I arrive at the group meeting spot, where approximately 60 women are gathered on a shady verandah. They start waving in surprise when they see me, and call out melodious greetings. “You are welcome, you are welcome.”
Today is loan disbursement day, where these two groups will receive their requested loan amounts from Grameen Ghana
, a microfinance institution based in northern Ghana with a focus on providing group loans to financially underserved women borrowers in rural northern communities. Under the group loan model, the loan is guaranteed by the members through social collateral. Because no physical collateral or mandatory savings are required, women who otherwise would have difficulty accessing a traditional loan have an opportunity at much-needed financial inclusion.
Prior to taking out a loan, new groups are provided with a 6-week training program, called “Credit with Education” (CWE). Through this program, women establish a strong financial understanding of their loan and increase their chances of successful loan repayment, in addition to building a strong network with fellow member friends and Grameen Ghana. The care and mutual respect between the group members and credit officers are very apparent.
“A picture is worth a thousand words” is not a clichéd quote for nothing; one of my favorite parts of Kiva is being able to see the loan recipients through the pictures on the borrower profiles. When dealing with large groups such as the ones Grameen Ghana lends to, the Kiva picture-taking process needs a combination of laughter and a quick photo-trigger finger.
The first group I was able to visit calls themselves Yinesongti
, which means “It is you who will help us,” referring to God. The interviewed group member, Amina, sells clothes at a local market, and is using her loan to purchase more clothes for resale. As a widow, she hopes to use the income to help support her children and pay for their school fees. She jokingly receives a marriage proposal from the credit manager, but has to decline with a smile. Better luck next time.
In preparation for the photo, the Yinesongti members assemble themselves into prime position, with much bustle and arrangement (unfortunately not fully captured in this static photo).
A member’s fashionable hairstyle is too tall and blocks her friend’s face; cue good-natured laughter and additional shuffling.
Amina proudly holds her bag high (which helps identify her easily in the group picture as the interviewed borrower). The bag gets a little too high.
The bag is shifted, and a few snaps later, the picture is complete and ready for Kiva (see picture here
Everyone flocks to the credit officer (who is the person who handles loan disbursement and repayments in the field) to catch a glimpse of how the picture turned out.
Everyone wants to see…
The second group has chosen to call themselves Nawun-Yiko
, which means “In God’s Grace”. The woman elected by the group to be the interviewed member is Esther, who is a widow and has two children. She will use her portion of the group to buy onions for resale, and hopes that the income will help support her children and her family.
The members of this group (Esther included) conduct business from their market stalls, located in a prime spot near a toll booth on a busy road leading to the city of Bolgatanga. Many large cargo trucks also travel on this road on their way to and from neighboring Burkina Faso, carrying a wide assortment of goods. Often, the occasional worker (or two, or three) will be sitting on top of the truck and cargo.
When these vehicles stop at the toll booth, the strategically located market stalls sell things like vegetables, roasted maize, cold drinks, and phone credit.
Whenever a truck rolls by, the workers will often buy some vegetables or drinks for the road. The sellers need to be fast – there isn’t too much time to make the transaction. This seller jogs alongside the truck to complete her exchange.
As you can imagine, the challenge with this (large!) group is getting everyone to sit still to take a group picture. Whenever a vehicle drives by, you can tell some members are itching to dart away quickly to make a sale.
Enough members are amassed….and the picture is taken! Success (you can see the picture here
If you would like to support hard-working women groups like Yinesongti and Nawun-Yiko, look for Grameen Ghana’s loans on http://www.kiva.org.