posted by: Justice Atiim on March 7, 2019

“…Life was not easy, it was unbearable.”

These are the words Ester Stephen, 38, used to describe what her life was like before RAINS’ Childhood Regained Project intervened in her community in 2011. Ester lives in Nayorku, a community under the West Mamprusi Municipal area of Ghana.

Due to socio-cultural beliefs about gender, many women in Northern Ghana have substantial barriers in their way to access economic resources. For Ester, this meant she did not have access to land, education, or money, nor have any means to earn an income. Without livelihood options she could not progress in life, “I couldn’t do anything meaningful because of lack of money,” she explained.

It also meant that she could not meet her children’s basic needs, and three of her six children were out of school. She could not afford other necessities, including health care and certain foods, forcing her to beg from friends. “We lost our dignity,” she said.

Because of RAINS interventions, Ester has reclaimed her dignity. She is now economically empowered from the various interventions, including the Village Saving and Loans Associations (VSLAs), business skills development, land access, and more. Because of this, she has enrolled her school-aged children in private school and supports her older children with their vocational training.

The VSLAs have been instrumental in changing Ester’s life.

The passbooks used to record each VSLA member’s contributions and loans.

Each week, she meets with other members of her association. First, they all collect their passbooks. Next, they all contribute to the welfare fund, which is available for emergencies. Then, they can buy shares in the VSLA. Finally, they have the opportunity to either take a low-interest loan or pay some of their current loans back. It is all recorded in their books. By being part of this group, Ester can take out loans at any time to solve arising problems.

Further, she has used the VSLA to start her own businesses. This was complemented by RAINS’ business skills development workshops, where she learned to be “patient, consistent, and persistent” while starting and running a business—and now has a successful soap making business. Additionally, because RAINS advocated for women to be granted land in Nayorku, Ester now has a bountiful garden and sells vegetables.

Ester in her garden, which she obtained after RAINS advocated for women’s land access.

With these opportunities, Ester has excelled as a businesswoman and is incredibly motivated to support her children’s education and livelihoods. She is an example of how hard working and resilient the women in Northern Ghana are—and what they can be once given the opportunity.

2019’s International Women’s Day Theme is #BalanceForBetter, and is about working towards a gender-balanced world. Promotion of gender equality is necessary for the sake of both women’s inherent rights and community development. As we continue to empower women with economic resources, educate communities on women’s and girl’s rights, and build the capacity of women, we believe that Northern Ghana will achieve gender balance.