I had a bittersweet childhood. In the beginning my father was present and life was better, but since we lost him it is just four of us - my mom, one brother, one sister, and myself. I am the last born. Not having my dad around to care for us really hurt the family a lot. My mother was unable to find formal employment, so she engaged in charcoal-making — involving strenuous, physical labor — to help cater for the house.
“I was raised by a woman who was very determined to do anything to send her daughter to school.”
Despite our best efforts some days I didn’t go to school because I had to wake up early to help my mother make charcoal. I couldn't go to my friends, I couldn’t do the things I wanted because I had to sell charcoal to help support the family. If I did go to school, I would then come back to help cook dinner and clean the house.
I’m a girl of hope, I like to have faith. I used to go home and tell my mom “I want to be a medical doctor” and she would say, “Do you know the fees that are involved?” I kept telling her, “We will get through it.” That’s what I kept saying. No matter the situation I was in, I would dream big. Then one day I learned about CAMFED from a lady in my community who heard that I was looking for support. She got me the forms to help me apply for a bursary, and it’s been great ever since.
This video was created by CAMFED in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation Young Africa Works program. Entrepreneurs like Cindy are sharing their knowledge and expertise to help inspire and train other women to succeed in business.
“For me, completing school was everything, because that meant that I was a step closer to what I really wanted to be: a leader, serving my community.”
After graduating from school I joined the CAMFED Association (CAMA), the network of young women supported through school by CAMFED. In this unique sisterhood, we come together and support each other in so many ways. I used to be a timid person but I’ve grown in confidence through being part of this strong network. It’s helping me to become the woman you have to be in life: a fighter, a leader.
Cindy (right) with her friend and fellow CAMFED Association member Joanna (left). (Photo: CAMFED/Eliza Powell)
I have always known that I wanted to contribute to society and being part of the CAMFED Association has helped me serve my community. Together we help to empower other women and also train people in entrepreneurship. On one occasion we went to Tamale prison — we got together and contributed items that we thought would be needed like toilet roll, soap, and other essentials — then we went and donated them.
We also support other girls to overcome their challenges and complete education. For example, I met a girl who was under a CAMFED scholarship but had dropped out of school due to illness. I got to know her better and with the help of other CAMFED Association members, enabled her to return. She has a dream of becoming a nurse. Maybe we could even partner and open a hospital in the future! Another time I met two girls whose fathers had died. I could see their potential so I have been assisting them with books, stationery, and encouraging words.
“Education is a way of empowering people. It is a gift, it is the best gift you can give anybody because it brings out the potential that a person has.”
I’m also pursuing my own dream and am studying medicine at the University for Development Studies. When I found out that I would receive support through university (as a Mastercard Foundation Scholar at CAMFED Ghana) I felt relieved, really relieved. It was a joyous day for my mother too. My dream to become a doctor first started as a childhood dream, after I realized that when people get into accidents, it completely changes their life. I want to become an orthopedic surgeon in future, so I can help people following trauma and accidents, to regain their strength and independence.
Cindy is enjoying her medical studies and aims to become an orthopedic surgeon. (Photo: CAMFED/Jonathan Kotei)
When I first arrived at university it was quite tough. I didn’t know anybody on campus. I didn’t even know where to go for my admission. But one of my classmates was also a member of the CAMFED Association, she encouraged me and helped me organize my accommodation. Now I’m helping to pay that forward by mentoring our sisters who are still in Senior High School. I don’t have any younger siblings, but through this outreach I’ve come to have a lot of junior sisters and that is lovely.
“If you are discouraged or need help, you know that a CAMFED Association member is close by and can help you. I feel there is something binding us — in a family it’s blood, but for CAMFED Association members there is something greater.”
In 2019, I was one of the winning applicants to the Mastercard Foundation Scholars
Entrepreneurship Fund, and received start-up funds to launch my business. Now, alongside my studies, I am the CEO for Fresh Veg Agri-Business. I’m proud to be solving a problem for my community, by helping to ensure fresh, local produce is available year-round. The business is also linked to my interest in promoting good health and supporting the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Zero Hunger.
Currently I have just one greenhouse and one employee, but I have big ambitions for the future. In the next five years I hope to scale up through having additional greenhouses and producing other vegetables like cucumbers, cabbages and carrots. I also plan to open a showroom or grocery store and to process my crops — increasing their shelf life, and making them more accessible and affordable to the people of my community.
Cindy's first harvest has been a success and she hopes to supply her community with nutritious food all year round. (Photo: CAMFED/Jonathan Kotei)
“There is a lot of potential in rural communities...If community members can generate money from farming, we can invest it in schools, in housing and in a reliable water supply.”
I’m passionate about encouraging young women into entrepreneurship — we are in a part of the world where unemployment is on the rise. Having a business helps an individual to sustain themselves, their families, and in the long run, their communities as well.
“My advice to other young entrepreneurs is to have a spirit of perseverance. There are going to be challenges, you might fail a couple of times, but then you will rise up.”
I have faced challenges including learning technical skills for greenhouse farming, especially in our part of the country where the sun is really harsh. The first farming season wasn’t a success, but fortunately I had a mentor who helped me revise things. Instead of using buckets we now plant directly into the soil, and open the windows wide to improve ventilation. The recent season was really good and I had my first harvest. I was very excited, and I secured a buyer who bought everything because it was really good quality. So it was a success!
With the money I make out of my business, I want to support the activism of my CAMFED Association sisters and to start some community projects. I hope to provide rural schools with a mini library because I understand the challenge that children face in accessing textbooks. I also aim to set up a fund that will help to partially or fully pay for surgery for patients struggling to cover the costs of their treatment.
“Putting a smile on somebody’s face means success for me.”
My measure of success will be the impact that my business makes — the number of people, families, and communities that benefit. For me, success is not just about an individual — like the fact that I can acquire a house, a car — it goes beyond that. Putting a smile on somebody’s face means success for me.