Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Women can Change history, “the history of poverty”!

My name is Senait Tadesse and I was born in Bahir Dar, a city located in the Northern part of Ethiopia and I am the second oldest child of six children in my family.  My parents passed away when I was just 7, and the burden of taking care of us all fell on my eldest brother. I could not continue my studies beyond grade 7 and later I was forced to get married and move out of our house.

My husband who was a truck driver then and I moved to another city and I had my two children there.   Few years later, my husband had a car accident and could not continue working.  I had to start taking care of my family by selling local traditional drink and bread. We then decided to move to Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia) in the hope that our life would be better but to the contrary, it became harder. To add to my despair, my husband started behaving terrible and never supported my small business. Predicaments continued to get worse between my husband and me which ended in a divorce.  We had to sell and share the very small property we owned as part of the divorce settlement.  I had to work even harder to support my life and that of my children’s all alone.

My friend who saw my struggle with life advised me to join WISE (Women in Self Employment); however I neglected her advice and went to the local governmental community organizer to request for a loan. Nevertheless, I was asked to provide for collateral which I didn't have at that time.  Finally, after all hope has failed, I joined WISE in the year 2008 because of my friend’s persistent nag.

After I became a member, I started saving the little income I had. I then took the 12 days training that helped me gain the knowledge on business skills, saving and customer handling which changed my perspectives completely. The training was presented in such an inspiring way that brought excitement and motivation to my life. After the training, I took 500 birr ($29.4) loan without collateral and I changed my small business of selling local drink to starting a small restaurant.

It was during this time that my ex-husband came back to ask me to take him back; but I was not willing to give up everything I worked hard for. He continued coming back regularly to convince me and I was persistent with the decision I had already made. One day, he came to the restaurant and ordered a meal for the children and himself. After he finished his meal, he asked me for the bills. As I approached him, he suddenly pulled out a gun and shot me in the leg and miraculously, the second bullet he shot missed me. Thinking he killed me, he committed suicide right there. It was later found out that he was also carrying an explosive which the police dismantled before it went off. An officer took me to a hospital where I got treatment and recovered a little but not fully.  Upon my release from the hospital and going home, I had to start my old business which was selling bread because I needed to support my children.

After some time, I took another loan from WISE and re-started the small restaurant. I have been taking several loans from WISE since then and expanded m y restaurant while still saving enough to pay back the loan on time.

The last loan I took was birr 10,000 ($ 540) and I have a personal saving of birr 29,000 ($1,706). My children are now getting better education in private school. I hired two employees at my restaurant for 300 birr ($18) per month. My house is now fully furnished.

I want to pass on a message to my sisters: it doesn't matter if you went through hard times. All we need is optimism and hard work and we can make poverty history!

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.