Yesterday, I got my first taste of a full day in the VEG (Village Exchange Ghana) office in downtown Ho. The office is shared by three sections: reproductive health and women’s empowerment education, microfinance, and a bead making and batiking (cloth dying and sewing) business.
Even though each operation has their own separate part of the office, they are connected in every way (or are supposed to be, but more about that later). VEG focuses on helping disadvantaged women, so each of these areas plays a part in empowering them and pulling them out of poverty.
The young women are educated on the perils of teenage pregnancy and the prevention of STD’s, especially HIV. To allow the women to become even more independent, VEG can provide jobs to these women in the areas of batiking and bead making. Once they are financially self-sufficient, they gain self-esteem, becoming more proud of their purpose in life. No longer do they have to chase after men in order to put food on their children’s plates. Once they have useful vocational skills, the microfinance section can help them start their own businesses or expand already existing ones.
In theory, everyone would work together with the same people, passing them along to the next section of VEG as needed. But of course, this view is not universally accepted. In any organization, it is often hard to see the big picture. It is no different in Ghana. Hopefully, however, we can help pull everyone back together on the same page. You can’t have one piece without the other.
On Thursday, a few of us will go with Kofi, the social mission director, and Felix, the loan officer, to three villages just outside Ho. Every Thursday is repayment day for outstanding loans, so a trip must be made to each group in the villages to collect money from each partner that has taken out a loan. Felix will lead the collections as Kofi will give a presentation on useful business skills for entrepreneurs. This is a new system that VEG has just implemented this year, but hopefully it will increase the success of the small businesses that receive the loans.