For women entrepreneurs in Ghana’s mining communities, finance is golden

Solidaridad, with the support of the global luxury group Kering, take Village Savings and Loans Associations to the next level through an innovative revolving fund that empowers women led enterprises.

For women business leaders in the Tarkwa and Bibiani area of Western Ghana, a trial programme run by Solidaridad might offer a path to financial independence and greater equality.

The project supports 130 women in 3 gold mining communities in Ghana. Started in July 2019 the project’s goal is to improve the financial and social position of women through a combination of activities ranging from: the introduction of Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs); external funding for business support; discussions with women, men and key stakeholders on the role of women in households and businesses; and trainings in responsible mining, group dynamics and leadership skills. 

In Ghana small-scale mining employs an estimated one million people and supports about 4.5 million more. The sector is characterized by unsafe working conditions, pollution of water bodies, land degradation, informal mining and gender-based exclusion. About half of the workers in the sector are women but most of them are engaged in informal mining. Women comprise just about 6% of those employed in licensed operations. They are excluded from the potentially lucrative and poverty-alleviating opportunities that small-scale mining could offer, due to lack of access to credit and training, as well as cultural beliefs and norms.

Supporting Women Entrepreneurs in Ghana Gold Communities

This project aims to change that and provide greater business opportunities for women in the region. What sets it apart from similar efforts is the use of an innovative revolving fund, financed by Kering through their Ethical Gold Fund but managed by the women themselves through the VSLAs, supported by Solidaridad. The Revolving Fund’s 15,000 EUR has greatly increased financing opportunities, an invaluable asset for women looking to set up or expand their own micro-enterprises. This helps to strengthen existing women-led enterprises and allows for others to get started.  

It encourages local entrepreneurs and creates new opportunities and support networks via the financially empowered VSLAs. This allows for women to grow their businesses without relying on loans made with excessive interest rates.

‘’Through the VSLA I have been able to take up a loan without the hassle and headache of having to pay back the loan at exorbitant interest rates.’’ says Janet Asiamah owner of a food vending business in the project region.

The support of the fund has freed up the VSLAs to offer more sustainable financial service, and as such encouraged participation from local women. After one year of operation the VSLAs have saved around 6,000 EUR, of which almost 4,000 EUR has been given out as loans.  By the end of the 2020 66% of loans have already been paid back, freeing capital for further loans to other participating women. Similarly, a total of over 12.000 EUR was leant out through the revolving fund of over 6000 EUR was already repaid. 

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Ripple effect

The success of this fund will mean more than increased incomes, as it can contribute to the empowerment of women in the mining industry dominated by men. Through the VSLAs and the financial support of the Fund, these women-led groups are becoming strong drivers for businesses and have become embedded in local financial structures, giving them leverage in their society. Through discussion groups involving local women and men, the project has already helped break past cultural barriers.

This ripple effect can be seen in their interaction with local bodies. Following meetings between the women cooperative in Bibiani with mine management and local officials, the cooperative was allocated land for gold mining. The Minerals Commission is committed to supporting the cooperative in the acquisition of appropriate licenses, and will offer operational and technical guidance on mining operations.  

“Ultimately this is about empowerment. Opening up financing options for women will do a lot to embed and normalize women-led companies, but involving them in the management of the fund themselves will do much more.” says Yaw Britwum Opoku of Solidaridad. “It will promote the growth of a community of women entrepreneurs who, through the financial leverage offered by the fund and the strength of their numbers, will be able to have a real impact on their local environment, and a real say in local decisions.” 

The ripples may travel further. Leaders of nearby towns and villages have inquired about the possibility of extending the programme to their communities.

Gender Equality: Smart Business

In this project, the social dimension is crucially tied to business opportunity. Discussion groups and training provide opportunities for dialogue and debate around the role of women in the local community. Felicia Adjei from the Tarkwa area revealed that the open dialogue has helped her and her partner to become more accommodating of each other and to actively work together on decision-making.

This is a positive development and business success will provide a powerful incentive to take these conversations to the next level.

Entrepreneurs like Monica Boakye from the Golden Stars group are therefore at the heart of this project. Monica’s small business has been buying sponge gold from local miners and selling to local refiners for some time already.  The support of the Revolving Fund has allowed Monica to begin to buy much higher volumes of sponge gold, allowing her to expand her business and create deeper financial reserves. Building on this, Monica intends to set up a refinery of her own in the near future. The economic stimulus for the area serves not just the economic good of the community, but also serves as a strong argument for women entrepreneurs.

“At Kering we have set up an Ethical Gold Fund that supports projects in or around small-scale mining, to help preserve the environment around the mines, and/or to support people in the mining communities, in particular women” says Géraldine Vallejo, Sustainability Programme Director at Kering.

“Because we believe that gender equality is a strength for business, women make business more innovative, more resilient, in a word: smarter.”

Géraldine Vallejo, Sustainability Programme Director at Kering

Scaling impact

Success has created its own challenges. When the VSLA groups started to accumulate savings, they needed bank accounts to manage their finances. Solidaridad supported participants in choosing suitable banking partners and assisted in the opening of their accounts. Literacy with banks will be essential for eventually being able to access loans from financial institutions. Women were also supported with training on basic financial record-keeping, helping them to keep track of inventory, sales, expenditure and other vital data for the functioning of their enterprise.

As such, this project is a great start for the women in this region, but it will not go far enough. We call upon luxury goods brands and jewellers to join us and Kering in capturing the momentum created by the successful project model in the Tarkwa and Bibiani mining areas in Ghana, supporting women entrepreneurs in Ghana gold communities. With the positive preliminary results and local support for the replication and expansion of the project, we are confident that with their support to set up similar funds, we can turn ripples into waves. In doing so they will help to solidify the emerging position of women as a driving force for prosperity in the region.

The revolving fund builds on the basis established in the Golden Line programme. Golden Line provided a solid foundation to find project participants and engage key stakeholders during the implementation. Learn more here.

Note: Kering does not source directly from miners involved in this project. Its support is based solely on its commitment to support women empowerment and development in the area.

For more information on this please contact Carla Neefs, Solidaridad Corporate Partnerships Gold at