Esther Afua Ocloo google doodle
Google doodle marks the 98th birthday of champion of microlending, Esther Afua Ocloo.Google doodle

She started off with just only six shillings to her name. But Esther Afua Ocloo managed to make and sell her first jar of marmalade as a teenager in the 1930s in Ghana.

And she was on her way to bigger things. Despite not having easy access to credit to expand her operations of making marmalade and orange juice, a lot of persistence and eventually a supply contract helped Ocloo, or Auntie Ocloo to secure the necessary funding to start her company, Nkulenu Industries.

She became the first person to start a formal food processing business in the Gold Coast, supplying marmalade and orange juice to the Achimota College and the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF).

She was then sponsored by Achimota College to visit England from 1949 to 1951, where she became the first black person to obtain a cooking diploma from the Good Housekeeping Institute in London. She also took a postgraduate Food Preservation Course at the Long Ashton Research Station, Department Of Horticulture, Bristol University.

Auntie Ocloo learnt the latest techniques in food processing in the UK and later shared her knowledge and skills with other Ghanaian women when she returned home.

To overcome prejudice against locally produced goods in Ghana, Ocloo formed a manufacturers' association and helped organise the first Made-in-Ghana goods exhibition in 1958. She became the first president of the association, which later became the Federation of Ghana Industries.

And in 1964, Ocloo became the first Ghanaian woman to become the executive chairman of the National Food and Nutrition Board of Ghana.

In addition to teaching women about food processing, Ocloo also taught them how to start and run a business. Because low-income women often lacked collateral, they were often sidelined by banks, making it difficult for them to start any businesses to improve themselves and earn some income.

Her activities in helping other fellow women drew attention and in 1975, she was invited to the first United Nations World Conference on Women.

In 1979, she helped found the Women's World Banking and became the chairman of the board of directors. The bank provides millions of low-income women with the small loans needed to help women achieve their financial goals.

Auntie Ocloo, who had four children - a daughter and three sons, died in 2002 at the age of 82 after developing pneumonia.