Thursday, May 30, 2013

The road to becoming the owner of the ‘Green House’ Pension

Here is one of the stories of families economically empowered by the Organization for Women in Self Employment as told by both Ms Tsion (the direct beneficiary) and her husband Mr Tariku who are currently residing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

My name is Tsion Gebremeskel.

My husband was employed and so was the sole earner of income for the household while I was a housewife up until we had our second child. We were living in a single room my uncle gave us. As our children started getting older, our hardship grew with their need and so I started working at a garment tailoring shop for 70 birr ($4.1) per month although barely three months after my employment, my husband was expelled from his work. Our family then entirely depended on the $ 4.1 I obtained while my husband did all the household chores.

In the year 1992, the Addis Ababa (capital of Ethiopia) municipality office of administration availed residential plot of land for people with low income. However, since the number of applicants to get the land was numerous, it was then decided to distribute the land on lottery basis. Fortunately, I got the plot of land though I did not have enough money to start the construction of the house immediately. Borrowing a small amount of money from my mother, I built a single roomed house and started renting it while my family and I lived on the same plot of land but in a shelter made of cane that wasn't even protecting us from splash of rain.  

I heard about WISE for the 1st time while working at the shop and immediately became a member. I started saving and took the business skill training offered at WISE that focus on enhancing our business skills inspiring us to transform ourselves. After the training, I decided to quit my job and taking a loan of 500 birr ($29.4) and adding the small amount of money I got as compensation payment from my former employer, I started a small shop constructed on the plot of land I won starting with preparing and selling Enjera (local bread), culturally prepared pepper (Berbere) and peas (Shuro) for local consumption.   Nevertheless, I was not profitable so I switched to selling gift artifacts. But just like the first one, I quitted this business as well as there was no profit.

I then took a second loan from WISE to construct a five bedrooms house on my plot to rent as pension. Initially, my husband and I took turns to clean the rooms and took care of the business as we were not in a position to hire help. Being new to the business, we were also a bit confused until we gradually understood it all. As the business gradually picked up however, we decided to rent a residential house somewhere else for ourselves so we can add more rooms on the plot. Although we were able to finish the construction of additional rooms, they remained vacant for quite some time as we didn't have enough money to furnish them.
Subsequently, a neighbor who saw our difficulty volunteered to lend us 11,000 birr ($647) which we used to furnish the rooms and hire workers as we could no longer run the business alone.

This was a big change for someone who started from scratch. We used to get four dollars to live by for a whole month and now have a capital of 3 million birr ($ 176,470.6). If I were not registered at WISE that day, I wouldn't have been able to get that training and the loan that brought these changes in my life and allowed me to witness a significant change in the life of my family. We are now planning to construct a six storey building on the same plot of land to expand our pension.

Mr Tariku is Ms Tsion’s husband and he says:


I was employed for ten years before the family relied on the four dollars my wife earned. As we were poor then, I took the part of cleaning the house, washing cloth, cooking food and taking care of the children. I had to pay this sacrifice as my wife needed to go to work. I am now happy that it paid back!


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.