JUNE 2011

Working women: Increasing equality through business training

By Paula Stromberg

Doris Torsu lives in a remote Ghanaian village called Kadjebi. The mother of four is also the eldest of all the siblings in her extended family, a position which meant she was sought out for advice.

"Because I had so many financial problems, I had low self-esteem and couldn’t help people who came to me with problems,” she said in an interview. “I have a husband of 25 years and four children. We were poor and just ate snack food and felt hungry.”

This was before Torsu attended business training through Crossroads partner Pro-Link. The skills she acquired have meant a sea change in the quality of life for herself and her children, and enabled her to give more support to her siblings.

“I learned business skills such as how to keep records, and manage loan money. I could have a profit and still make loan payments each month,” she said. “I started to support myself selling mobile phone cards for pre-paid time, and earned enough profit to open a ‘table store’ selling salt, Volta rice, tomato paste, washing powder, and candy and school supplies for the children from the school across the road.

Earning a higher income, however, is about much more than making ends meet. Financial independence for women is critical to building equality—from increasing leadership skills to reducing violence. For Pro-Link, an organization that roots much of its work in empowering women, small loans enable the local women they work with to better assert their rights.

This is why Pro-Link and Crossroads have recruited Canadian volunteers, like Ji-Young Kim, to help build women’s economic autonomy through business training. Kim recently returned from a five-month placement during which she delivered trainings to women in the towns of Hohoe and Kadjebi in Ghana’s Volta Region.

“Many women already ran individual business that generated just enough to eat, but not enough to pay for a higher standard of living,” said Kim, a graduate of York University’s Schulich School of Business.

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