As a student at the Stern School of Business, we constantly hear that “businesses can create positive social change.” Every week, we learn about apps that are helping to close the wealth gap and investments that are socially conscious, but sometimes these ideas seem too good to be true. Sometimes, as the world we live in continues to disappoint us, we are left questioning whether or not businesses can really drive change.
However, last spring, the Stern International Volunteers Ghana Program (SIV Ghana) reminded me that social impact is the future and businesses can create real change for women in particular. Through the SIV Ghana program, I had the opportunity to spend my spring break in Woadze Tsatoe, a rural Ghanaian village, developing a micro-business and working on volunteer projects.
Two years ago, NYU students participating in the SIV Ghana program realized that women in Woadze Tsatoe wanted more job opportunities. In order to empower women and provide an alternative source of revenue for them, NYU students helped launch a textile business: the Amenuveve Batik Cooperative.
The women in Woadze Tsatoe who work for the Amenuveve Batik Cooperative create beautiful fabrics using traditional block printing techniques. Previously, these women were living off less than one dollar a day, but today they are running a successful micro business that provides them with higher wages. These women are creating change in their community by proving that women are capable of far more than cooking and cleaning- they are an inspiration.
In order to continue expanding the batik business, the students participating in the SIV Ghana program last year helped the Amenuveve Batik Cooperative improve their production process, marketing materials, and financial records. We also hosted a trunk show in the United States to sell the Amenuveve Batik Cooperative products such as backpacks and laptop cases. The partnership between the SIV Program and the Woadze Tsatoe community has allowed the business to flourish in recent years, and this growth has also positively impacted the children in the community in particular.
A study by the World Bank proved that when women control more household income children benefit as a result of increased spending on food and education. Therefore, increasing the income for women in Woadze Tsatoe improves the well being of their children, and when I was working in Ghana I saw this dedication to family first hand. On the first day in the village, I saw a woman who was mixing hot wax for the batik products while her baby was strapped to her back. Most of the women took care of their children as they worked in the batik business, and their devotion to their family was absolutely astonishing. Ultimately, the SIV Ghana Program proves that businesses can create real change, and I would encourage every Stern student to participate in the program.