In a 1990 speech, Ghana's microlending pioneer Esther Afua Ocloo declared, "Women must know that the strongest power in the world is economic power." As an entrepreneur and businesswoman, "Auntie Ocloo" discovered that empowering women financially could boost the economy of an entire village, and she devoted her life to helping women achieve economic security. On what would be her 98th birthday (April 18), Google honors the inspiring trailblazer with her own Doodle.
As a teenager in the 1930s, Ocloo started her first business: making marmalade jam with ingredients she bought for less than a dollar. She sold the jam for a profit and won a contract to supply her high school with marmalade jam and orange juice. She later secured a business loan and in 1942, and established her business under her maiden name, Nkulenu. Ocloo then traveled to the UK to study food science and modern processing techniques at Bristol University.
She returned to Ghana with newfound skills and a determination to assist other women in their business ventures. According to TIME, Ocloo "saw the importance of credit in helping women achieve better health and prosperity, but poor black women were often ignored by the banks. So she helped establish Women's World Banking, a global nonprofit that provided low-income women with microloans to help start their own businesses." Because of pioneers like Ocloo, microloans have empowered countless women around the globe provide for their families and achieve financial autonomy.