Introducing Stella Kudah: our newest RISE fellow tackling COVID in Ghana
We are so excited to welcome Stella into RISE's social innovation fund. We sat down (virtually, of course), with Stella to learn more about what has motivated her to become a female entrepreneur. Keep reading below to learn more about Stella's innovative business solution to tackling COVID in Ghana.
"Stella, can you share with our community more about yourself? What were you doing before your entrepreneurial journey?"
Growing up in Nigeria and Ghana were some of the most exciting years of my young life, with my parents allowing me to embrace my adventurous side, attending church retreats, leading after school programs, and even tutoring younger students.. these experiences ignited my passion to help others. After graduating from Peki College of Education in the Volta Region of Ghana, I choose to work in the Adaklu District in Ghana. Not many teachers wanted to work in this rural, deprived district, but I knew it was my calling. I have worked as a teacher and headmistress for 13 years in this region.
In addition to my career in the education field, to date I am proud to say that I have helped to implement a Women in Farming Program, Student Education Bursary, School Mushroom and Vegetable Farm, Library and Computer Program, a Mimi Maternity Clinic and now, with the novel RISE, my upcoming SHE Project (Soap Hygiene Entrepreneurship).
"What are the biggest problems in the water, sanitation and hygiene space that people encounter in your community? How has COVID impacted this situation on the ground?"
The District of Adaklu struggles with a lack of clean water and proper sanitation, which results in poor hygiene practices. Most communities do not have dumping sites, leading to improper disposal of waste. This has resulted in disease carrying pests and the further contamination of the dirty water.
The sources of water available in the Adaklu communities are predominantly streams, dug outs, and rain water harvesting - which are also the drinking areas for animals. These are all dependent on the weather, with the supply drying up during the hot season. A few communities have access to bore holes, but there is not enough clean water to consistently supply their own community.
COVID created a sense of fear and panic because despite the ongoing health detriments associated with not having clean water, community members were not prepared to deal with this new life threatening virus - which demands regular hand washing with soap.
The SHE Project will create a safe space for women to be trained and hired on how to make, distribute and sell liquid soap. Research has shown that soap is the best solution for physically removing viruses and bacteria from the skin. We will empower women as they will help their communities further prevent the spread of this deadly virus, in ways that are so difficult to do right now without any access to soap.
"What makes your innovative solution unique?"
The SHE Project's goal is to diversify the source of income and reduce the existing economic and health challenges faced by communities in the Adaklu District. Good personal hygiene is important for both health and social reasons. This initiative provides women with knowledge and skills in liquid soap production, impacting their families and communities for generations to come. The impact of this innovation will last a lifetime.
"Can you tell us more about how empowering women is a key aspect of the SHE Project?"
Women play an integral role in the SHE Project from start to finish. They are the key drivers of my initiative because they are so often left unseen and unheard in these communities - but their voices must be heard - they have to be part of the decision making process.
The SHE Project will empower women to make their own income, place them in a position of power and privilege, and to grow a business that boasts hygiene practices both within the family and in the overall community. It will empower consistent independence among the women who will inspire and motivate their daughters resulting in a generational change of gender roles that will economically empower females.
"What inspired you to dedicate your life to this work?"
'A working woman is a free woman,' is powerful saying I keep close to my heart. I have always wanted to see women and girls ‘free’ to make decisions that have to do with their very own existence.
Prior to COVID, lingering and chatting with some of the older students after school was one of my favorite pastimes. Female parents observed and started to come by to sit with me - this soon became a trend a few days a week. The conversations would run for about 30 to 40 minutes where we'd discuss everything from family and work, to education and health. During these conversations I got to know the women, their plights, dreams and desires for themselves and their families. One thing they all had in common was the desire to make steady income. I wanted to find a way to help them achieve this.
The COVID pandemic created a new kind of stress one that defined a new normal - the need for constant hand washing, physical and social distancing, and wearing face masks. Knowing the temporary effect of sanitizers, I knew that liquid soap and water for hand-washing was the only alternative for my community during this crisis. I needed to create an initiative that would also bring economic empowerment to women.
"What do you hope to gain from this experience?"
It is an honor and a great opportunity to be in a position of empowering women and girls - along with helping to reduce the fatal impact of COVID within my community. Bringing significant, substantive changes and strengthening women’s bargaining power in decision-making positions, while also addressing issues of gender based violence and providing them with financial independence, is what I look most forward to.
"Why is being a RISE fellow important to you?"
Being a RISE fellow will help me create sustainable opportunities that will transform the lives of the women I work with. The seed funding will help expand my horizons and grow this business in ways I would not have been able to do without this critical financial support. I look forward to broadening my prospectives as I collaborate and learn from the RISE mentorship team and other RISE fellows!