Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Celebrating Women-An Example of a Women Entrepreneur

Celebrating Women-An Example of a Women Entrepreneur
Daily Graphic; Wednesday, March 10, 2010; Page 7
Vicky Wireko

Monday, March 8, was a special to women the world over. It is the day specifically set aside by the United Nations to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women.

Whereas elsewhere the day is celebrated with the exchange of gifts and flowers for women in appreciation of their roles and achievements, in Ghana, no official symbolic celebration in the real sense of recognizing achievements prevails.

However, according to a statement issued by the ministry of women and children affairs MOWAC, activities including a football gala among women’s groups, a cleanup exercise, symposium and exhibition have been lined up. Is the meaning of the day lost to us?

In my own small way, to celebrate the economic achievements of women in our society, l have decided to dedicate this column this week to the generality of the hardworking Ghanaians women that in many ways remains the toast of the society.

Very resourceful and resilient, many have held their families and their countries together in times of hardships .the irony however that is these people who are always on the line in times of conflict, discrimination, sexual violence, poverty, diseases and intimidation.

So as the global celebration caught up with us this year have decided to single out and showcase the entrepreneurial spirit of mother and a wife, Mrs. Awurabena Okra, whose success story in business continues to be a source of inspiration to many. Her resourcefulness has today become a case study for polytechnic students and young entrepreneurs who fall under the umbrella of National Board for Small Scale Industry (NSSSI).

A graduate of the University of Ghana and a postgraduate certificate holder from the University of Cape Coast, Awurabena left classroom teaching in the early eighties to pursue a past time which she had nurtured from childhood.

A risk one may have cautioned her at the time but no, risk taking is the hallmark of a successful entrepreneur .and so without any looking back, she forged on and successfully combined her god-given talent in stitching and a family trait in entrepreneurship (which she picked up from her mother) to create a full blown clothes and textile industry known today as Winglow at East Legon, Accra.

With a humble beginning of one sewing machine in her spare bedroom, and a determination to do something to supplement her family’s budget during those hardship days of the early 1980’s,Winglow has expanded so much that it now has 24 industrial sewing machines among several other machinery needed in the textile industry.

Awurabena has given lifetime occupations to many young men and women who have undergone training at her hands at Winglow Ltd and who are training others to manage their own dressmaking businesses. Currently the company employs 30 people on full-time basis. So how Mrs. Okra has nurtured past time made it to such celebrated heights in the textile and fashion industry?

Winglow started as a small outfit sewing for individuals and later for such big organizations as the Police, Military, private companies and some corporate institutions.

With time, she ventured into production on large scale and exporting finished goods to the US, Europe and some other parts of Africa. Today, the company designs its own materials with the Ghanaian symbols which make them unique and attractive to the export market.

Awurabena's venture into entrepreneurship has paid off well. She has won many local and international awards to her credit. In 2001, she won the International Award for her Quality and Commitment from Business Initiative Directives.

This was followed closely in 2002 by another award for Technology and Quality from Trade Leaders Club International. The awards she has picked up locally include the Mensah Sarbah Hall Alumni Celebrity Personality for 2003, the Ministry of Trade and Industry Bronze Award in 2004 for Entrepreneurship in Fashion and Export in 2005 from Accra Girls Secondary School.

As resourceful as she is, Awurabena has since 1997 participated in Trade Fairs and Exhibitions in countries such as USA, India, Angola, Namibia, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Liberia. At home, she participated in Fairs organized by the Ghana Trade Fairs Authority, the Association of Ghana Industries AGI), and the Eastern Regional Coordinating Council in Koforidua.

She has bettered herself by attending many international and local training courses both at home and abroad. Through these training sessions, she has been tutored in management and finance, entrepreneurship, small and medium enterprise, export, and machine embroidery.

She has in turn put some of the knowledge acquired from these training sessions to the benefit of young of young entrepreneurs and students from some tertiary institutions through facility visits to the Winglow factory and the provision of mentorship to some. She currently serves as a mentor to for some student members of AISEC at the University of Ghana, Legon.

The example of Winglow Ltd is a case of celebration for the simple reason that it has changed the face of textile manufacturing in our country and contributed to the training of our young ones to be the masters of their own businesses while giving employment to many others. And what better time to highlight this celebration than a time when the world the world is celebrating the achievements of women.

Years back when one heard or spoke about textiles industries, eyes were fixed on those multinational textile companies who dealt in our local designs.

Then later some large-scale local textiles industries came on board. But not anymore. Today, companies like Winglow Clothes and Textiles Ltd are busy in the design and production of quality clothing and embroided fabrics.

These fabrics that are exclusive, with excellent quality and are elegant by all standards manufactured specifically for both the local and exports markets. That has been the achievement of a resourceful Ghanaian woman, Awurabena Okra.

Like many other women working in the quiet and yet contributing in their own small ways to the economic ,social and political dynamics of our society, Monday was a day set aside to celebrate them as role models and clear examples for other women to aspire to their heights.
So on the occasion like this, we should not just be organizing clean exercise, football galas and talk shows. It is the time of the year that role models are played up.

It is the time we celebrate all women in general but give a special place to showcase in particular those women who have contributed to our economic, social and political successes through their own individual and corporate achievements. That should be the focus of the yearly International Day of the Woman. Happy Anniversary to the women of Ghana.

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