By Emilie Kimball
In May, WIP volunteers Sarah Austen, Sarah Casanolia, and Kiley O'Brien helped to set up and organize a website which would promote four cultural workshops run by the Ghanaian women members of WIP. The workshops include learning to Batik, learning the Kpatsa dance and the use of the "talking drums," learning how to prepare traditional Ghanaian cuisine, and a glimpse of a Ghanaian fishing village and insight into a fisherman's way of life.
Sarah Casanolia visited several hotels in the Cape Coast and Elmina area as well as in Accra, in order to introduce WIP's expeditions to a broader crowd to attract more attention. She left posters explaining what Ghana Expeditions had to offer in exchange for advertising the hotel on the new website. Sarah Austen and Kiley O'Brien focused on designing and writing interesting content to put on the website to interest the tourist masses.
Participation in these traditional African workshops generates income for the local women and helps tourists expand their knowledge of many aspects of the Ghanaian culture. These workshops last about a half a day (3-4 hours) and are run by motivated women such as Antoinette who leads the drumming and dance workshop. In 1999 she received the Art and Critics and Reviewers Award which is given out by the National Theatre in Accra.
Sarah Austen, Sarah Casanolia, and Kiley O'Brien created the website to generate more awareness of the Ghana Expeditions aspect of the WIP program. Check out the website now at http://www.ghanaexpeditions.com
Gifty Saah started her career as a teacher, but lost her job when her family was evicted from their home in1997. When her family (husband and two children) found a new residence, she was unable to find a suitable job, so she began rejuvenating used t-shirts with bright batik and tie-dye designs for tourists. Gifty loves batiking because she can produce original, artistic goods and, given the opportunity, creativity flows from her heart. She launched "Giftex Impex" and operated her business in the back of a woman's house in exchange for training her children in batiking. However, after five years her family was evicted again and her husband also lost his job. They were forced to live in substandard living conditions and she worried about the environment's effect on her children. She did not give up and began door-to-door sales to find more reliable customers at restaurants and hotels. The income from these smaller local sales was still not enough to support her family to her expectations. As a member of Progressive Women's Credit Union, Gifty found Global Mamas and has:
- Increased revenue nearly 10 times as a result of batiking cloth for Global Mamas apparel.
- Kept careful records so she can follow through on a plan she created for growing her business.
- Saved over 40% of her profits that she will use for future business expansion.
- Learned computer basics Quickbooks so she can manage her orders, inventory, cashflow, vendors, bills & supplies
- Was able to receive a loan through the Pelican Group to help her purchase additional materials in advance of new contracts and client orders.
- Brought on 1 full-time worker and 3 new apprentices.
- Redeemed an old debt of 5M cedis (~$556).
- Paid for utilities that were previously shut off.
- Paid the school fees of her three children that had previously been sacked from school due to nonpayment.
- Paid advance on part of a community house that is satisfactory for her children.
Continuing efforts to grow its customer base and support the women of Ghana, Global Mamas has expanded its web site, www.globalmamas.com, and will develop a new collection with several items for babies and women in summer 2005.
The expanded collection will include new styles of baby dresses and women’s skirts and dresses. Alice de Kruijs, a WIP volunteer and fashion designer, is working with WIP leadership and retailers in the United States and Europe to create the updated styles. She will also develop new batik patterns and embroidery designs.
In addition, in March, Women in Progress launched a new Handcrafting section of its web site. The pages contain information on the crafts of batiking, tie-dying and sewing, designed to attract more customers and other traffic to the site.
The Handcrafting section includes directions on how to batik and tie-dye. The step-by-step instructions use photos and short instructional videos featuring the Global Mamas to describe the batik and tie-dye process.
The language in each Handcrafting section has been optimized for search engines. Using Internet research, WIP included specific key words searched most often to ensure that its site will appear higher on popular search engines like Google and Yahoo.
WIP created the Handcrafting section with the goals of educating its consumers about the way its products are created, and increasing overall traffic to its eCommerce site.
In March, WIP accepted two new seamstresses, Charlotte Bart-Plange and Hannah “Mansa” Darbah. The women were selected through an application process agreed upon by the WIP members at their February meeting.
Charlotte Bart-Plange, a native of Cape Coast, began sewing almost 25 years ago. She worked out of her home and struggled to find consistent business to keep her afloat.
Charlotte once had apprentices, but had to let them go when she didn’t have enough business. Charlotte worked hard and succeeded in securing ten permanent clients, and was able to move into her own store three months ago.
With her new profits sewing men’s shirts for Global Mamas, Charlotte hopes to bring on more employees. “They will help me expand my business,” says Charlotte.
Mansa, owner of “When Jesus Says”, has been a seamstress in Cape Coast for the last seven years. She opened her own shop three years ago. She runs a successful business, but knew that she could do more.
Mansa has begun sewing Global Mamas’ new yoga bags. She will take on more projects as the clothing line expands.
With her new profits, she plans to expand her business in several ways. She would like to move to a new store, take on new apprentices and employees and buy a new electric sewing machine.
“I am so happy,” says Mansa, of her new work with Women in Progress.
by Comfort Koomson
It is good for a man and a woman to get married and have children because a man cannot stay alone, and neither can a woman. Marriage is a living creature, something we consider natural. It is in our Holy Bible that, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created male and female” (Genesis 1:27). And also in verse 28 it says, “God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.” A woman alone cannot have a baby; neither can a man, but the two of them can together have a baby. So it is the responsibility of both of them to look after the children. Both of them should sit and plan out the upbringing of the children. They are the gift of God to them. They have to make sure they do not do anything on their own; instead, they should plan everything together. Both of them should decide everything by the sharing of ideas. This is important in every marriage to help the family stay together. Also keep in mind that the man is the head of every family. If the man and the woman do not agree on anything, and they do not sit down to discuss anything concerning the marriage together, separation will come. This will break down the marriage, and the family will never stay together.
