Empower 450 Women in Ghana with Microcredit Loans

by Self-Help International
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Your support has changed Lydia
Your support has changed Lydia's & Nelly's stories

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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.

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Sandra, February 2016
Sandra, February 2016

"NO MATTER THE SITUATION, YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE IT"

Sandra is a forty-year-old woman from Kwaso, a rural community in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. Sandra dropped out of junior high school at age 19 when she became pregnant with her first and only child. Girls are not allowed to go to school while pregnant, and there was never an opportunity to go back to school to complete her education after her son was born. She resorted to selling fruits to earn a living.

Sandra was never able to marry the man who impregnated her because her family refused to give him her hand in marriage because of existing tribal conflicts between the two families, and the fact that Sandra was not ready for marriage at the time. It is a source of pain for Sandra that after her son was born, he went to live with his father, apart from Sandra since she was struggling to provide for him on her own. 

Returns from the sale of fruits were not encouraging and so Sandra’s mother taught her to prepare kenkey, a fermented corn-based food, for sale. Sandra would wake up very early in the morning to prepare and sell kenkey in her community and assist her mother by working on her farm. She used earnings from her kenkey business to provide for herself. Sandra’s mother, who incidentally raised Sandra as a single mother herself, was a member of Self-Help International (SHI) micro-credit program at Kwaso. She introduced Sandra to Madam Olivia, the leader of the group at Kwaso, who then invited Sandra to SHI’s micro-credit program to improve her financial situation.

Sandra joined the micro-credit program in 2012 and took out her first loan of GHC 100 (US $25).  She continued to work hard selling kenkey to make ends meet, though it was a struggle.  Then in May and June 2015, SHI micro-credit program organized a series of training sessions to teach women at Kwaso to make additional businesses out of beads, including how to make earrings, necklaces, bracelets and casual flip-flop sandals locally called “Charlie”. “Charlie” is a type of rubber slip-on designed to be worn when bathing. Recently most people have learned to modify the designs on the slip-on and now it serves other purposes as well. “Charlie” can now be worn to many places such as markets, church, and funerals.

After the workshops, Sandra decided to make a business out of the beads by making and selling decorative ‘charlie’ sandals during special occasions, especially funerals. Since last August, Sandra now has two sources of income: vending kenkey and selling “Charlie.” Sandra has built her creditworthiness up to now taking out a loan of GHC 600 (US $150), which she invests in her two businesses. 

Last August, Self-Help organized additional training sessions on the importance of savings, how to save up, and then helped fifty-nine women to open their very first bank accounts. After years of living hand-to-mouth, Sandra now has a formal savings account with a commercial bank!

By dint of hard work, Sandra has been able to save some money to acquire a piece of land, and she is preparing to build a house and move out of her family home for the first time. Sandra is self-reliant now. She is a proud woman who feels empowered by Self-Help and the lovely people surrounding her. She believes SHI micro-credit and her family’s support has brought her this far. She is forever grateful to SHI and its donors across the globe. 

Mother's Day is next Sunday, May 8. Why not give your mother or grandmother the gift of empowering a woman like Sandra in her honor? When you make a gift to this project, you'll empower a mother in need - plus it's easy to print a card to let mom know what you've done in her honor!

Learning beadmaking, May 2015
Learning beadmaking, May 2015
Learning beadmaking, June 2015
Learning beadmaking, June 2015
Showing off at Sept 2015 Women
Showing off at Sept 2015 Women's Leadership Summit
Sandra proudly shows off her charlies
Sandra proudly shows off her charlies
ED Nora Tobin giving out an award to Olivia
ED Nora Tobin giving out an award to Olivia

What a wonderful few months of milestones it has been for women in Ghana!  Micro-credit officers Victoria and Elizabeth have been working hard to celebrate leadership and promote self-sufficiency by linking women to commercial banks, a feat that has taken time.

Many women have made tremendous progress as local businesswomen, so we took some time to celebrate their accomplishments by hosting the first ever Women’s Leadership Summit, which was held at Calvary Methodist Church.  Micro-credit beneficiaries from the communities of Abompe, Asuogya, Bedaabour, Beposo, Kwamedwaa, Afari/Nerebehi, Kwaso, Nkawie, Adagya, and Worapong were brought together to interact, share experiences, business ideas, and exchange contacts together under one roof. Nearly 100 of the 400 women in the micro-credit program were in attendance.  Outstanding leaders including Olivia from Kwaso and Abena from Beposo shared their success stories with the attendees. Outstanding groups and individuals were awarded with certificates of honor to recognize their leadership, dedication, commitment and problem-solving abilities. Each participant was given a T-shirt to thank them, and help advertise the micro-credit program.  The Women’s Leadership Summit challenged groups who have not yet been recognized to step up their performances. Some of the groups have reshuffled and elected new leaders with the hope to win additional awards at the next summit. 

Leadership is important to building a strong community, and so is access to resources, especially for rural women.  If women farmers had the same access to productive resources as men, including training, education, and capital, there would be 150 million fewer hungry people in the world.  It’s a staggering figure to consider, and the very goal that the Self-Help International Women’s Micro-Credit Program is working toward. Self-Help invests in the future of women by providing training, access to loans, and follow up advising to women so they can start up and expand their businesses, generate income, and better provide for their families. 

