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The Heroes in the Middle | by Jonathan A. Moody

Winglow Clothes and Textiles Limited

PovertyCure has historically encouraged individuals to move from asking, “what ends poverty?” to, “what creates wealth?”  So, as a matter of course, our mission begs the question, “what does wealth look like?”

Last month I traveled to the beautiful country of Ghana, where I saw the answer to that question with my own eyes.  I witnessed men and women put in hard work to build their own businesses.  Those businesses, in turn, created jobs that release individuals to use their gifts and talents.  The money that is earned is spread through the community as the employers and employed use their income for that most human of activities – taking care of their families’ needs and desires.  Value is created, God is honored and wealth is understood.

My host on this economic tour was Fanny Atta-Peters, founder of The Hopeline Institute.  Hopeline fosters more than 10,000 entrepreneurs and business leaders throughout the nation of Ghana.  They receive training, mentorship and/or access to capital.  It’s a fantastic program that is bearing fantastic fruit.

Small to Medium Enterprise – Demystified

In today’s global economic landscape the word, “business” conjures multiple, often contradictory mental images.  One person imagines a lone entrepreneur building their humble native-crafts business through microfinance loans.  Another envisions a large multinational conglomeration with their corporate fingers in everything from natural gas extraction to the sale of custom ordered socks.

Developing countries, like Ghana, often exhibit both extremes.  The local people are incredibly driven, entrepreneurial and hard working.  High numbers of individuals engage in commerce through very small businesses.  This phenomenon is most visible in large cities where one can readily see thousands of entrepreneurs hustle to sell trinkets to tourist and small household goods to each other.

In those same environments it’s easy to spot the second extreme: a much smaller number of very large, dominant corporations.  It may be the near ubiquitous presence of brands such Coca-Cola, the abundance of Western hotel chains and even financial institutions.

However, what you are unlikely to see is the middle ground – healthy “mom & pop shops” that act to boost locals into the middle class and serve as a means of handing down wealth from one generation to the next.

But, the reality is that successful economies thrive on what are known as small to medium enterprises (SMEs).  These are businesses that grow and employ others, create value and spur broader economic growth. The PovertyCure Documentary Series broadly defines SMEs as businesses with 5-500 employees.  In fact, the majority of developed economies are comprised of businesses in the middle.  Many developing economies suffer from a lack of these economic powerhouses.  Economist and development experts refer to this lack as “the missing middle.”

Increasing numbers of people accept that traditional forms or charity and/or aid do not solve the complex problems surround poverty.  There is also growing buy-in of the notion that local economies need businesses to truly thrive.  Still, the question remains, “how do we grow the missing middle?”

Fanny Atta-Peters, Executive Director, Hopeline Institute  with Beatrice, her training manager and  Betty, the business development coordinator.

Fanny Atta-Peters (middle), Executive Director of Hopeline Institute with Beatrice, her training manager and Betty, the business development coordinator.

The Hopeline Institute is truly important because they provide a working answer to this great dilemma.  And it’s not mere academics.  They give an ongoing example.

As I mentioned above, Hopeline has partnered with more than 10,000 entrepreneurs and business leaders across Ghana.  They are registered as a Financial Non Governmental Organization (FNGO).  As such they offer both microfinance solutions for budding entrepreneurs and larger loans for functioning SMEs.

Mrs. Atta-Peters conceived of Hopeline during her graduate work.   She officially formed Hopeline in 2007 with $4,900 as seed capital for loans.  Hopeline’s goals were simple – to empower women and connect women entrepreneurs with the training and tools they needed in order to professionalize and grow their businesses.  They wanted to share basic business principles in order to enhance the day-to-day work of these entrepreneurs.  They provided training in areas such as bookkeeping, customer service, value of personal health, and the wellbeing of the family.  However, they also added a Christian component, letting the Bible speak on business and our well-being.   They started with 60+ women and graduated 43 women from their first four-week training program.

As if that isn’t impressive enough, Mrs. Atta-Peters gave birth to twins that same year!