Comfort Koomson is the owner/manager of New Era Textiles and has been working with Women in Progress for over a year. Her motto is: “Determination is the key to success!”
In May 2000 the U.S. Congress passed the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which serves to promote the economic and political development of Sub-Saharan African countries. To facilitate this, AGOA encourages Sub-Saharan African countries to work towards good governance, the rule of law, and a market-based economy. This is reflected in the criteria used to assess the eligibility of each country. AGOA also provides eligible countries the opportunity to export goods duty-free and quota-free into the U.S. In turn, this will assist economic development and strengthen U.S.-African trade relations.
In March 2002 Ghana was designated as an eligible country under AGOA. It has also been designated as a Lesser Developed Country which provides Ghana with even greater trade benefits. More specifically, as a Lesser Developed Country, organizations such as Women in Progress have the ability to export hand-made apparel sewn from the cloth of any country. As it is difficult to get cloth locally, this extended benefit serves Women in Progress well.
Under the current legislation, the benefit to Lesser Developed Countries only extends until September 30, 2004. Fortunately, a new bill called AGOA Bill III is currently before Congress, and it proposes to extend the benefit until September 30, 2007. The additional time would help Women in Progress to jump start our full-scale exporting program. Thus, we are hopeful that the new deadline will be extended.
Rita Cobbald, 23, the youngest Global Mamas seamstress, opened her own store in October. The new Rita’s Designs location stands on busy Master Sam Road, north of Cape Coast’s Kotokuraba Market. The store has helped Rita gain more customers as well as increased confidence in her business.
Before joining Women in Progress in May 2004, Rita worked out of her home. She had financial problems and found it hard to feel motivated. She later shared a small space with a friend. Rita then joined Global Mamas and saved enough money with her consistent profits to open the new store.
Rita says that her new store has more space and keeps her busy. “I feel more comfortable about the store because when I was in the house, sometimes you feel lazy because you are not doing anything,” she says. “But when I came to the store, you always find yourself busy doing something.”
“That is why I like the store,” she says. “Because the place is more lovely, and we enjoy it. We don’t have to stay in the house anymore.”
Rita has been able to hire a new employee, take on an apprentice and pay off an old retail debt. Her next goal is to buy a new sewing machine.
In September, Women in Progress opened a new Global Mamas store on busy Kingsway Street in Cape Coast. The new location provides a tremendous opportunity to market WIP’s products and workshops in the profitable local tourist market.
The spacious new store carries all of the Global Mamas product line and additional items produced by WIP batikers, seamstresses and apprentices. The store shares space with the well-known Cape Café, a popular eatery among tourists that is mentioned in major tour guides like Lonely Planet and Bradt Guide to Ghana.
The Kingsway store is the second Global Mamas location in Cape Coast. In August, WIP opened a smaller location in the Cape Coast Castle, one of the Central Region’s most popular tourist locations. Women in Progress’ new expanded offices are also now located behind the store.
Grace Osam-Pinanko, a new WIP employee, manages the store fulltime with the help of volunteers. The Global Mamas store is open 9 AM – 8 PM Monday through Friday, 10 AM – 8 PM on Saturdays and 12 PM – 4 PM on Sundays.
By Gifty Saal
With the declaration of the golden age of business by the current government, women have not been left out! There has been a lot of encouragement from the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs and quite a number of NGOs, one of which is Women in Progress, to help small business women acquire business skills and enable them to expand their businesses.
With the forth-coming presidential elections, the major issues to be raised when helping Ghanaian small business woman helps in extending the “life” of the income purse in the home are the following:
- What trade policies will the next president initiate and support?
- Will he have the welfare of the small business woman at heart?
- Will there be any changes in taxation that may adversely affect small businesses?
- What will the government do to promote investor confidence and attract foreign direct investments?
- Will the current healthy business atmosphere be sustained to enable small businesses to thrive?
These are the burning issues on the minds of the up-and-coming small business women. I strongly believe these issues can be addressed if women are educated to have a positive attitude toward voting and to study carefully each presidential manifesto in order to make a right and objective choice.
Gifty Saal is the owner/manager of Giftex Impex, a batiking enterprise in Cape Coast. With Gifty’s positive attitude, keen business mind, and artistic ability, she is well equipped to quickly expand her business through international trade.
Global Mamas is the brand name for apparel and accessories produced by many small business women in Ghana through the facilitation of Women in Progress (WIP). In addition to looking for export markets abroad to generate income for women in Ghana, WIP also is focusing closer to home to develop international markets.
Tourism in Ghana is on the rise and it represents provides another lucrative avenue, closer to home, for generating sales. On its first venture, WIP partnered with one small woman-owned business, Eli-Emma Batik, in August to sell goods at the Cape Coast castle. During the first week in September, WIP also opened its own Global Mamas store at the well-known Kingsway location in Cape Coast. The store is sharing space with the popular restaurant Cape Cafe, which is recognized by several tourist guidebooks (such as Lonely Planet and the Brandt Guide.) Each woman batiking or sewing products for the store has also shown her commitment by volunteering in the store monthly.
Other exciting partnerships have also developed outside of Cape Coast. Wild Gecko in Accra has placed several orders for batik apparel this summer and has also generated orders for Global Mamas products from US retailers. Novica.com, an affiliate of National Geographic that helps artisans in developing nations, has also agreed to sell Global Mamas products on their website. The site should be launching early fall 2004. WIP is thankful to everyone’s hard work in making Global Mamas a reality!