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How Mercy became an entrepreneur

A woman’s hand holds a green Village Savings and Loans Association passbook

Village Savings and Loans Associations allow community members to invest in one another

A few years ago, Mercy had almost lost hope. With no job, few skills and complete dependency on her husband, she could barely afford the basic life necessities for her children.

Like so many women in Ghana, Mercy had been pulled out of school as a child, and, without an education, had no way of earning an income. About 50% of women in Mercy's community are illiterate, compared to 28% of males, making it increasingly difficult to escape the cycle of poverty.

By age 35, Mercy had given birth to 6 children, though she and her husband could barely support them.

The meagre proceeds that came from their family farm were controlled by her husband, and Mercy got very little for household and family expenses, such as food, medicine and school fees. Like Mercy and her family, more than 50% of Ghana’s 24 million people live on less than $2 a day.

A woman dressed in floral prints and a green headscarf bends over in a field as she works.

Mercy keeps busy with her agricultural investments.

Thankfully, Mercy got the chance to change her life for the better through her involvement in a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA); an initiative funded by Plan through community sponsorship. Once Mercy was enrolled in a group with other women from her village, she started attending skills training sessions on a wide range of issues, from household management to financial literacy and small business development.

Next, she took on odd jobs at the farms of other community members, in order to make whatever money she could, and start saving and pooling funds with the others in her group.

A Birds-eye-view perspective of a woman counting money in a bowl.

Mercy increased her earning potential, and her quality of life, after just one VSLA-issued loan.

After making small contributions for 8 months, Mercy then took out a loan of about $200 to try to improve the family’s income by investing in cash crops, such as vegetables, mango, cassava and cashews. She successfully paid off that loan and soon took out a second one for $400, which she is using to expand the farm.

Mercy’s success has proven that positive results are possible when we invest in women. Testament to the untapped potential of women to contribute to family finances and the local economy, she has not only achieved economic security as the family breadwinner, but she now also employs 20 other people!

Through Plan-initiated family planning courses, both Mercy and her husband have also developed a strategy for empowering their children by making education a financial priority. Ever since her husband started attending training about male involvement in the home, Mercy has found him increasingly receptive and supportive as a partner and parent. “The project has not been of help to me alone, but the whole community. The training and education has influenced both males and females. Men support their partners with household chores now,” she said.

“I never knew my life could turn around like this. Not only can I pay for my children’s medical bills and school fees, but I am now somebody in the community.”