to her soap. On festive occasions, she wraps her soaps beautifully in colorful wrappers and people buy them as presents for their loved ones.

Akosua’s life story after her encounter with SHI micro-credit program has been different. She no longer begs her husband for money and can contributes financially towards her children’s upbringing. In early 2016, she decided to diversify her business by adding on processing and marketing of animal hide. The micro-credit team linked her to appropriate vendors with moderate prices in the Kumasi area, to be able to buy and sell the hides at competitive prices in her village.

Akosua now generates additional income to support her family. The micro-credit program has impacted her life greatly: she’s able to support her husband by helping take care of their children’s educational needs. Even though their first child could not go to school due to past economic hardship, her daughter is now an apprentice hairdresser and will soon be an independent stylist. The rest of the children are currently enrolled in school and it is Akosua’s dream that they become teachers, doctors and lawyers.

She is grateful for your support, which has transformed her life and the lives of many of her friends and fellow community members in Timeabu and across Ghana. 

Akosua with her newly decorated products
Akosua with her newly decorated products

A few months ago, we hosted our first ever Leadership Summit to celebrate the strongest leaders in our micro-credit program.  We expected that it would enable women to celebrate one another, make market linkages across the value chain, and exchange ideas - and it did! But it also highlighted a challenge for us: we realized that while we're meeting women where they're at, we're not preventing them from being in that situation.

For the women we serve, they don't have access to any other banking or credit facilities, so we're providing an important service. Because of the training and micro-loans, they are able to afford the school fees to keep their children and grandchildren in school. Yet for many of the women, their daughters are already adults themselves, or have already dropped out of school.

It's not that their daughters don't want an education - they want one badly!  But they face many challenges, even if they are among the lucky few whose parents or relatives are able to gather together sufficient funding to cover the school fees.  For example, in the traditional Ghanaian home, girls perform most of the household chores while the boys are always idling about, making it difficult to keep pace with their male colleagues. This heavy chore load, such as fetching water, preparing meals, and caring for younger siblings drains girls’ energies, making their participation and contribution in class lower than that of their male counterparts. Girls go to school tired, doze off in class and become laughing stocks among their peers.  

As girls enter puberty, insufficient knowledge about the changes the female body undergoes during adolescence is a major cause of teenage pregnancy. More than 13% of girls in Ghana give birth between the ages of 15 – 19 years old, a time when they should be completing junior or senior high school, but are instead dropping out to start a family.  Most young girls do not fully understand that the new feelings and changes in their bodies are normal. Neither parents nor teachers spend time educating young girls about puberty, in part because the subject is not discussed and in part because they may not have ever learned about the biological changes at puberty either. Girls easily fall prey when any man gives them little attention or care in dealing with these changes. 

Beginning menstruation adds to the challenges girls face in keeping up at school. It is common for girls to miss one week of school each month due to her period, because she lacks funds to buy sanitary towels to manage her menstrual flows. While girls are working on household chores without any form of allowance or compensation, young men have time to engage in income-generating activities to earn spending money for themselves. They in turn deceive young girls, giving the girls paltry sums of money to finance such needs as school supplies or sanitary supplies, and then take advantage of the girls, leading to teenage pregnancy.

On top of these challenges, some parents, especially fathers, believe that no matter how enlightened a woman is, she will be given in marriage to a man, breed children and that will be the end of her education, so there is no need to educate a girl child. Some marry off their female children at school-going age to rich men for money. Ironically, they justify the practice by saying that part of the money is used to educate their male children.

The situation calls for a concerted effort. For the past few months, we've been meeting with girls, mostly the daughters of women in our micro-credit program, to learn about the challenges they face to staying in school and help them craft solutions to address those challenges.  They have shared with us the difficulties they go through such as inadequate parental guidance and support; parents’ refusal to provide school supplies; and lack of funds to buy to sanitary towels. So, we have begun mobilizing girls of school going age in rural Ghana into groups, and educating them to stay longer in school and away from situations that are likely to lead them to start a family before they are truly ready.

These girls and their parents, especially mothers, are very excited about the program. They tell us, “Our communities shall know what we stand for and the message we preach,” and that, “More of our girls can go to school: this alone will keep the trouble makers away.”  We plan to officially launch the first girls health education workshops later this month and to distribute reusable sanitary kits to all girls present.  With sufficient funding, we will continue to offer additional trainings to the girls in small income-generating activities so they don't have to depend on boyfriends for spending money, and perhaps even take them on college visits so they can be exposed to life outside of their rural villages, and the possibilities that their future could hold if they stay in school.  Together, we can give a future to these young girls.

Join us in empowering young women in Ghana! Make a donation now, or mark your calendar to make a gift on Wednesday, September 21 during the GlobalGiving Match Day! Details on the matching funds are available here

Girls discuss barriers to staying in school
Girls discuss barriers to staying in school
Listening to girls from Timeabu share challenges
Listening to girls from Timeabu share challenges
Your support has changed Lydia
Your support has changed Lydia's & Nelly's stories

***LYDIA'S PHOTO MADE THE GLOBALGIVING PHOTO CONTEST***
CLICK HERE TO HELP US WIN THE $1,000 GRAND PRIZE

Two years ago, we shared Lydia's story with you.  Providing for her family was a daily struggle. But she used a micro-loan in 2013 to purchase a sewing machine and start a sewing business and things got a little bit better. And after another micro-loan in 2014, she was able to purchase fabrics for re-sale. She became a "one-stop-shop" so her customers could purchase fabric from her and commission her to make their clothes, rather than going to two different places for the services.  Lydia was using her profits to feed and clothe her two daughters, and pay school fees for the older girl. She had hopes of expanding her fabric trading business to sell other products as well. 

Today, Lydia is making progress toward her dreams. Lydia has expanded her petty trading business, in hopes of increasing income so she can better provide for her daughters - particularly as her older daughter enters her teenage years and junior high and high school fees loom.  Nelly, now 4 1/2, started school in Beposo last year, and will enter Kindergarten 2 this fall. Lydia takes great pride in seeing her daughters get an education.  

Like other traders, Lydia sets off very early each morning to walk from village to village to sell her products, or to take them to market on market days. She tries to be the first person there so she can get the most customers since there are many other petty traders selling similar products.  

Because she sets off so early, Lydia doesn't have time to prepare breakfast for the girls before school. If she made breakfast each morning, and took the time to fetch water, fetch firewood, boil the water, and prepare the porridge, she would miss out on the sales that put dinner on the table at night. 

Lydia shared that Self-Help has been very very good to her. and she really appreciates it. In addition to micro-loans, she is grateful to Self-Help for supporting the start of a new school in Beposo. It is near enough that Nelly can easily walk to it each morning, and thanks to Self-Help, Nelly gets a hot breakfast first thing in the morning, even though Lydia has already left the house. Life as a petty trader isn't easy, but for her children, it's worth it.

***VOTE FOR LYDIA'S PHOTO IN THE GLOBALGIVING PHOTO CONTEST FROM JULY 18 - 22***

CLICK HERE TO HELP US WIN THE $1,000 GRAND PRIZE

The organization whose photo has the most votes by noon EDT on July 22, 2016 will win.
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Organization Information

Self-Help International

Location: Waverly, IA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.selfhelpinternational.org
Project Leader:
Nora Tobin
Waverly, IA United States
$48,789 raised of $50,000 goal
 
476 donations
$1,211 to go
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