Monday, July 29, 2013

Women can change the life of their family!

My name is Leke Tolera; I was born in the Western part of Ethiopia in a town called Wellega in the year 1979. I was the third child to a family of farmers. My mother passed away three months after giving birth to me and I grew up with my aunt who did not have children of her own and depended on a small business for survival.
I attended my regular class until the 8th grade and dropped out when my aunt’s health  started deteriorating at which time  running the business fall solely on my shoulders.  When my aunt passed away, my cousin took me to a different town and promised me  that she will put me back in  school. However, I could not go back to school because of political instability and  war that was going on in the new town that I moved  in. After a while, I moved to another town to live with another cosine of mine and I started going back to  school. the heavy domestic work load that I had to do in the house could not give me the time and space to concentrate on my studies.. Adding to this problem, my cousin was not willing to  avail even the most basic educational materials I needed and so I reached to the point where I could no longer bear life with her.

In the year 1995, I run away from home with the brother of one of my friends and came to Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia) to  livewith his relatives. During my stay with them, I helped with household chores and four months later, I got a job to work as a waitress in a cafĂ© for a monthly wage of 60 birr (around $7.5 at the time) eight months later, I fell in love  and got married. My husband was working at the Internal Revenue Authority and earned a monthly income of birr 375 ($47) which  we depended on. In the year 1997, I gave birth to our first child and we could only care for our subsistence with the income we had.

I heard about WISE (Women in Self Employment) for the first time from a friend and got registered right away. Immediately after becoming a member, I started saving money from the monthly income we had. I  then attended a  12 days basic business skills training which I found to be very useful to run a business. It gave me the knowledge  on how to be profitable, how to handle customers, how to plan business and how to communicate with people. After attending the training, I took a loan of birr 500 ($50) and started a new business. I started buying eggs from farmers in rural areas and sale it at a small profit margin  in Addis. In  the beginning, business was not profitable . I was bringing the eggs from very distant places that I faced incidents where many of the eggs were broken before I reached the market.  However the continuous learnings from WISE  kept my hope alive and I pursued my dreams.. I paid back my loans on time and continued taking more loans to expand my business; I started. selling chicken, butter, cheese and honey. WISE constructed a market area through my cooperative and it enabled me to penetrate the market better. a A while later, I realized that cereals were in high demand in the capital and would yield better profits. I decided to take a major loan of birr 20,000 ($1,111) to advance this business. Presently my capital values over birr 70,000 ($3,889). I send my children to a private school paying birr 400($22) per month.  With my increased income,  my husband could  up grade his education to a degree level which got him  promoted in his job. I now live a fulfilled life and my children know the value of work.

The message I want to pass on to my sisters is if we value work regardless of its kind and are committed enough, we can reach high stages in life. We need to have a vision and work hard to fulfill our vision.  We also have to be strong to beat  challenges that come our way.

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.