Esther Afua Ocloo
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As a whole, the African continent might be doing a lot to live up to its globally recognized status as the dark continent but individually, it can boast of several individuals who have made an impact on their environment, the continent, and sometimes, the world at large. Of a long list of individuals is Esther Afua Ocloo, a Ghanaian woman who was one of the founders of Women’s World Banking.

Her creation, Women’s World Banking is an organization that was established to give soft loans to women in order to facilitate the growth of their small businesses. The organization, which was founded in Ghana, has now expanded to over 25 countries, serving over 20 million entrepreneurs.

Esther Afua Ocloo’s name goes down in history as one of the most influential women in improving the plight of women economically, globally. Read on to learn a whole lot more about her.

Esther Afua Ocloo’s Biography

Esther Afua Ocloo was born as Esther Afua Nkulenu on the 18th of April, 1919 in the Peki Dzake region of then, British Togoland. She was born to a father, George Nkulenu who was a blacksmith and a mother, Georgina, who was a farmer and a potter.

She was a member of the Ewe cultural group and she began her education through the help of her grandmother who enrolled her in a Presbyterian primary school. As evident by her parents’ occupation, she was not born into an affluent family and as a child, she had to go through challenges such as traveling weekly from home to school while she lived in a boarding school following her graduation from primary school.

A brilliant child, her education journey continued despite the financial constraints via a scholarship to Achimota School that she won, earning a Cambridge School certificate at the end of it. Before she began her higher education in England, she established her first business, a formal food processing business that supplied marmalade and orange juice.

After completing her higher education, she returned to Ghana and got married to Stephen Ocloo, whom she had four children with named – Vincentia Canacoo, her only daughter and three sons, Vincent Malm, Steven Ocloo Jr., and Christian Biassey.

Interesting Facts About Esther Afua Ocloo

She was the first African to attend the Good Housekeeping Institute in London

The life of Esther Afua Ocloo was full of so many firsts, one of which began before she attended college, establishing a formal food processing business. Another was in England, specifically in London where she became the first African to attend and obtain a cooking diploma from the Good Housekeeping Institute. She also completed her post graduated program at the Long Ashton Research Station, studying Food Preservation at the Department of Horticulture in Bristol University.

She was an accomplished businesswoman

Right from her teenage years, Esther Afua Ocloo had shown her interest and niche for developing a successful business and she continued with it after she returned to her home country at the completion of her higher education. She expanded her food processing business through commercial canning.

As part of her desire to improve the growth of local Ghanaian businesses, she established the first Made-in-Ghana goods exhibition and ultimately became the first President of the Federation of Ghana Industries.

Her business interests expanded from food processing to textile, where she began a tie and dye business.

She was a significant force in the empowerment of women

Through her business successes, Esther Afua Ocloo was able to amass enough influence to influence policy and government programs, which she ultimately used in empowering women. Starting from the 1970s, she began her women’s empowerment journey by getting appointed as an adviser to the Council of Women and Development, she also served on Ghana’s National Economic Advisory Committee for a year and was an adviser to the First World Conference of Women in Mexico.

But perhaps of all her efforts and accomplishments, it was her program, the establishment of a credit facility to women in order to facilitate business growth that is her greatest accomplishment in terms of women empowerment.

She established Women’s World Banking in 1796 alongside other women, Ela Bhatt, and Michaela Walsh. The non-profit organization has been serving women in providing financial, technical and strategic support in the establishment and growth of their various businesses. The organization has a partnership with about 40 independent microfinance banks around the world and serves over 24 million entrepreneurs in over 25 countries.

Esther Afua Ocloo has received multiple honors

Esther Afua Ocloo
Esther Afua Ocloo being presented one of her many honors by Olusegun Obasanjo

Considering her contribution in improving the lives of women folk, Esther Afua Ocloo was a recipient of over 14 honors by various organizations and bodies over the course of her lifetime and after, including the Global Leadership Award in 1995.

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In more recent years, she was honored with a Google Doodle on the 18th of April, 2017 in celebration of her accomplishments.

She died of Pneumonia

Unfortunately, even extraordinary people have to succumb to the jaws of death and Esther Afua Ocloo did in February 2002 after she contracted pneumonia. She received a state funeral and was buried in Peki Dzake, her home town.

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