Victoria Koomson

Ashoka Fellow

Citation

This profile was prepared when Victoria Koomson was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1993.
The New Idea
Victoria Koomson is increasing the earning power of fishermen's wives in coastal Ghana by introducing inexpensive and simple techniques that allow them to preserve their fish in bulk. Her organization, the Central and Western Fishmongers Improvement Association, is replacing traditional mud ovens with larger, durable ovens that can smoke more fish and are less susceptible to rain damage. Having preserved the fish in bulk, the women are no longer under pressure to sell their catch immediately, and lose fewer fish to spoilage. They are now able to maximize profits by marketing to the distant interior.Her project, which started with a relatively simple technical innovation, has resulted in many socio-economic benefits for these communities. Victoria teaches women to manage and invest their increased income in cooperative ventures, and helps them gain access to the banking system for the first time.
Through land donations from local chiefs facilitated by Victoria, these migratory "squatter" villages have acquired their own land on the coast. The women initiate and pay for improvements themselves, without any outside funding. They have used their increased income to build bath houses, schools, and sheds for selling food and fresh water and have set money aside for the repair of roads to the interior. Because many of these improvements benefit those previously settled in the area as well, the new fisherfolk villages are increasingly accepted as permanent neighbors.
Having seen the way to greater prosperity, the women of the fishing villages are more receptive to trying other changes in their lives. The new villages are centers of education and economic activity. Victoria has organized literacy classes and hygiene and health education. The families involved with the Association are better fed and better clothed, and for the first time have access to education, family planning and medical care.
As the women work to improve themselves and their communities, their increased economic independence and self-respect have also resulted in more equal gender relations.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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