You may have noticed a search engine doodle on Google on the 18th of April. It showed a woman who was empowering the women of Ghana to improve their lives and communities.
Were you wondering who this ‘Auntie Ocloo’ was? Esther Afua Ocloo was a groundbreaking business woman, an entrepreneur and a pioneer of micro lending.
She carved her own pathway and created many firsts for women as well as men. To open up a formal food processing business, Esther Ocloo worked hard and finally opened one on the Gold Coast. She is a source of inspiration for women everywhere. The following article is a summarization of Esther Afua Ocloo’s whole life. For a better and broader understanding you can follow this resource.
Gone But Never Forgotten
The birthplace of Esther Afua Ocloo is in Peki Dzake, British Togoland. She came into this world on April 18, 1919. She knew that to change her life she needs education.
At a Presbyterian primary school she started her school life. After that she shifted to a co-educational boarding school at Peki Blengo.
George Nkulenu, a blacksmith was her father. Her mother, Georgina, held the occupation of a potter and a farmer.
Passion and Dedication
Ocloo was acknowledged for her self sufficient strong personality. She was really passionate and dedicated towards her studies. This attitude helped her excel at everything that she put her mind to.
Ocloo won a scholarship to Achimota School. Achimota was famous in its own way. Many prominent African leaders were the alumni of that school. She spent five years in Achimota school. She had an intelligent mind and thus, she ended up obtaining the Cambridge School Certificate.
Less Than a Dollar
Ocloo had her entrepreneurial spirit ever since she was a young girl. With only 10 Ghanian shillings in hand, Ocloo began her entrepreneurial career. She was just a teenager back then. In the 1930s, she started to build her food empire. She purchased oranges, sugar and a dozen jars with less than one American dollar, in order to make some marmalade jam.
The jam sold for a shilling a jar, generating a two shilling profit. This success planted the seed to steer her in the right direction of becoming a successful businesswoman. In 1942, under her maiden name, “Nkulenu” she established a business.
When she was a teenager, young Ocloo came up with the idea of her first business. When she told her high school classmates about her idea, they didn’t respond well.
Her classmates used to mock and taunt her. They compared her to a street vendor with no education. But her teachers had a different vision. They saw her potential to become a great figure in the near future.
Never Stop Learning
Ocloo’s former school was impressed by her and they offered a scholarship to continue her education at the Good Housekeeping Institute, London in 1949. A few years later, she was the first black person to graduate with a diploma.
Deep down inside, she believed her education career won’t end here. She furthered her studies in Bristol University’s Department of Horticulture in southwest London.
More Than Just Female Empowerment
Ocloo dedicated her whole life and time to empower everyone around her. Two religious groups were founded by her. One of them is The Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Madina.
She even formed a Bible study group to educate people properly about religious aspects and served member of the Synod committee.
Sharing Is Caring
Ocloo was not content to keep her knowledge all to herself. She put all of her studies to good use. She made it her mission to spread knowledge and teach the women of her village.
She established a farm-based program to teach them about agriculture, business schemes, skills and even food preservation techniques, crafting. This selfless attitude of her started to create a change in the lives of many women in her community.
Becoming a Bank
Ocloo didn’t keep her money to herself. When she started to mentor the women-kind, she also tried to change their life circumstances by lending money to make them self sufficient.
Her small amounts of donation supported a lot of unprivileged women to establish their own small businesses. She also lent cash to them. Despite knowing that lending out cash from her hard-earned profits was risky, equipping women to help their children and families was priceless to her.
Ocloo’s business was booming every year. By the 1960s, it reached its peak. Her multiple companies included textile and dye industries as well. Hundreds of Ghanaian men and women were employed by her.
Her successes took her to places. She was appointed as the Executive Chairman of the National Food and Nutrition Board of Ghana. She led her role as a co-founder of Women’s World Banking in 1976, and served as its first chair of trustees.
It’s My Honor
Ocloo toiled hard her in her fight for women; although you may not recognize her name, her work did not go unnoticed. She became the pioneer of microlending industry.
She had over 15 honors in her name. Getting featured on Google was one of the most prestigious honors she received.
Acknowledged by the President
Ocloo’s contribution for the people in her community did not go in vain. She got immense support, love and help from the people of her country.
The former President Kwame Nkrumah supported Ocloo in numerous ways. President of the Federation of Ghana Industries became her title. Nkrumah played a role and acknowledged her as the new president. With a greater stand she could eradicate the sorrows from more people.
For the Women-Kind
Ocloo did not only focus on micro lending, she also focused on fighting for women’s rights. Her determination and multiple significant contributions carved the way for her as a women’s activist.
By the time she reached the peak of her wealth and success, she turned branched out her generous hands for the furtherment of women. Everyone’s beloved “Auntie Ocloo” got an appointment in 1975, as an adviser in the First World Conference on Women that took place in Mexico.
Empowering Women for a Better World
At the First World Conference on Women, Ocloo talked about the importance of empowering women. How lending money would help them to start their own businesses. The discussion resulted in the creation of the Women’s World Banking (WWB), a global micro lending organization. Now, more than 24 million entrepreneurs all over the world depend on (WWB) for a secured business life.
Ocloo was appointed as the first Chairman of the Board of Directors, apart from being the co-founder of WWB. Even to this day, the organization tries to bring out women from their unprivileged backgrounds to help them secure their life with small entrepreneurial businesses.
Ocloo was appointed numerous awards for her work in economically empowering women. The revered African Prize of Leadership was given to her in 1990. She was the first woman to receive that price. She invested the award money on her quest of empowering women.
Then, in 2001, Ocloo received the African Entrepreneurship Award. Her contribution in coming up with solutions for increasing food production in Africa made her a prominent figure there.
Returning from her studies in England, Ocloo got married to her husband Stephen Ocloo. The couple were parents of four children.
They had one daughter named Vincentia, and three sons, named Christian, Vincent, and Steven Junior. Ocloo left her company, Nkulenu Industries, to her children. The business still runs today.
Gone But Never Forgotten
Developing pneumonia in 2002, Ocloo never fully recovered. She passed away on February 8, at the age of 82.
Her funeral took place in Accra, Ghana’s Capital. The burying ceremony was held in her dearest hometown of Peki Dzake. Her loss grieved all and hundreds of people gathered across the country to pay their respect.
Still, Going Strong Till This Day
Maybe we have lost Ocloo but her spirit still lives within us. Nkulenu Industries still internationally supplies the famous marmalade jam and other food items.
Up in the skies sits Ocloo, the legacy of whom, is one that’ll remain through the sands of time, incessantly making an impact on the women kind inspiring them in carnal tales.