Abigail Ghama, a 54-year-old cocoa farmer with 20 years of experience, was encouraged to take an active role in decision-making in her community after undergoing training in gender inclusivity, leadership and financial literacy. Today, Abigail is the first female president of the Asikasu Cocoa Society Farmers’ Association in the Eastern region of Ghana.
The making of a president
In 2019, Solidaridad organized a women’s empowerment workshop for beneficiary communities in the Asikasu area. Abigail, together with other women in her community, received training on how to develop a savings culture through the Village Savings and Loan Association scheme, financial literacy, records keeping, gender and leadership, as well as alternative livelihood initiatives. The goal was to enable them to build agency and resilience, be financially independent and empowered to take a proactive role in decision-making.
Having learnt the art of public speaking, effective communication, group dynamics and equality from leadership and gender training, Abigail who was the association’s treasurer at the time took the initiative to contest with two other men for the position of president when nominations were opened in 2019 for the election of executives for the association. She got 80% of the total votes, thus becoming the first woman to vie for and win that position in her community.
“I always knew I had leadership traits, but I did not have an opportunity to nurture it. Thanks to Solidaridad’s women empowerment training through the Cocoa Life programme, I have been emboldened to make my voice heard and contribute to decision-making in my community,” says Abigail.
Abigail’s commitment to empowering other women
Abigail has been a member of her community’s Village Savings and Loan Association group since 2019. Prior to the formation of the VSLA, Abigail and another female member from her group — comprising 27 members, benefited from training in soap making. After the training, they received funding support from Solidaridad to produce soap for commercial purposes. The association also supported them with additional funding. Since then, they have been producing and selling locally made soap.
Abigail is leading the group to have their soap products certified by the Ghana Food and Drugs Authority — the sector regulator — to enable them to export the soaps to other countries.
Under her leadership, the Asikasu Cocoa Society Farmers’ Association has also bought a piece of land to establish a community centre that can be used to hold events and various training sessions.
She adds that through Solidaridad’s training on gender she does not get saddled with household chores, as the men — including her husband — have also been trained to take part in household chores, and see their partners as co-contributors to household expenditure.
“Women are a catalyst for change and are essential for cocoa-growing communities to thrive and as such empowering them on an individual, household and community level strengthens the impact of the Cocoa Life programme,” Kwame Boadi Apau, coordinator for the Cocoa Life programme, says.
Kwame indicates that he is elated with what Abigail has been able to achieve for herself, her family and her entire community with the support of the programme.
He says other women and young girls who have witnessed what Abigail has achieved are now inspired to take up leadership roles to contribute to development in the community.
Gender mainstreaming under Cocoa Life
The Cocoa Life programme funded by Mondelez International uses gender mainstreaming as an approach to ensure that different groups of people participate in the implementation of the project and get equipped to take a proactive role in decision-making in their communities through economic empowerment.
Under Cocoa Life, 268 new Village Savings and Loan Association have been formed. The programme has also trained 3,009 beneficiaries made up of 1,996 males and 1,013 females in various additional livelihood enterprises like snailery, bead and soap making, and value addition to oil palm.
So far, 1,365 women have benefited from the training in financial literacy while 2,509 women have benefited from the gender inclusivity training under the Cocoa Life programme.