SHI- Fund 200 Women's Micro-Credit Loans in Ghana

by Self-Help International
Diana displays her products in March 2014
Diana displays her products in March 2014

Diana is 50 years old and a native of Bedaabour in Ashanti region of Ghana. She is a product of the old Ghanaian education system, in which basic school curricula included practical teaching of home science and technical skills.

Like others her age, Diana learned from a young age how to make dresses with needles. After middle school she became a trader and ‘yaadee yie’; someone who carries sewing machine and move from house to house to mend cloths.

This type of hands-on training for youth was critical for Diana and others like her, but insufficient on its own: she needed access to micro-loans and market avenues as well.

In January 2013, Diana joined Self Help International’s micro-credit program and used her loan to purchase and start selling fabrics to earn additional income. Ready access to fabrics revived knowledge and skills she acquired decades ago as a school girl. Diana tells SHI, “I was never an apprentice seamstress. I am here as a result of needle work lessons I had decades ago and micro loans from SHI.”

She now sews and sells dresses to her community members. An apt businesswoman, she offers to sew dresses at discounted rates for those clients who purchase their fabric from her.

When visited in August 2014, Diana had made dresses that compete favorably in her local market. It is obvious from her designs that she is not only good at cutting and putting fabrics together but she also understands colors.

Diana has 6 children (4 females and 2 males) aged between 9 and 27 years and is able to take good care of them. With the profits earned from her business, she is building a 3-bedroom house to shelter her family and plans to expand her business to be able to train and employ more young women in her community.

Sharing her trade is important to ensuring that future generations of women are able to develop the skills they need to participate in the village economy. Over the past few decades, the educational system of Ghana, like many developing countries, has undergone a transformation aimed at achieving a more efficient system that produces quality human resource to achieve national development. In the process, many practical education programs were cut.  

In the old system, girls were taught to cook delicious local dishes and do needlework, sewing beautiful baby dresses and table cloths, while boys learned to mark and cut wood. The benefits of this type of practical training were enormous. Almost every household had needles which were used to mend torn dresses and it was common to see pupils with patched school uniforms. Though it wasn’t always pleasant to the eye, it saved the family money.

The situation is different today. People, especially those products of the new education system, readily replace their old worn out clothes by purchasing used ones that are imported largely from Europe rather than mending their old clothes. These imports contribute to the collapse of indigenous fabric and dress making industries, and the ever worsening unemployment situation. Current unemployment rate is around 40% and it is not surprising that crime rates are high nowadays.

Women like Diana set a strong example for others of using their talents to advance local industry. There are several other “Dianas” in Ghana who need access to credit in order to unlock their talents as well. Such individuals constitute the much needed growth poles to bring about development in Africa.

Your donation has helped Diana, and many women like her, explore their talent and grow their businesses. Thank you for your generosity.

In August Diana shared some new designs
In August Diana shared some new designs


Lydia stands next to her new sewing machine
Lydia stands next to her new sewing machine

Lydia is 36 years old and has two daughters, ages 11 and 2 ½ years old. In 2010, she made the decision to join the Self-Help International micro credit program in Bedaabour. She had witnessed improvements in the lives of people who had joined the program when it first came to the village in 2008 and became convinced that the program could help her help herself.

Lydia completed seamstress apprenticeship in 2000 and started practicing thereafter. Ten years down the line, there was no sign of improvement in her finances. Bedaabour is a small community with fewer than 50 dresses sewn annually; most of which are sewn during Christmas. It was difficult caring for her only daughter, and earning additional income was a must. She took out a loan from SHI in order to expand her business to trading fabrics in addition to sewing them.

The sale of fabrics serves as a boost to her sewing business. Rather than people purchasing fabrics elsewhere and bringing the fabrics to Lydia to sew, they can now come to her to purchase the fabrics and have the clothing made all in one place. In 2013, she was able to invest in a new sewing machine. She saves part of her profit and re-invests the rest to expand her petty trading. With extra money earned, Lydia is able to provide her daughters with food, clothing and continued education.

Despite her new purchase, Lydia keeps her old sewing machine even though it no longer works because it helps her remember the past and how far she’s come.

