Esther Afua Ocloo: The Ghanaian Woman Who Inspired Today’s Google Doodle

Anytime I see a Black face–even though it’s an illustration, a part of me lights up. And if it’s a Black woman? Giddy. I feel this excitement, not only because our stories and contributions have gone mostly unrecognized. But also because I tend to learn something from the information the presented.

That was certainly the case today. Today’s Doodle celebrates the late Esther Afua Ocloo. Ocloo was a Ghanaian businesswoman who changed the game both as an entrepreneur, advocate for microlending and helping to found the Women’s World Bank. Today, would have been Ocloo’s 98th birthday.

According to Google, Ocloo, affectionately known as “Auntie Ocloo” started her business as a teenager in the 1930s selling marmalade when she only had six shillings (less than a dollar) to her name. Esther was determined to expand her business and needed a loan to do so. Credit was hard to come by for women, particularly with few economic resources. But Ocloo found a way and secured a supply contract that eventually allowed her to launch her own company Nkulenu Industries.

From there, she traveled to England to learn the latest technologies in food processing. When she returned to Ghana, she shared those skills with other Ghanaian women and also taught them what she knew about starting and operating a business. The knowledge she shared helped put more money in their pockets. Her work made such an impact that she was invited to the first U.N. World Conference on Women.

Esther understood the importance lending to women could make in improving prosperity and health for women so, in 1979, she helped found and became the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of Women’s World Banking, a program that provides million of low-income women with small loans to help reach their financial goals.

Veronica Wells is the culture editor at She is also the author of “Bettah Days.” You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter @VDubShrug.