“I really didn’t want it to be this way. I just feel lost now, and I’m really confused about what to do.”
— Anita Amenuveve
(This is the second in a serious of interviews I am doing with some of the microfinance borrowers I am working with here in Ghana. This story is particularly mindblowing for me because she is only two years younger than me. The fact that she attacks life with so much drive and passion despite her hardship shows the true spirit of a Ghanaian. One of my fellow volunteers commented, “She’s just a little girl.” That may be true, but she shows the heart of someone much more mature).
Barely a teenager adult, Anita Amenuveve was stuck with the hardest crossroads of her short life. Having come from a family of eight children supported by peasant farmer parents, Anita was in a situation where food and money was already scarce. But now there was another mouth to feed.
During junior high school at the age of 13, Anita got pregnant. With not enough provisions for eight, adding a ninth child to feed, clothe, and house was not an option for Anita’s parents. So they made her leave the house and live with her uncle in the neighboring village where the father of her child also lived. In Ghana, if a young man gets a young woman pregnant, as a social formality the two must marry. Anita eventually moved in with the 24 year old father, a peasant farmer barely able to support himself, let alone a wife and an infant.
Anita gave birth to Caleb in February 2011. Caring for the baby took up too much time, so she had to drop out of school. Anita knew that in order to support her son, she could not rely on the meager provisions her husband could provide. Anita started to work for a peanut seller in the village, earning a commission on every small bag of peanuts that she sold.
When VEG came to her village, she attended some of the initial prospective borrower meetings. Encouraged by other women who were taking out loans, Anita applied and was accepted for a loan of 50 cedis (about $33 or €50). She is using the money bit by bit, making sure every piece of it is invested properly. Anita has been able to start her own business selling raw peanuts door to door in the village, using the money from the loan to buy a large supply of peanuts. Each day, Anita is able to sell about 30 small bags for 0.20 cedis each. She plans to roast many of the excess peanuts, storing them until peanut season is over. At that time, the price of peanuts will rise considerably, netting her a much better profit than she can earn right now (lack of schooling does not mean lack of a sharp mind).
Anita goes hungry many nights. She eats at her uncle’s house when she can, but he has many children so he cannot always provide for her. Meals from her husband are few and far between, but sometimes his parents give them a little help. With the new money she is making from her peanut business, Anita hopes to create a more stable eating situation for Caleb and herself.
Anita desperately wants to return to school, but she has no money to pay for it (only primary education is free in Ghana). She must save the profits from her peanut business in order to have enough money for tuition once Caleb is old enough to leave her side. She talks of “being somebody” when she is older, and she says an education is the only way to achieve that goal. Her dream is to work in a Ghanaian bank and be able to provide her son with a great lifestyle. At age 15, she is working hard to support herself, and doing an amazing job of it.
Even though she is in a horrible situation, Anita has been able to use her microloan to start herself on a path towards success and a better life. Just another case of microfinance giving unfortunate situations a little bit of hope.