The training required two hours each week for four weeks – valuable time to give up.  However, there was an enticing incentive… access to capital.  After successfully completing the four-week training program, graduates were then eligible to apply for financing to start or grow their businesses.  This element is a key to their success in creating the missing middle.  It’s easy to take for granted that training and relationships are as vital to long-term growth as access to capital.  But, Hopeline prioritizes this truth in their four pillars:

Four Pillars of the Hopeline Institute:

  1. Mentoring
  2. Training
  3. Access to capital
  4. Advocacy

In 2012, they received a loan from Partners Worldwide, (also a PovertyCure partner), to help offer affordable loans to micro, small and medium businesses.  And they’ve put those funds to tremendous use.  After all, Hopeline knows there is no simple fix or “silver-bullet” to solve poverty or grow an economy.  In the end, it takes relationships, constancy and integrity – qualities Hopeline possess in spades.

Hopeline’s approach demystifies the process of building the missing middle.  As a result of Fanny Atta-Peters and her army of principled entrepreneurs and business leaders, communities in Ghana are beginning to thrive.

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Jonathan A. Moody, Managing Director of PovertyCure with Awurabena Okrah, CEO of  Winglow Clothes and Textiles Limited, and her team in Ghana.

 

Human Dignity (fm.) | by Esther Moody

I, like every woman in this era, stand on the shoulders of my mother, my grandmother, and her mother before. I could never adequately communicate how grateful I am for their labor in our feminine respects.  But, somewhere in this great Feminist Movement, the roles of women in society became oddly siloed. How did it happen that women cannot be mothers and wives and good business people?

Like many women, I have several books on the topic. The metaphors vary, from authors speaking of what “hats” one wears, what “box” we function in, even to what “buckets” we allocate and divide a certain percentage of our capacity.

None of this is news. I have nothing new to say on the topic.

At least that’s what I thought.

Until I took this shot while traveling recently.

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I captured this moment while I myself was wearing my baby. And I responded, I responded to my own image, my own art.

I know this story.

I live this dialogue every day. I seek to balance this struggle every night as I lay in bed reflecting on the bitter-sweet season of mothering young kids. As I replay the sweet moments, the teaching moments, the learning moments, the moments I missed in my haze of busy-ness, I plead for grace and a new understanding of my greatness for the next day. Lord Jesus, please.

It wasn’t something I understood to be missing from my own life, until I perceived it in this woman’s life. Dignity in mothering and laboring. I long for what she has in this moment. A simplified life of provision and care-taking. Something that seems so inherent to a small, central american village population, but for which I am misunderstood here at home; a calling beyond my family that is somehow just as equally for my family.

Look at this image again. She carries what must be a 3-year-old who naps on her back while she stands with her goods in the market. Her strength is only equal to the weight she carries. She stands with her peers, with her child on her back. She stands with, not behind, not just out of the way. She is not relegated to second class citizen because her child might be loud. She is not written off and marginalized as “just a mom.” Her strength is respected and actualized by her peers.

If a woman’s dignity is rooted in her creation in the image and likeness of God, then as I carry my babies, as I labor for the good of my family, just as the Proverbs 31 woman did; through this, I somehow portray the image and likeness of God. What a beautiful image, both fervent and compassionate, equally strong and supple, life-giving, absolutely revelatory. Indeed, not only is her own dignity affirmed, but her child’s dignity is assumed because of it.

Her child is given space within the family unit, and society as a whole, to be not a deterrent to provision, but a welcome addition to a way of life that supports concurrent roles. How would these women respond to these western ideas of hats and buckets? These women are given the space in their community to work for the good of their family.  And, the community doesn’t look down of them when they bring their family into the process.

The plurality of our God is astonishing. He has indeed created us in His image, He is everything to everyone. He is the Alpha and the Omega, He is Jehova Rapha, He is Jehova Jireh, He is Jehova Tsidkenu, our healer, our provider, our righteousness. Through His sanctification we are healers, we are providers.

