Zainab making beads in her drugstore.
According to the World Bank Findex report of 2021, the gender gap in access to finance in Sub-Saharan Africa is 12 per cent higher than the average of six (6) per cent for developing countries.
In Ghana, the gap as of 2021 had widened to 11 per cent, compared with the nine (9) per cent that had persisted since 2017, although the percentage of women accessing finance has increased from 27 per cent in 2011 to 63 per cent in 2021.
Despite the critical role women play in the economic development of every country, access to finance, education and land due to factors such as culture, and patriarchy limits their ability to be economically empowered. The African Development Bank (AfDB) estimates a US$42 billion financing shortfall for African women-owned businesses.
Zainab Amadu is a 32-year-old mother of three. For the past two years, she has been running a beads-making business at Kenyase, in the Ahafo region of Ghana. To multiply her sources of livelihood, Zainab also operates a mobile money transfer business. In the initial stages of her business, she struggled to put herself to work due to a lack of access to capital. Like many other women, Zainab could not access financial support from traditional banks since she didn’t have an account and had no collateral to qualify for loans. Despite these setbacks, Zainab’s life changed when she joined a small savings and loan group in her community.
Supported by ActionAid in over 500 communities in Ghana, the village savings and loans scheme allows the women to make weekly and monthly contributions which goes into a pool. Members of the scheme access loans from the pool to support their businesses with favorable payback terms. Most of the groups in these over 500 communities have an operating capital of between GHȼ3,000.00 to GHȼ10,000.00 ($300-1,000) per group and provide members easy access to low-interest loans.
Mainly made up of women, the Kenyase Village Savings and Loans group proved a game changer for Zainab as she secured capital to start her businesses. Her drug store business run by her family also draws support from the loan scheme.
Zainab in a meeting with members of the VSLA scheme
The savings and loans association is being properly run by the women who have elected leaders to coordinate their activities. They meet often to discuss their progress and get the needed training on how to better manage the funds and keep proper records.
Women play a critical role in Ghana’s informal sector, but lacking access to credit, land and education can sometimes make their economic development relatively difficult. The situation is disturbing for rural women therefore, interventions such as the savings and loan program, empowers them economically.
According to Zainab, the Village Savings and Loans Scheme has economically empowered her to provide for the needs of her children.
“At first it was difficult for me financially because I wasn’t employed. All the financial burden fell on my husband and often it got him frustrated. I was helpless and not economically viable, Because of the loan I received from the savings group, I run my own businesses. I have control over my finances. I am able to send my children to better schools and life has been relatively comfortable for me now. We didn’t imagine this initiative would be that helpful. It has really helped us and even men in the community want to join for the same economic empowerment.”
By: Esther Ohenewaa Brown