I am the co-founder of Tree Tap, a startup company that works with women’s groups in northern Ghana to sell non-timber forest products (honey, cocoa, baobab, fruit, Shea butter). For now, the startup has only really focused on baobab oil and powder, which are considered “superfoods”.
Ghanaian women are as entrepreneurial as men. However, traditionally women are expected to work in a specific category of entrepreneurship such as hairdressing or boutique owning.
What fuels me is the belief that I can create a better Africa for our future generation. The way to do this is through social enterprising: bettering yourself and also your community. I always try to push others to really do their best and give people the support they need. My advice to women entrepreneurs: “In Africa you need to do business with a dose of humour because it is easy to get frustrated and lose hope”. My three words: free spirited, people oriented and worldly. As a matter of fact my name means 'Star of the World'.
Vickie, 30 years old, Sierra Leonan
I am the founder and publisher of Go Woman Magazine (GWM), a print and online magazine that aims to celebrate the 21st century African Woman. I also run a corporate communication consultancy. I proudly call myself a feminist despite the negative connotation associated with it. In Africa, feminism is associated with hating men, with women thinking that they are better than men and removing men from their “rightful position as the head of the family”. Through GWM, I try to get all my readers to identify as feminists.
I was living in the US but after the war ended in Sierra Leone, I felt like I needed to go home. In Sierra Leone, I started a TV show, the Vickie Remoe Show but because I was a single young woman, I was not taken seriously. I needed sponsorship but potential sponsors would offer to help in exchange for, you know... sex. If you are young, single and educated, society sees you as too bold, too forceful, too pushy. Society wants you to think you need a man to validate you.
Leaving SL for Ghana was a wonderful decision. I feel right at home here, I feel empowered. I am absolutely convinced you can do anything you want to do if you put your mind to it. For me, it is not a question of “if” but rather “when”. Failure does not scare me. I want to be a millionaire but on my own terms. I won’t take any shortcuts that will compromise my integrity. I also want to inspire other young women to know that they can transcend society's expectations. My three words: loyal, compassionate and witty-some would even say "crazy".
Beatrice "Bee", 44 years old, Ghanaian-Russian
I am a fashion designer and the creative director of B’Exotiq. It was extremely hard for people of mixed heritage to be accepted in Russia when I lived there and so came to Ghana. I love my Russian roots but understood very quickly that people saw my colour first and always reminded me that I was “black”. In Ghana although I am seen as a foreigner, a white person and do experience some discrimination, it is easier here then in Russia. I definitely think I never would have had the same opportunity if I had stayed in Russia.
I have had to face many challenges as a female entrepreneur in Ghana. I have had to make more efforts to prove myself than my male counterparts. I used to be seen as a “crazy woman” or a “prostitute”. My male employees found it hard to be managed by a woman. In Ghana, a woman who knows her rights and insists is seen as obnoxious and hard just “like a man”. I had to impose myself without arguing or screaming. I learnt to be firm and assertive. Ghanaian society especially men, can’t accept that a woman can do better. They see it is an attack on their masculinity.
My love for what I do keeps me going. I merge Ghanaian and Russian culture in my designs and believe Ghana needs people a bit like me, people who are different and who think outside the box. My biggest achievement so far has been winning the prestigious Kora African designer award in 2001. I won the award without receiving support from the Ghanaian government or formally learning how to sew; I also encountered major setbacks and had to start my business from scratch five years ago. I hope to leave a legacy. My three words: bold, honest and a citizen of the world.