Because of your support, Lydia and many women like her can find success and in the process provide better care for their families. Thank you for your donation.

Lydia selling her merchandise
Lydia selling her merchandise


Sarah and her husband with tricycle
Sarah and her husband with tricycle

Sarah  is a 38-year-old woman who lives in Nkawie Panin, a farming community in rural Ghana. She is married and has four children, three of whom are in school.

Up until 2009, Sarah was working as a petty trader and made very little money from her work. She sold fresh produce, such as cassava, plantains, tomatoes, and onions, in low quantities. She bought the produce from a nearby market, about half a kilometre from her house. Prices at this market were higher than those at other, larger markets, which were further away from her home, but she could not afford transportation to larger markets and farms. As a result, her business was generating very little income for Sarah and her family.

In 2009, Sarah applied for a microcredit loan from Self-Help International, hoping it would help her grow her business and increase her family's income.

That year, Sarah received a $25 microcredit loan from Self-Help International, which allowed her to start trading at a small table. She continued to sell food and grow her business, and by 2011, she had expanded her table into a 10x10x8 foot wooden structure, with a refrigerator and a television.

She now has a greater variety of items in her inventory, including canned foods, milk, cooking oil, pasta and soap.

In 2013, she purchased a tricycle so she could move produce from farms to markets. Sarah's husband operates the tricycle, transporting goods for Sarah's business, and also transporting goods for others for a fee. He also is a managing partner in Sarah's business and operates the shop from time to time when Sarah goes into town to purchase goods. Her children also help run the shop when Sarah is preparing meals for the family.

Sarah tells Self-Help International that her secret is hard work and trustworthiness. She is grateful to Self-Help International, especially the microcredit loan program for women.

Thank you for your continued support of SHI's Women's Micro-Credit Program. Because of your generosity, Sarah, and many women like her, have found great success.

Sarah's original shop in 2009
The new store built in January 2014
The new store built in January 2014


Abena setting up for a chemical treatment
Abena setting up for a chemical treatment

In Ghana, West Africa, lands are small in size and owned by agricultural indigenes. Commercial farming is nearly impossible within these lands due to fragmentation and minimal access to agricultural credits. Because  agriculture is weather dependent and “risky”, receiving credit from the bank can be difficult.

The key to alleviating hunger in Ghana lies within the hands of the farmer. With a micro-credit loan from Self-Help International, Abena, who is 55-years-old, is able to afford all that is needed to maintain her half-acre rice farm. She was able to buy a rain booth, knapsack, and fertilizer with the micro-credit loan.

Today, Abena tells Self-Help International that her farm is doing well, but that and she still on has half an acre due to non-availability of land.

Because of your generosity, Abena and other agricultural farmers in Ghana are able to afford the necessary supplies to maintain their lands and ultimately, alleviate hunger. Thank you for your support and donations to Self-Help International.

Rebecca in front of her kitchen and store
Rebecca in front of her kitchen and store

In January 2013, the Executive Director and Board President of Self-Help International visited Ghana. Their quest to experience improvements in the lives of SHI micro credit program beneficiaries took them to a remote village, Kyereyaase.  Rebecca, 39 and a mother of four, told them how she was able to build a structure, a joint kitchen and a shop with savings from her business. Her kitchen used to be a dilapidated bamboo structure with no roof.

On March 16, 2013 disaster struck. There was a storm and several structures in Kyereyaase were destroyed. Rebecca’s new structure was gone. The roof flew off and hit an adjacent building and another portion of the building was broken.

When Self-Help visited Rebecca 10 days later, the building was already being rebuild, and very quickly. When Self-Help staff asked Rebecca how she was able to do this her reply was, “with support from the SHI micro loans.”  

Rebecca requested to extend the repayment period of her current loan from Self-Help by one month and our staff agreed without hesitation.

Because of your generosity, Rebecca is able rebuild her beautiful new kitchen and store. Thank you for your support of Rebecca and many other women like her.


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Organization Information

Self-Help International

Location: Waverly, IA - USA
Project Leader:
Nora Tobin
Executive Director
Waverly, IA United States