Esther Afua Ocloo also known as “Auntie Ocloo” was a Ghanaian entrepreneur and pioneer of microlending. She was born Esther Afua Nkulenu. She was one of the founders of Women’s World Banking in 1976, with Michaela Walsh and Ela Bhatt, and served as its first chair of trustees.
So today, Google Doodle is celebrating the Ghanaian microlending pioneer Esther Afua Ocloo on what would have been her 98th birthday. In a blog post, Google explains: “As both an entrepreneur and an advocate for microlending, Esther Afua Ocloo worked tirelessly to help others like her succeed.
The Google Doodle shows her at various stages of her life and business, sharing her knowledge with fellow Ghanaians. Today’s Doodle shows Esther empowering the women of Ghana with the tools to improve their lives and communities.” “Esther and other advisors knew that lending money to women could have a ripple effect, improving the prosperity and health of the women as well as their communities,” continues Google.
Founder of Nkulenu Industries, Ocloo started her business with less than a dollar and grew into a global inspiration. She produced 12 jars of marmalade at a 100 per cent mark-up and eventually expanded into selling orange juice. Struggling for work at the end of WWII and fresh out of Achimota College, Ocloo took out a loan to set up a business, rebranding as Nkulenu Industries (Nkulenu was her maiden name). The business specialised in products that were in short supply due to war rations and import restrictions.
After starting a business selling fruit juice and marmalade as a teenager and realising the financial difficulties poor women faced, Ms Ocloo helped found and operate a bank specifically designed to help women on low incomes. In the same decade she returned to Africa and set up the first food processing business in Ghana. Today, Nkulenu Industries is a leading company in the food processing industry in Ghana.
In 1975 as a succeeding businesswoman, Ms Ocloo was invited to the first UN World Conference on Women. Later that decade, she founded and became the chairman of the board of directors of Women’s World Banking, which expanded her earlier goal of helping women obtain the small loans needed to launch businesses. The not-for-profit organisation has since helped millions of women start and run businesses, helping boost prosperity in countless communities.
During a trip to the UK in the 1950s, Ms Ocloo began to develop recipes for commercial food canning. She was also the first black person to gain a cookingg diploma from the Good Housekeeping Institute in London.
In 1990, Ocloo shared the $100,000 Africa Prize with Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria.
Earlier this month, Pakistan’s digital financial service provider JazzCash partnered with Women’s World Banking to promote women’s financial inclusion across Pakistan. As part of the initiative, working women will be able to open bank accounts on their phones, avoiding long queues in branches and has signed up Ideas 42, a non-profit organisation that uses behavioural science to help solve social problems, to leverage best global practices.
Ms Ocloo died of pneumonia in 2002 aged 82.
So today, like Google Doodle, We at The Renaissance Lady blog honour you, Ms. Esther Afua Ocloo for paving the way for Working Women by empowering them to be the best that they can be within their communities and for the economy at large.
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