Sandra Takes Control

young women stands smiling

Sandra, February 2016


Sandra is a forty-year-old woman from Kwaso, a rural community in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. Sandra dropped out of junior high school at age 19 when she became pregnant with her first and only child. Girls are not allowed to go to school while pregnant, and there was never an opportunity to go back to school to complete her education after her son was born. She decided to sell fruits to earn a living.

Sandra was never able to marry the father of her child her because her family refused to give him her hand in marriage due to existing tribal conflicts between the two families, and the fact that Sandra was not ready for marriage at the time. It pains Sandra that after her son was born, he was sent to live with his father because she was struggling to provide for him on her own.

Returns from the sale of fruits were not encouraging, so Sandra’s mother taught her to prepare and sell kenkey, a fermented corn-based food. Sandra would wake up very early in the morning to prepare and sell kenkey in her community and assist her mother by working on her farm. She used the earnings from this business to provide for herself. Sandra’s mother, who incidentally raised Sandra as a single mother herself, was a member of Self-Help International’s micro-credit program at Kwaso. She introduced Sandra to Madam Olivia, the leader of the group at Kwaso, who then invited Sandra to SHI’s micro-credit program to improve her financial situation.

Sandra joined the micro-credit program in 2012 and took out her first loan of GHC 100 (US $25).  She continued to work hard selling kenkey to make ends meet, though it was a struggle.  Then in May and June of 2015, SHI’s micro-credit program organized a series of training sessions to teach women at Kwaso to make additional businesses out of beads, including how to make earrings, necklaces, bracelets and casual flip-flop sandals locally called “Charlie,” a type of rubber slip-on designed to be worn when bathing. Recently, most people have learned to modify the designs on the slip-on and now it serves other purposes as well. “Charlie” can now be worn to many places such as markets, church, and funerals.

a group of women observes beads and learns to make beaded products

Learning bead-making, May 2015

a group of women observes a beaded necklace

Learning bead-making, May 2015

After the workshops, Sandra decided to make a business out of the beads by making and selling these decorative sandals during special occasions, especially funerals. Since last August, Sandra now has two sources of income: vending kenkey and selling “Charlie.” Sandra has built her creditworthiness up and is now taking out a loan of GHC 600 (US $150), which she invests in her two businesses.

Last August, Self-Help organized additional training sessions on the importance of savings and then helped fifty-nine women to open their very first bank accounts. After years of living hand-to-mouth, Sandra now has a formal savings account with a commercial bank!

Because of her hard work, Sandra has been able to save some money to acquire a piece of land, and she is preparing to build a house and move out of her family home for the first time. Sandra is self-reliant now. She is a proud woman who feels empowered by Self-Help and the lovely people surrounding her. She believes SHI’s micro-credit and her family’s support has brought her this far. She is forever grateful to SHI and its donors across the globe.

Sandra holds a pair of Charlie sandals and stands behind her beaded products

Sandra shows off her beaded products at the September 2015 Women’s Leadership Summit