Wednesday, May 15, 2013

From Unemployment to Becoming an Employer

My name is Dasash Debebe. I was born in 1966 in the Northern part of Ethiopia in a city called Gondar. I was the first born for my family.  My parents believed in the power of knowledge so I was lucky enough to attend school up to the 12th grade before I got married in 1989.

I had a good marriage, my husband was a military man then.  We had our  first child in the year 1990. When my husband lost his job, we were forced to come to Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia) to look for a job. Fortunately, my husband got a job and  I started business,  preparing and  selling food for daily laborers at a road construction site. However after a while, my husband left his job and joined the road construction company employed as a heavy truck operator. My business went well for sometime before the road construction project phased out and we went totally bankrupt.  We had three children by then and life became very difficult without any source of income.

In the year 1999, I heard about WISE (Women in Self-Employment) for the first time. Mobilizing other women, I got registered at WISE as a member and started saving. I was then called for a 12 days basic business skills training that allowed me to learn the skills I needed to earn to run a business which I understood I lacked previously. After the training, I took a loan of  500 
birr ($27) from WISE, bought teaching aids and gathered 15 children from the neighborhood to start a school. I charged those who were able to pay a monthly fee of 5 birr ($0.2) while I taught the rest free of charge.  Learning that I had no experience in teaching, WISE then covered the cost of my education that enabled me to become a professional kindergarten teacher.  I continued taking loans at different cycle and level and used the money to improve my school by building additional class rooms and purchasing different teaching aids. after having gotten recognition from the government, I was then able to upgrade my school up to the 4th grade.  I also employed additional teachers and got a Diploma in Teaching and Leadership myself.

I recently got recognition from the appropriate government body to upgrade my school up to the 8th grade which I named ‘Yewket Berhan Academy’ meaning   ‘Light of Knowledge Academy’. I am proud to say that, I have created job opportunity for 17 employees including my daughter and my husband. My daughter has earned a  Diploma in Computer Science and Teaching  and my hope is for her to replace me to run the school some day.  My husband is also continuing his education  and encourages me to continue enriching myself in knowledge  as he  continues to assist me in my daily exertion.  Presently, my daughter and I are attending classes to attain our degrees.

I give annual scholarships for students who are unable to pay and the number of students is rising every year. In the year 2012, I opened my second branch school. I am still a member of WISE , I make conscious decision to continue my saving and I have taken loan  to help me  expand my school.  I have a dream of expanding my school to college level and to continue with my studies to a  Masters level.

What I would like to advise my sisters is that we can definitely change ourselves and even others if we work hard.

Women in Self Employment (WISE) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Ethiopia Office.
For more on IIE , ACE or WISE please follow the links below.