Achieving success in Bolga!

As my time here nears the end, it has been an incredible experience to see what kind of work is being done here in Northern Ghana. As I continue to learn about the work that Widows & Orphans Movement (WOM) does, I wanted to take this opportunity to share some success WOM has had through its Microcredit projects.

One of the major thematic areas of WOM is economic empowerment for women achieved through two Microcredit schemes, one in Bolgatanga and one in Bongo. The Bolga Microcredit Program is WOM’s flagship program that has been going on for more than 10 years and has distributed over 1,500 loans. Here is a story of Linda Adongo and how she achieved success because of WOM’s Bolga Microcredit Project.

Linda Adongo, a widow of 12 years, has been a client of for over 9 years. Her journey began slightly after her husband passed away when she had just finished learning the art of hairdressing. However, after her husband passed, Linda was not able to take care of herself, her family and her children, nor was she getting any help from others. She continued to struggle but was motivated to use her skillset as a hairdresser to make a living. In the early days, she used to weave and cater to women outside under a Neem tree. This gained the attention of an NGO which helped with funding for an actual store.

Although Linda had a store, she was still struggling to make strives with her business because she was not able to have enough hairpieces, materials or even clients to help generate business. As a result, she found her way to the WOM office to apply for her first loans. With her first loans, she was slowly able to attract more and more clients. In recent years, she continues to take out loans with WOM, and uses the money to travel to the south (Accra or Kumasi) to purchase more hair pieces, nails, and other materials that differentiate her from other competitors. Prior to this, her clients would have to purchase the piece they want from the market, and then come to Linda. However, with Linda having her own hair pieces and materials, she has created for herself an additional revenue stream because she can now charge for the materials and the service. With her profit, Linda can pay for her children’s school fees and hire other employees to help. The loans she takes Linda has expanded her business to include manicures and pedicures, and purchased a new pedicure machine.

Looking forward, Linda has plans to start an apprenticeship program for others that want to learn hairdressing. Currently, she already teaches and mentors other girls to become hairdressers, some of whom come back and work for her. Because her store is close to a school, Linda is looking to further expand her business for students and parents to buy school supplies and books from her shop. Not only has her business succeeded, but Linda has become more business-minded and confident since taking loans with WOM. She is also a large advocate and support of the work WOM does as she continues to refer her friends to WOM.

Due to the success of the Bolga Microcredit Project, WOM expanded their Microcredit Project into Bongo, a district approximately 20 km north of Bolgatanga, at the beginning of 2016. During its first full year, WOM has disbursed over 250 loans to widows and widow groups. I was lucky enough to talk with Madam Felicia on her journey with WOM and the success she has been having as a result of WOM’s Microcredit Project.

Madam Felicia Azubire has been a widow for approximately ten years now and currently takes care of her five grandchildren. Ever since Madam Felicia was widowed, and her own children were very young, she struggled to care for and provide food for her children, and even – to a point that she was hospitalized due to a high stress level.

In efforts to make money, Madam Felicia started her own business by making and selling malt because millet is relatively cheap and the demand for malt is high. Malt is made from red millet, and then can be used to brew a local drink called pito. Madam Felicia used to benefit from loans from other organizations, but they were never enough and didn’t allow her to make a large enough quantity to make enough money. With small quantities, pito suppliers must buy from a variety of malt suppliers, and the money that gets distributed is very little. Prior to her loans with WOM, Madam Felicia would make only about 20 cedis (approximately 6 CAD) a day and was unable to make food or pay for her children and grandchildren’s school fees.

Madam Felicia has been with the Bongo Project for almost 8 months now, and has received a second loan, upon repayment of her first loan. Not only has she never defaulted on any of her payments, but she has also been the leader of her widows group (11 people). Today, she can buy large quantities of millet to make lots of malt. Pito suppliers buy their entire malt supply from her, and Felicia makes up to 50 cedis (approximately 15 CAD) per bowl! She claims that has WOM allowed her to increase her business, and has opened her eyes to a savings account. Madam Felicia says that every time she makes money, she can save a little money, and revert to her savings account in times of need. Today, when her grandchildren come to her and ask for money, she is now able to provide for them. Madam Felicia sees this as an opportunity to make up for all the times she was not able to take care of her own children, she can take care of her daughter’s children. Her success has extended beyond her business; Madam Felicia is now more confident and gained many leadership skills as she leads her group to meet regularly. As we look to the future, Madam Felicia only expects for her business to expand. She is now using her second loan to buy pigs so they can multiple and she can start to sell piglets as well!  

James Thalla-Joel is working as a Financial Management Specialist with ACIC partner Widows and Orphans Movement (WOM) in Ghana.