Small but mighty, the British nonprofit Ripples Foundation has been making waves in the fight against extreme poverty in Africa’s most rural communities. It provides the training and funding necessary for otherwise disenfranchised women to gain skills in the trade of their choice and to start their own businesses.
Through mentoring, the program allows women the chance to present their own business ideas. In addition to the training they receive in their trade, the women are also introduced to the fundamentals of bookkeeping and finance to help ensure their businesses will flourish independent of the program’s intervention.
Once a business plan is honed and deemed feasible, the foundation provides the women with a start-up loan to get their venture off the ground. As the business grows and becomes self-sufficient, the loan money is paid back and is used to sponsor another woman’s entrepreneurial goals, creating the profound ripple effect which earned the foundation its namesake.
The businesses run by these women cover a broad range of skill sets and services such as fisheries, cocoa butter, coconut oil and black soap production. Most recently, Ripples has been educating women in sustainable farming practices for which they are given two years of training. To facilitate their earning potential, Ripples created the online store Akomi Trading where many of the goods produced by the women can be purchased. All the proceeds go directly back to the women, which allow them to provide for their families.
Ripples Foundation grew from the charity BME Concern, an organization dedicated to delivering sustainable development programs to minority groups within the U.K. Today, the foundation has expanded to have offices in Africa as well as the United States.
Despite having a small core team, which relies heavily on the work of their volunteers, the foundation currently supports a staggering 6,500 women in Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria. Today, with many African women surviving on less one dollar a day, most of the program’s participants can experience the peace of mind of a steady paycheck for the first time in their lives. Though the Ripples Foundation is small, its impact cannot be overstated.
Though their women enterprise project is at the heart of everything they do, the Ripples Foundation also offers rich programs in the areas of youth empowerment and medical care. At its core, Ripples Foundation strives to empower women and cultivate the confidence they need to harness their skills and earn an income. They rely on the hard work and determination of women to make the program a success. The idea is, if you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime. As the organization’s website states, “We encourage self-reliance as we do not give handouts, we give a hand up.”
– Micaela Fischer