Promoting gender equality one woman at a time

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, we highlight the stories of two women in Ghana. Grace Obenewaa is prospering as a cocoa farmer instead of migrating to the city thanks to the MASO programme. And oil palm processor Rita Yeboah can put her children through school because she received a small VSLA loan to invest in her business.

Grace Obenewaa, a graduate of the Next Generation Cocoa Youth Programme (MASO)

A change of plan

Grace Obenewaa, 26 years old, would have been one of the many rural-urban migrants living in Ghana’s capital Accra but for the timely introduction of the Next Generation Cocoa Youth Programme (MASO) in her community.

Grace’s plans to return to the city after her secretarial course stalled because she did not have enough money. While waiting on her mother for funds, Grace joined MASO.

Skills for the future

MASO is a five-year programme funded by the Mastercard Foundation and implemented by Solidaridad in partnership with Aflatoun International, Ghana Cocoa Board, Fidelity Bank, Ashesi University, and Opportunity International Savings and Loans Limited. The programme enables school-leavers to learn cocoa cultivation skills and to become entrepreneurs, providing relevant services to farmers and their communities.

I'm making good money from the sale of the plantain and cassava I intercropped with my cocoa” – Grace Obenewaa, cocoa farmer

Grace received training in practices such as spacing and pruning cacao trees, and the application of chemicals. She was also taught the importance of cultivating other food crops such as plantain and cassava while waiting to harvest the cocoa pods. As part of the project, Grace and her fellow MASO graduates of 2017 received 1,200 cacao seedlings to plant. 

“I'm now making good money from the sale of the plantain and cassava I intercropped with my cocoa,” says Grace. “I'm so glad I remained in the village.”

Grace is one of the 3,527 young people whose life path changed through the MASO programme since it launched in 2016.

Making credit available

As part of its efforts to empower women and enhance their participation in development at the community level, Solidaridad West Africa has incorporated the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) scheme in all its programmes.

The VSLA is aimed at helping women and other farmers to develop a savings culture and achieve financial inclusion. This is to enable smallholder farmers to access credit from formal financial institutions.

Rita Yeboah, a palm oil processor in Ahwiam, a farming community in eastern Ghana, says joining the VSLA was one of the best decisions she made. Previously a cold store operator, she could barely make enough to provide three meals a day for her children. When VSLA was introduced in her community two years ago, she decided to join.

How VSLA works

With a daily contribution of 5 to 10 Ghanaian cedi cents (0.84 to 1.67 euro cents), VSLA members can receive a loan of up to three times their savings for three months for 10 percent interest. This easy access to credit enabled her to invest in her palm oil processing business.

“I used to buy without planning whenever I made a good sale,” says Rita. “I had no sense of savings at all. But after receiving training on financial prudence and record-keeping, I understand the essence of saving for a rainy day.” Being able to see her children through school, including one at university, makes her proud.

After receiving training on financial prudence and record-keeping, I understand the essence of saving for a rainy day” – Rita Yeboah, palm oil processor

Celebrating Generation Equality

In 2020, the global community is reflecting on progress made in the fight for gender equality across generations since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995. This year also aligns with the UN’s multi-generational campaign on gender equality.

‘I am Generation Equality: Realizing women’s rights’ is the theme of 2020’s International Women’s Day on 8 March. The event marks several other notable moments in the struggle for gender equality: five years since the Sustainable Development Goals were set; the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security; and the 10th anniversary of UN Women. 

This year represents a remarkable opportunity to mobilize global action to achieve gender equality and human rights for all women and girls. At Solidaridad, we mark this important event every year by engaging in activities that highlight the organization’s effort in promoting women’s rights and gender inclusion in development processes.

Watch the video for more about Solidaridad's work towards gender equality in West Africa: