By Jessica Cruse, Interim Director of Operations
This August our ATE team in Ghana have been busy training local small business owners across the Lawra District and what a success it has been!
For two weeks, the ATE Inclusion Centre was able to host training to over 80 Ghanaians, including capacity building training for Ghana field staff, local trainers and our BizATE small business owners. Lawra is one of the furthest towns from Ghana’s capital, Accra, creating isolation and often destitution for many with limited healthcare, education and employment opportunities.
ATE’s BizATE programme enables many community members, often overlooked or forgotten, the chance to develop real business acumen, enabling them to build and maintain successful businesses. Our small business owners range from hairdressers and seamstresses to visually impaired farmers, mechanics and welders. Through a 12 month mentoring programme with a personal business mentor, as well as a small business grant, each small business owner attends twice annual training workshops, developing their skills and confidence further.
Our August 2019 workshops were no different and enabled community members to come together, learn new skills and have a voice. Beginning on Monday August 5th, our Interim Director of Operations, Jessica, trained our team of 6 ATE staff, equipping them with training and facilitation knowledge, tools and resources. This was a packed day full of practical sessions and energisers, giving the team in depth training of the content ahead. Train the Trainer ended with each trainer prepared and ready to deliver training to their local community. Although the staff themselves were nervous, we across ATE had every faith in the teams’ competence and ability.
One Trainer said ‘The training made me believe in myself, it gave space to model the learnings and boost my morale and confidence.’
Jessica notes ‘It was an absolute pleasure training the in-country team, their potential and passion was crystal clear. I was able to watch the team grow in confidence each day, becoming highly competent, warm, friendly and knowledgeable trainers.’
The next workshop brought over 25 local trainers together in our Train the Consultant workshop. The day brought much laughter and energy as each consultant showcased their knowledge, experience with ATE and passion for their community members. Our consultants range from teachers, health professionals to university students and business owners; giving a real mix of local knowledge and experience, adding colour to their contributions. Consultants commented that the opportunity enabled ‘confidence building and capacity building as a trainer’.
Our workshops ensure each small business owner is comfortable and empowered, so we make sure we match each business owner with a locally recruited trainer known as a consultant. They provide mentoring and language translation throughout the workshops, ensuring understanding and confidence.
The stars of the show during our two week training period were definitely our small business owners, as they each made their journey to the Inclusion Centre and brought open minds and infectious smiles. Many travelling long distances waking early to attend and trust someone else with their business or farm.
Workshop 1: MEND= Mechanics/ Welders (and one Xylophone maker).
The first workshop invited 11 mechanics and welders to our Inclusion Centre and despite the gloomy overcast weather outside, laughter and energy was brought within. The participation was endless with ideas bouncing around and small business owners often speaking more than their consultants. One of our newest small business owners, commented on our workshops ‘There are certain things I don’t know in my work, things that I need to improve. After this training I have learned new things that will now practically help improve my work. Such as the importance of keep trying, sometimes when I am at my workshop and there isn’t work, I lose motivation, but now I know I have to keep trying and create work for myself.’
Workshop 2: SELL= Petty Traders (from eggs to pies).
Our second workshop welcomed 14 petty traders from the community, each bringing their own experiences and challenges they face selling products across the District. Challenges like high competition and the impact of heavy rains on business were explored with much peer learning.
This was definitely a fem affair with only one male small business owner in attendance. An area like Upper West Ghana sees gender imbalance in favour of men across all trades and fields, but this workshop turned this on its head. Each woman, younger or older, were able to speak and learn in their own language and contribute to the session. One of our traders said ‘The consultant helped me throughout the workshop, they always broke the question down into details to make me understand it better’.
Workshop 3: MAKE= Seamstresses/ Hairdressers
After a weekend break, our third workshop arrived, welcoming seamstresses and hairdressers along with many children. With 14 small business owners attending, around 6 brought their children, as motherhood doesn’t stop when working and these women showed us how to do both! We heard from one of our small business owners Rufina, as she spoke to the group about how to vary your work, keep up with competition and push through challenges. Like many rural areas, seamstressing and hairdressing are popular vocations to go into, creating a saturated market but during the workshop, practical advice was given around self-marketing and looking at creative problem solving.
Workshop 4: GROW= Farmers and Dry Season Gardeners.
Our fourth and final business workshop invited our farmers and dry season gardeners, welcoming 18 small business owners, mostly from out of town. Our staff, consultants and business owners each noted this workshop to be particularly inspiring as our farmers’ voices and input was at the heart of the workshop.
Two of our business owners with visual impairments showed us all that nothing can get in the way of your success if you are focused and determined!
A consultant remarks on how he was impacted by the story of the group of farmers. He comments ‘before the ATE grant, I believe some people in the community were idling and since the grant and training, much of the community now have access to jobs. My SBO was telling me that in his community there was a health pandemic for blood transfusion due to serious iron deficiencies in the area – since the grant and dry season farming, the community have access to vegetable, beans and thus iron. Now there is no need for blood transfusions and people are healthier’.
Between the peer learnings and motivation felt amongst the group, the highlight may well have been the energiser: Musical Statues, once again showing age nor disability should factor as Clement stole the crown!
We are proud of our ATE trainers on the ground and thankful to the Commercial Education Trust for the continued funding and support of our programme. We look forward to sharing more from the field in 2020 as well roll out our new Integrated Training plan; meeting the needs of more community members and doing more to empower people to tackle poverty and food insecurity through sustainable business!
Charles Gardner – Chair of Trustees for Content Creation
Sarah Gardner Albeboure and Leela Shanti – for Evaluation Content
Nicholas, Rexford and Prosper – Logistics and Training