Accra, July 22, GNA - The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MWCA) has since September 2003 disbursed 12.5 billion as micro credit to women with income generating skills through out the country. Mrs Gladys Asmah, the Sector Minister, announced this at the graduation ceremony of some 42 trainees of the Skills Training and Employment Place (STEP) Programme in Accra.
She said the money formed part of a 26.5 billion cedis Japanese grant to the ministry for disbursement as micro credit to women. National Service Personnel, under the National Service Scheme (NSS) trained the 42 trainees, who obtained certificates in Catering, Food Processing and Textiles, with funding from the HIPC benefits. The trainees, mostly drawn from the Church of Pentecost, were also trained in basic hygiene, inter-personal relations and financial management, to enable them start and manage their own businesses effectively.
Mrs Asmah urged the trainees to form partnerships to enable them to access the ministry's micro credit facility to facilitate their business.
She said, "the training you have obtained is not to assist you to work for people but to enable you start your own businesses."
Mrs Asmah appealed to women to form groups of 20 members or more and open a bank account with banks like the Agricultural Development Bank, National Investment Bank and all rural and community banks to enable them to access the micro-credit facilities.
"Previously each individual was entitled to a maximum of 500,000 cedis but now the thresh-hold is one million cedis per person with a one year re-payment period".
Mrs Asmah said the banks were also supporting the Ministry to disburse funds to women, saying that, once the ministry deposited money with any of the accredited banks for disbursement, they added an amount equal to 150 per cent of the money deposited.
"With the support from the banks, we can currently boast of close to 50 billion cedis to be accessed by women".
Mrs Asmah said the repayment of the loan was so far very encouraging and that the facility was being effectively used in empowering women economically.
She said currently, about a 100 billion cedis in loans and grants were circulating among women in farming and other income generating ventures and noted that women produced about 70 per cent of locally consumed food as men concentrated on cultivating crops mainly for export. Mrs Asmah assured women in production as a whole and the graduates of the STEP programme in particular that there was ready market for their products.
" My colleague women ministers and I have decided to use your products as a way of encouraging others to do so."
Mrs Asmah urged the trainees to pursue higher courses to enable them improve upon their skills and said "you should aim at broadening your knowledge on gender issues in order to contribute effectively to the development of women."
Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, told the GNA that the Ministry intended to create market avenues for products of trainees of such programmes in the various ministries. Mr John Y. Amankwah, A Labour Statistician and Consultant to the Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment (MMDE), said since last year, the Government had provided a total of 10 billion cedis from the HIPC benefit to support the STEP programme, which was being coordinated by the MMDE.
"Last year we received 1.8 billion cedis from the HIPC funds to train 3,400 people and this year we received 8.2 billion cedis and we have trained 21,000 people absolutely for free," he said.
Mr Amankwah told the trainees that the STEP programme was just a step towards higher achievement, saying that statistics showed that several foreign investors were looking for people with income generating skills to form partnership for production of goods for local consumption and for export.
Ms Emma Hammond, Head of Community Improvement and Special Projects of the NSS, appealed to the Government to assist the body with funds for the acquisition of office equipment and for the training of more women.