Rural enterprises are making women agents of change in Ghana
Rural women are just as enterprising as their male counterparts, if given equal opportunity and tools. Through training and skills development, rural women can play a much greater role in the development of their communities and boost the local economy.
In Ghana, the IFAD-supported Rural Enterprises Programme (REP) seeks to increase the number of rural enterprises that generate profit, growth and employment opportunities, with access to markets and financial support to the smallholder farmers in 16 districts of the country.
Christiana Srakubea, 46 and a mother of two children, lives in Asuogyaman in Eastern Ghana. Her future is looking brighter thanks to her soap business. Formerly she was a hair dresser in her village with little income. With her husband sick and living in the capital Accra, she struggled to survive and take care of her two children alone.
In June 2008, Christiana came to know about REP when the Business Advisory Centre (BAC) supported by REP organized a business orientation seminar in her community. Three months later, she was trained by BAC in making and marketing soap, and got a loan of Ghanaian Cedi (GHC) 2,500 from Asuogyaman Rural Bank to start her business. Furthermore, in 2009, she received further technology improvement training in soap making, which enabled her to add new product lines such as liquid soaps. In 2015, she received an additional loan of GHC 36,000 through REP to purchase a soap-cutting machine and a sealing machine for packaging of the soap.
Today, Christiana is a real entrepreneur. She has 24 sales outlets in the country and employs five women. To make the soap, every year she buys about 50,000 litres of palm oil from 10 smallholder farmers in her community. Her annual savings are more than GHC 50,000—a hundred times more than the less than GHC 500 savings back when she was a hair dresser.
Christiana was also able to send her son to university. Last year he graduated. Christiana’s eight-year old daughter is going to school as well.
"Thanks to REP, I participated in a lot of trade shows and exhibitions and travelled abroad," said Christiana. "My dream now is to get a consistent loan to expand further my soap business, to invest in transport to improve my distribution channels including exporting in the region. Why not to become another success story like Unilever?" she added, smiling.
Christiana is one of 600,000 rural people the Rural Enterprises Programme is supporting in the country.