Young women entrepreneurs in Ghana

Mei guest blogs about her experiences in Ghana.

For those of you who hold the (grossly uninformed) misperception that I am just bumming around Ghana for a few months, this post is supposed to prove otherwise.

In all seriousness though, I thought it might be helpful to tell you all a bit more about what I am doing.

I am working with the Ghana Young Women Social Entrepreneurs (GYWSE) organization, based in the East Legon neighborhood of Accra. Apparently, this is also the neighborhood where all the famous Ghanaian football (soccer) players live, but unfortunately I haven’t met any of them yet, although I hope it will only be a matter of time.

The goal of GYWSE is to empower young women and provide them with the tools necessary to start a social enterprise. A social enterprise is a business that operates with both profit goals and social objectives. Two examples:

The Peepoo: Launched in Bangladesh, the Peepoo is basically a plastic bag that people, who might otherwise relieve themselves on the ground and contaminate the environment, can use instead. Post-use, people can sell their used Peepoo, which will be converted to fertilizer and re-sold. This simple concept cleans the environment while providing locals with a source of income.

The PlayPump: Started in South Africa, the PlayPump is a merry-go-round that uses the energy of children playing on it to operate a water pump. Ideal for shared use by villages, it serves as a source of entertainment and water.

Both of the above are examples of businesses that generate income while improving the communities they are involved in. I am particularly interested in social entrepreneurship because of its potential to be self-sustaining, as compared to non-profits which tend to rely on donations in order to operate.

At GYWSE, I work with Ama Pomaa Andoh, the founder of GYWSE and one of the most inspirational, passionate and dedicated people I’ve ever met. Ama’s grand vision for GYWSE is to build a resource center where, at any time, women entrepreneurs can access a wide range of resources to support them in their endeavors. Current programs run by GYWSE include the Business Incubation Program, Leadership Series, and Social Investment Fund (

What I’ve liked most is meeting people. Last week, I met a man who started his own microfinance organization which lends to petty traders. I met another person who invented an incinerator that burns waste, sawmill dust, and cocoa husks to create a potash-rich ash that can be used as fertilizer. Many people are doing incredible things—I’ve learned so much already just from talking to them, listening to their frustrations, and hearing them describe their dreams.

Wanted to share one final piece of exciting news: Today I bought a new wireless internet modem, which means I finally have faster internet. To fully illustrate just how life-changing this is, here’s what I can now do (that I couldn’t do before):

- gchat
- shop online (or rather, “window shop” online, since it’s virtually impossible to ship things here)
- Skype (skype me: msmei06)

I’ll also be able to post much more frequently now that it does not take 20 minutes to upload each picture (which is how long each of the pictures below took to upload—no joke).

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