Our Women’s Groups: How Are They Organized?
Historically, women of Northern Ghana have engaged in informal shea nut collection during the rainy season, providing an additional source of income for their families. For generations, women have trekked out into the bush where the shea tree grows wild, to collect baskets of its precious fruit. The majority of these women have never received any formal schooling. In addition to looking after children and managing household responsibilities, Shea nut collecting and processing have been the primary ways for women to provide for their families and helping to improve their rural communities.
The original Network of 5,000 was created through the PlaNet Finance-SAP project. The size of the women groups is in line with the Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) requirements (between 15 and 25 members). Each group has its executives and Quality Experts in charge of process supervision. In addition 5,000 women were recruited mostly within existing VSLA (Village Saving Loans Association) groups implemented by a local NGO, JackSally. Those groups have around 30 members, and have similar executive and hierarchy structure to that of StarShea’s women’s groups. In 2014, the network extended to new areas, in particular the Bolgatanga zone, with the help of another NGO, Technoserve In other areas, StarShea staff has taken over to recruit and build new groups of women, further extending the network and linking rural women with the international market.
Structure of the StarShea Network
The StarShea Network combines 11 associations owned and run by women from the Gushegu, Karaga, Savelugu, West Mamprusi, Nanumba North, Bolgatanga, Bole, Sawla South, Sawla North, Tuna East, and Tuna West areas throughout northern Ghana. By June 2014, the network celebrated approximately 15,000 members.
The StarShea Network facilitates information exchange between Shea producers and buyers, and supports the management of product commercialization. The Shea associations are formal legal entities, which are registered at the district level. The associations represent geographic areas encompassing several communities. Informal clusters have been formed at the community level to set progressive governance structures. These structures will act as the connection between the village levels and the network level.
Every other year, the associations select the Network Executives that consist of a President, Secretary, and a Treasurer who all come from the same association that uphold network leadership. These Network Executives are elected by the Governing Body, composed of a minimum of 10 representatives of each women’s group . This insures cooperation, contentment, and and efficiency for each association.
The core of these roles is to implement all decisions taken by the Governing Body and to provide feedback to the Body. The Governing Bodies decide when to hold meetings and communicate with all members of the network so that information is shared with all members on a regular basis. This promotes leadership and cooperation within the communities; building capacity and organizational skills.
Our network executives for the next two years: