“When I didn’t have a loan, I couldn’t take care of the children myself. We only ate one meal a day. I didn’t have any say in how things were run in the family. I couldn’t see a way out of the poverty we were in” Lucy, a Deki Entrepreneur 

Developing Leaders Though Women’s Empowerment Collectives in Togo, West Africa

 

When a woman is empowered, the whole community benefits. By supporting a woman to work her way out of poverty you are empowering her to become a decision maker in her home and community.

In Togo, West Africa, where Deki works, nearly half of women between 15 and 24 can’t read or write. Girls often have to sacrifice their education to take on waged work to support their family’s income, or stay home to care for sick or elderly family members.

Nearly a quarter of women in Togo are married under the age of 19 years old and half of these women go on to have children within the first year of marriage. With little or no access to family planning advice and contraception, women are trapped in a cycle of poverty.  

Women often bear the responsibility for meeting their family’s needs but with little education and no capital to start a sustainable business, they are unable to work their way out of poverty.

 

When a woman has her own source of income and learns that she has her own voice, she becomes empowered to make the changes she wants to see for her family and in her community, becoming a role model for the next generation.

This is why we have created the Women’s Empowerment Collectives. With your support we can continue to address gender inequality by empowering female entrepreneurs through learning and support. The collectives are solidarity groups where women can come together to learn their rights, to find their voice and learn how to create a successful business.

When a woman first finds out about Deki she will often have an idea for a business that she’d like to create but she doesn’t yet have the skills and resources to make it happen.

By supporting Deki you’re giving a woman the opportunity to join a 12-week training programme where she can build her confidence and learn everything she needs to create a business that will support her family.

 The training sessions and workshops build up trust between the women and creates group cohesion. Leaders from the group are elected to become the group’s President, Treasurer and Secretary. This is often the first time a woman has been given a leadership position, so she is supported in her new role by the IADES field agents and the rest of the group.

 After the initial 12 weeks of training the women have a better understanding of the type of businesses that they want to build and how to make it successful.

The members of the group then receive their first small loan of around £150, which they use to buy the assets that they need to start a business.

We’ve supported many different businesses during the last 11 years, from dress makers and soap makers to goat and chicken rearers and smallhold farmers.

 However, a loan of this size might be too big, and some women will often need to start with a smaller start-up loan, some of the first loans are for only £20. This minimises the risk whilst allowing women to learn how to manage their money and businesses before taking on a bigger loan.

Our Women’s Empowerment Collectives meet fortnightly for the duration of their loan cycle. The meetings all include a training session, an opportunity to make a loan repayment and the chance to swap experiences and share advice with the other women and new business owners.

 The business training workshops include modules in risk management and customer service, basic bookeeping, inventory management, product promotion and the dangers of selling on credit. This training programme is vital to ensure that all of our Deki entrepreneurs are well equipped to manage their loans confidently and responsibly. The sessions also allow for group workshops to learn about women’s rights and family planning.

 Meeting regularly provides a space for women to build their social networks and for collective problem solving where they can support each other in their businesses and to discuss family issues.

Only one in three women in Togo have access to a bank account, so we provide training in how to manage finances both in the home and in their business. Including the difference between working capital and profit, so that the women learn how to invest into their business long term.

This programme is designed to create a supportive and enabling environment for women to increase their skills, resources and agency, to grow their confidence as well as their income.

It is a place for women to come together and support each other, as women, as mothers, as friends and as business owners. It is where they have the opportunities to learn how to make the changes they want to see in their lives and start to work their way out of a life of poverty.

Help us with our vision to create a world of opportunity, not poverty