Excerpt taken from :DEVELOPMENT-GHANA: Women Ideal Shea Butter Producers – IPS ipsnews.net.
SAGNARIGU, Jun 11, 2008 (IPS) – “Wherever I went, they laughed at me and called me ‘Habiba the empty mouth.’ I was always embarrassed,” says 45-year-old Habiba Alhassan. “I could not afford to smile; I could not open my mouth in public, when I took photographs I had to close my mouth so that I wouldn’t look ugly.”
With all her front teeth missing, Alhassan was an object of mockery in her village, Sagnarigu, in the northern region of Ghana. Too poor to afford artificial teeth, she seemed destined to live with the embarrassment for life. “My petty trade in cocoa drinks was hardly enough to feed me let alone replace my lost teeth,” she said.
But all that changed early last year, when she joined a rural women’s cooperative producing soap from shea butter. In less than six months, she was able to save more than $300 from her earnings to replace the missing teeth. “Nobody believed me when I said I was determined to replace the missing teeth, now I have done it,” Habiba said proudly.
The cooperative, known as the Ideal Woman Shea Butter Producers and Pickers Association is the product of a poverty eradication initiative for rural women in Northern Ghana. The initiative is backed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Japanese government under the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). TICAD is a global framework for collaboration between Asia and Africa to promote economic development in Africa.