Young woman creates safe space for female-owned businesses in Ghana
Women’s Haven Africa is less than 2km away from the Kumasi Metropolis in the Ashanti region of Ghana and is founded by Adwoa Fosua Owusu Ofori, a 26-year-old entrepreneur who also heads the business hub.
For the past 6 years, Adwoa has gained experience working with entrepreneurs and businesses.
'I have worked with both men and women at grassroots hubs and what I realised was that most of the projects and the programmes that were being run were patronised by men because they weren’t tailored towards women. They did not provide the support women needed and so it did not create the space for women to first, attract them and second, give them the motivation to stay on and learn. Aside from that, there is a wider gender gap when it comes to technology, entrepreneurship and leadership.'
Led on by this passion to help women, Adwoa decided to start Women’s Haven Africa, 'There was a need for us to create Women’s Haven where we would really focus 100% on women and be able to provide that support for them- a safe space, re-orient their minds as they come in here to see other women doing stuff that are in male-dominated fields. That motivates them. They also come to see female leaders because about 90% of the leaders at the hub are also women, which is a motivational factor- unlike other hubs where you see only about 2% of the team being women'.
That was two years ago and currently, the women's technology and innovation hub has almost 600 community members and supports about 200 start-ups.
Profitable and environmentally conscious businesses
For Adwoa, it is important for businesses not only to be profitable but to also be environmentally conscious and in 2020, Women’s Haven Africa signed up to be one of SNV Ghana’s business support and hub partner under its Boosting Green Employment and Enterprise Opportunities in Ghana (GrEEn) Project, which has the objective of supporting green businesses and creating jobs in the circular economy for youth, women and returning migrants in the Ashanti and Western regions of Ghana with principal funding from the European Union.
'We actually had an interest in the green economy, but we did not have much knowledge and skills in the area and just needed exposure to understand it very well so we in turn can support women in the green space. Most of our women are doing great things but they are not taking the environment into consideration. If you ask them how their business is affecting the environment, you’ll realise that it is even causing more harm than good so it was necessary that we actually take advantage of the SNV GrEEn Project to build our capacity in the green space and also be able to expose the space to other women who are already there but do not know and some who are causing harm to the environment and so they need to restructure their business module.'
Regional training and business support hubs
In April, Women’s Haven Africa was selected by the GrEEn Project to be one of its 8 regional training and business support hubs under the 6-month GrEEn Incubation and Acceleration programme in the Ashanti and Western regions.
It has been providing business support to Bidi-green, an energy efficiency business and Byhezz and La Tierra, businesses in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector.
'In Kumasi, green is not really known, it is kind of a new space that people want to venture into. Others are also in the green space, but they don’t even know that they are in the green space. So, from the beginning of the programme, we did a needs assessment to find out their challenges and the basic things they needed in order to scale up. Our strategy is two-fold, we give one-on-one business support, so the selected women understand their unique products and their business modules and we in turn can offer tailored support to them. Secondly, we also have various group sessions- the training session, mentorship session and coaching where we target the three of them to help them understand the circular economy space and the opportunities available within their sectors.'
'Gone are the days when we were only concerned about profit-making, and partners and investors were all about profit. Now, they are looking at impact investment. This means looking at the triple bottom line- we’re looking at the economic, the social and the environmental impact.' says Adwoa.
Adwoa and Women’s Haven Africa are dedicated to influencing women-led businesses to be sustainable and green.
'We are pushing for lots of women to get into the space and we are pushing towards gender equality. Women need to know that investors and partners are also supporting gender equality and inclusiveness so if you find yourself as a woman in the green space, you should count yourself as very lucky because you are not just looking at profitability, but you are also looking at the impact on the environment and your community.'
The Boosting Green Employment and Enterprise Opportunities in Ghana (GrEEn) project is a four-year action from the European Union, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ghana, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). The project aims at creating greater economic and employment opportunities for youth, women and returning migrants by promoting and supporting sustainable, green businesses in two selected regions in Ghana: Ashanti and Western.
GrEEn is implemented under the European Union Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF) for Africa with a total contribution of EUR 20,600,000.
Photos: (banner) Adwoa stands in front of the entrance of the Women’s Haven Africa office. All photos by SNV/Deborah Lomotey