In addition to the successful Women’s Leadership Summit, the micro-credit program reached a milestone that has been elusive for four years: all 59 women from Kwaso and Timeabu have now opened accounts with the Agricultural Development Bank. Bank identification cards as well as check books have been issued to them. Some of the women have already made deposits into their savings accounts. Approximately 98% of these women have bank accounts for the first time in their lives.

Women
Women's Leadership Summit Group Picture
Group from Kwaso showing their check books
Group from Kwaso showing their check books
Group at Timeabu displaying their cheque books
Group at Timeabu displaying their cheque books
Lucy selling food in her community.
Lucy selling food in her community.

Lucy is 38 and hails from the northern sector of Ghana. She migrated to the southern sector with her husband in search of greener pastures. Lucy's husband, Kwame, is a farmer and laborer at Bedaabour. They have two children, Ebenezer, who is an eleven-year-old in fourth grade at Bedaabour District Assembly basic school and Isaac, an eight-month-old.

Lucy has been active in the micro-credit program since 2012. When asked about how she joined the Self-Help International (SHI) micro-credit program, Lucy answered “It was through close friends and relatives.” Her first loan was GHC150 (approximately $50), which she invested in her petty trading business. Starting out, she sold groceries on tables but later on she built her own wooden kiosk/stall. To generate additional income to better support her family, Lucy diversified her business and now sells prepared food in her village square daily.

When they first arrived to Bedaabour, Lucy and her family moved to every few months in search of adequate housing. The ongoing search for a suitable shelter continued until a relative offered them a vacant room. Lucy explained to SHI that it is not a decent place for human habitation, but her and her family had no other choice.

Now that Lucy is able to contribute financially towards the upkeep of the children, their home is a more peaceful place with fewer financial stresses. Little by little, Lucy and her husband saved up and secured a piece of land at Bedaabour to put up their own home for the first time since migrating south. They are currently constructing a two-bedroom house where their family will live peacefully, no longer worrying about where they'll move next. 

Lucy plans to invest her next loan in completing their new house, so she and her family can finally move into more dignified living standards. Lucy and her family will enjoy maximum peace once they move into their new home. Ebenezer will have peace and quiet to concentrate on his homework. They will have their privacy living in their own home and, at last, have their own space to spend time together as a family.

There will also be enough space in their future home to allow them to each sleep under insecticide-treated mosquito nets. This will reduce incidents of malaria in the family, especially among the two children. With reduced cases of malaria in the family, Lucy will spend less time seeking treatment for family members at the hospital, freeing up more time for her business. This gift of increased time will translate into more productive hours at work and greater profit, as well as improved overall finances. Lucy told SHI that this extra income will be spent on her children’s education, and that SHI has made it easier to take proper care of her first priority, her children.

After 15 years of marriage, Lucy is a more supportive wife, a prouder mother, and happier spirit than ever before. She is grateful to SHI and its donors for the support extended to her. This is the transformation the micro-credit program brings into the lives of its beneficiaries: financial empowerment. With access to training and loans, women contribute to the upkeep of the home, earn respect from their husbands, and are better able to support their children and their children’s education. Thank you for your support.  Your donations will help more women like Lucy transform their lives and live with the dignity that all humans deserve. 

Lucy at her stall.
Lucy at her stall.
Lucy pictured at her current place of stay.
Lucy pictured at her current place of stay.
Lucy, Isaac, Kwame and Ebenezer
Lucy, Isaac, Kwame and Ebenezer
Lucy and her nearly complete new 2-bedroom home
Lucy and her nearly complete new 2-bedroom home
Ama & her nephew attend to a customer at her store
Ama & her nephew attend to a customer at her store

Ama is a forty-five year old single mother of three. In addition to caring for her own children, she has taken on the added responsibility of caring for her late sister’s four children.  Having observed how Self-Help’s micro-credit program had impacted on women in her community, Nkawie, she applied to join the program and has seen her life transformed.

Ama tells Self-Help that before joining the micro-credit program, she used to sell charcoal, Kenkey (a cornmeal product) and vegetables on her head as she trekked from one community to another. She made little or no profits at the end of the day and she could not invest any of the money she earned to expand her business since she had many mouths to feed in addition to paying the childrens’ school fees and medical bills. Ama regrets her inability to go to school which she attributes to the neglect of her polygamous father and the fact that she comes from a large family of eleven children of which she is the youngest. It has always been her dream to give to her children quality education and a descent accommodation; something she never had.

With training, micro-loans, hard work and perseverance, Ama was able to expand her business and now has a shop of her own in which she sells groceries and other items. Business is good: Ama consistently make a profit and the family’s finances have significantly improved. Her eldest son, Prince who is 27 years old is completing the final year of his Bachelor’s program at the University and her daughter, Agnes, who is 24 years old, has successfully completed nurses’ training college and about to be stationed at her first job. Ama’s youngest child is now in 4th grade.

With pride and joy, Ama is building a two-story house, a project many consider overly ambitious. She admits it is an uphill task but has a reason; by building upwards instead of outwards, she can save land and use the space as a foundation for her children to build on. “Wherever I get to, my children will someday continue,” she concludes. It is inspiring to learn that she is making these investments not only for herself but for the generations yet unborn.

Every little support given to women like Ama benefiting from the micro-credit program will certainly trickle down to benefit many generations and improve livelihoods of disadvantaged people today and for years to come. Thank you for your generosity in helping us help Ama and more women like her to make this difference for their children and grandchildren.

Sheltering her family: Ama
Sheltering her family: Ama's new home

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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

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