Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Womens Trust- Microfinance in Pokuase, Ghana

In April of 2007 I documented the work of Womens Trust, a non profit organization that empowers women by supporting programs that allows women to be entrepreneurs. The primary focus of Womens Trust is the poor and very poor women and girls of Pokuase Ghana. The empowerment of women is accomplished through a microlending program where groups of women initially receive a loan of $55 each for 4 months and the next loan is granted only when each member of the group pays off the first loan. Fifty five dollars actually goes a long way in a village where most women earn only between $1-$2 dollars per day.

During my short stay in Pokuase, at first I did not understand how these very small loans could make any difference. As I met and photographed many of the recipients of these micro loans, I observed a great sense of pride and hopefulness in these women. This psychological empowerment is not to be underestimated as it gives women the strength to improve their lives by moderating the size of their families, and placing a higher value on educating their children.

The bottom of the economic ladder. Those who have no other work go to the open pit mine outside of town and crack rocks all day long in the hot African sun for $1 per day. ( The crushed rocks are used for building materials).

This woman was incredibly strong. She continually walked up and down the trail of this open pit mine carrying what I estimated to be between 100- 125 pounds of rocks on her head. She was given a loan by Womens Trust so she could hire additional people to work for her and make a profit from her hard work.

Business is even as basic as selling used clothes.

This woman worked incredibly hard- preparing and selling cooked food. She also had 8 children to support and was separated from her husband.

All cooking is done with either wood or charcoal. This woman supports her family by selling cans of charcoal.

Hairdressers are an important part of the local economy.

The biggest baking business in town- she produced 2000 breads or rolls each day.

One of the main business was the baking business- mostly consisting of white bleached flour breads.


Probably the biggest business I photographed in Pokuase- the beer business.

Main flour supplier to many of the village bakers

Monday, August 13, 2007

My first set of posting are from my recent trip to Ghana where I documented some of the grantees for the Global Fund for Women. I was particularly impressed by the work of the Women’s Hope Foundation(WHF) in Kumasi, Ghana. They operate out of no more than a tiny, tiny storefront and try to do so much with such very little resources. The constituents that this NGO services are extremely poor. This photo is of the main street of the community WHF services.

Children bathing

A front porch

Stylish young girl playing

One of the proudest achievements of the Women’s Hope Foundation was to elect this women as a state representative.

Here she is with an orphan whose parents have died of AIDS. There are many such children in this community and there are no orphanages. WHF provides the only social support and they simply find other families who are extremely impoverished as well to take these children into their homes.

The following three photos are of orphans and the women who is responsible for caring for them.

More orphaned children

Orphaned boy. The women is his grandmother who is shown processing palm oil and is his main caretaker.

Playing with bottle tops- These orphaned children seem to live in a compound and I don’t believe they have access to educational possibilities.

Two sisters- AIDS orphans

As far as I know, most of the previous photos of the orphans, none of them have AIDS. This is not true of the next set of images. When I first arrived in Kumasi, I was very warmly welcomed. WHF arranged for these children who actually have AIDS to come and meet me. Thinking I was an important dignitary, they got dressed in their finest clothes. Here is a brother and sister, both who have AIDS.

Another young man with AIDS- his symptom were apparent even to me in the fragility of him limbs and the glassiness of his eyes.

This is the saddest of all the photos for me. I don’t know where he got this suit- perhaps it belonged to his father but the chances are slim that he will live long enough to grow into this suit.
It is clear that many more resources are needed to approach and deal with the epidemic of AIDS. The work that WHF was doing with such very little resources was truly heroic. I’ll be posting some more photos from their project but to my mind, education and women’s reproductive healthcare are cornerstones for dealing with poverty and AIDS. I inadvertently documented a community of women in Ghana where there was no family planning or educational opportunities. The birth rate was 10 or higher, there were no schools to attend, children worked with their parents from the earliest age possible, and, from what I was told, parents sold some of their children to support the rest of their families. I also had the privilege of documenting a microfinance project in Pokuase Ghana run by the Women’s Trust Foundation and found that to be a very positive model for improving the lives of people in the community. I will be posting images from this work at a later date.