For the last 20 years or so, I’ve wanted to go to Africa. It’s been something I felt I just had to do. And I don’t mean in the photo safari sense, although that would be amazing. In college, I studied international development and economics as part of my business degree, learning about microcredit and the positive impact of small businesses on a nation’s economy.
About five years ago, I discovered Women in Progress (WIP). WIP is a nonprofit that works to alleviate poverty by providing support to small women-owned businesses. It wasn’t the right time for me to volunteer then, but earlier this year, I decided that I would not let another year pass by without having the experience.
I’m thrilled to announce that in late October, I am headed to Ghana, West Africa for four weeks! Can you tell I’m excited? As a volunteer, I will be working side-by-side with women business owners, providing hands-on assistance implementing practical business and technology strategies in their day-to-day business operations. I’m sure this will be a challenging experience and one that will shape me in ways I can’t even imagine right now. As Renae Adam, founder and executive director of Women in Progress, says, “Volunteering abroad is a life-changing experience that triggers most volunteers to begin a life-long journey to promote cultural diversity, foster understanding, and thrive in a multicultural society. The only requirements to becoming a volunteer with Women in Progress are a sense of humor, flexibility, spirit of adventure, and the desire to help others.”
I know what you’re thinking. That’s great, Kate. How is this relevant to your photography business? Well, as a woman business owner, I feel a kinship for the women working with WIP. I’m looking forward to helping them pursue their goals and dreams in whatever way I can, and to learning from them in return.
Current economic-development thought emphasizes the role (or lack thereof) of women in a society. A recent New York Times article, for example, said, “In many poor countries, the greatest unexploited resource isn’t oil fields or veins of gold; it is the women and girls who aren’t educated and never become a major presence in the formal economy. With education and with help starting businesses, impoverished women can earn money and support their countries as well as their families. They represent perhaps the best hope for fighting global poverty.”
“Focusing on the growth of women-owned businesses produces broad results within African communities since women play the central role in ensuring the social and economic well-being of their families,” adds Adam. One of the key advantages to supporting women-owned businesses — beyond ensuring that day-to-day household needs are met — is to help ensure the opportunity for education of girls. When resources are scarce, boys may be sent to school while girls stay home, propagating the cycle of illiterate and subjugated women.
As you can imagine, financial support is extremely important to the continued operation of a nonprofit organization like Women in Progress. Donations provide direct assistance to women who are struggling to grow their micro and small businesses. They also enable WIP to provide women entrepreneurs access to resources such as computers in order to improve efficiencies within their organizations. If you would like to contribute to the work of Women in Progress, you can make a donation through my First Giving website, check out their list of requested in-kind donations or visit Global Mamas, the online store where they sell the wonderful products of the women entrepreneurs.
Thanks so much for reading about my upcoming adventure! I look forward to keeping you updated as my journey unfolds.