In this image I see the plurality of our God and the astonishing infusion of his righteousness into Motherhood. How righteous is it to provide for your family, while we simultaneously care for them?! Through the Lord’s redemption of our work and dignity as Mothers and women, we may affirm our children’s dignity and work for the good of our family at the same time.

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Esther Moody is the founder and principal of CreateFlourish, a design and branding firm, based in Grand Rapids, MI.  After receiving her B.A. at the University of Tennessee, she has lived and worked in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, GA and western Michigan.  She balances all of this with her role as a stay-at-home mom, which is why her husband refers to her as a “momtrepreneur.”  She resides in Ada, Michigan, along with her husband, Jonathan, 4 year old son, David, and 1 year old daughter, Ruby.

Growing Women in Tanzania | By Colleen Dyble

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I arrived in Tanzania this week, ready to begin another inspirational initiative with the Vital Voices team where we will assist budding entrepreneurs with their business. As I prepared for this trip I recalled the path that lead me here, the lives I saw impacted, and the friendships I made along the way:

Fifteen years ago, I was walking up and down the narrow and hilly cobblestone streets of Granada, Spain to office buildings where I interviewed Spanish women – from elderly Franco supporters, to working mothers and gypsies (“gitanos”). I saw the resolve in these women and I was inspired to figure out how to integrate these women into the workforce after the fall of Franco’s dictatorship.

Perhaps it was growing up in a single parent family, where my quadruplet siblings and I had to take care of ourselves while fulfilling domestic duties at an early age after our mother’s death. I identified with women who suffered similar tragedies, and had to care for their families with little or no assistance.

Maybe it was working with microfinance organizations in the shanty-towns in Latin America for two years where I met extraordinary, driven and resourceful women who worked from sun up to sun down selling candy on the street or weaving blankets to sell in the village market.  Their drive and determination motivated me to help because I saw that they struggled to provide basic necessities for their families like food and school uniforms.  I experienced firsthand that when they received resources, support, and financial assistance to start a business they excelled!  I met single moms who once lived in makeshift mud and tin roof homes with kids that begged on the street to feed the family who are now living in sturdy homes who now had enough money to put food on the table and send their kids to school. They engaged in their communities and gave back. Remarkable!

 

These experiences revealed that the primary economic drivers in developing countries are women. As business leaders, employees, consumers, and entrepreneurs, women are accelerating economic growth and improving conditions within their communities.

So, two years ago, I was introduced to Vital Voices Global Partnership through a friend.

(I met up for lunch with Alysia Fullen, a University of Virginia schoolmate of my good friend, Sonita Reese. Upon hearing about my interest in women empowerment and entrepreneurship as a vehicle for economic development, she introduced me to the work of Vital Voices Global Partnership.  It was through Alysia that I met Belisa De Las Casas, a former Senior Advisor for Latin America at Vital Voices Global Partnership, whom I later worked with on a M&E contract with WEConnect International.)

Vital Voices Global Partnership’s mission is “to identify, invest in, and bring visibility to extraordinary women around the world by unleashing their leadership potential to transform lives and accelerate peace and prosperity in their communities.”

Despite the proven benefits of women’s economic engagement, Vital Voices Global Partnership recognizes that female business owners face disproportionate barriers in growing their businesses: they have difficulty accessing business networks, technology, training, credit, markets, and equal protection under the law.

Over the past two years, I helped develop Vital Voices’ economic empowerment initiatives.  In conjunction with the U.S. State Department’s WEAmerica’s initiative we developed a market access, business strategy, and finance training in Nicaragua for women owned enterprises. We made recommendations for a new global curriculum which is now being piloted in 31 countries and contributed to the launch of a business and finance training platform for African entrepreneurs. These are targeted interventions that cultivate women’s business leadership by fostering growth aspirations, building their confidence, and integrating them into networks that can expand their businesses and reach new buyers and markets.

Vita Global is committed to cultivating long-term economic growth in developing countries by partnering with companies and organizations like Vital Voices whose shared values guide entrepreneurs in building a promising future.

 

Colleen Dyble is the Founder & Principal of Global Solutions at Vita Global. This was originally posted by Vita Global.