Empowerment is Everyone’s Business

How might a simple flush toilet elevate the status of women in Ghana?

We set out to answer that question with a “deep dive” into the experience of customers, salespeople and managers of our Sama Sama toilet business. The toilet delivers hygiene and convenience, but the business of sanitation is offering women new opportunities.

A woman in Ghana is among the busiest on the planet. Her day begins in the wee hours of the morning. While others sleep, she is already fetching water and firewood. “I wake up at 3:30 a.m. so I can prepare my son’s dinner for him,” says one mother. “It makes me so happy to know that he will have something nice to eat when he gets home from school.”

So, what does “empowerment” mean to a woman in northern Ghana? The women we asked told us it means to be motivated, selfsufficient, and hard working in order to meet your needs and dreams. It means that you are informed to make good decisions. And it means having access to opportunities and the ability to give something back.

Money may be an initial motive for women to seek employment with Sama Sama, but women work for more than just a stable salary. Sama Sama uniquely offers flexibility, mentorship and learning opportunities. Senior managers – like Country Director Valerie Labi – model strong female leadership and ensure that women have opportunities to advance.

Women face challenges such as pressure from husbands to fulfil traditional family duties. We heard husbands say, “Don’t give my wife any ideas or I will have to go and find another one.” These are sensitive and personal challenges that require trust and wise counsel to work through.

Women on the Sama Sama team enjoy “mentorship from within” as female leaders and managers not only help solve problems but are also “sisters” or “aunties” with whom employees feel safe and comfortable and can share professional and personal successes and challenges.

Sama Sama has started a group for female employees and salespeople to support each other in the workplace, share information and inspiration.

Sama Sama is also challenging male employees to recognize and address their biases, which keep women from achieving their full potential. Male employees are recognizing that, if half the workforce is limited by gender, the business will never achieve its full potential.

For the women and men of Sama Sama, empowerment is everyone’s business.