Tuesday, February 4, 2014

“It is possible to bring change by working hard starting from small in one’s own country”

I was born in 1986 in the western part of Ethiopia called Jimma in a village called Telu.  I am the 5th child for my parents. My upbringing was full of hardships.  My cousin brought me to the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa promising to send me to school where I used to work during the day and attend school in the evening.  When I reached to the point where I could no longer handle the heavy workload, I went away to live with my uncle.

I got good education until my uncle died of illness and started to live with my relatives but since I couldn’t handle the hardship and pain, I was forced to withdraw from school on 10th grade and decided to go outside of Ethiopia for work.  Assisted by a friend, I travelled to the Middle East in 1998 without consulting my relatives. I didn’t fine the country as comfortable to live in as I expected it would be. Everything turned out to be very difficult and horrible; I even became a victim of attempted rape.  I started to live in a place the agency of domestic workers assigned me to live at without a wage from my first employers for one year.  The household members I have been assigned to work for on my second employment kept me locked inside a house for three consecutive days without food when they went away. This dried and cracked my throat and thus, I couldn’t eat when they offer me food when they returned.  I started to easily get tired since I worked without food. One time, the mother of my employer saw me crying and sent me away to work for another household.

Working for the third household, nothing got better.  I used to cry bitterly when things went beyond my control.  I called for the agency of domestic workers to inform them of my problems with a help of a translator since I could not speak their language.   The agency had been taking my pay when this was happening to me.  I worked for four years without enough sleep.   My employers used to tell me that they would get me a two way airline ticket so that I could visit my family and continue working for them upon return. In 2002, they finally sent me back to Addis Ababa with just a luggage without paying me my salary for the four years of labor.

I got married after I returned from the Middle East and worked with my husband who was an owner of an advertisement company.  Then my husband and I got separated due to conflicts between us.  After the separation, I decided to go back to the Middle East once again but my application was rejected because I was pregnant.  I finally gave birth after a miserable pregnancy.  I started taking care of my child with the money I earned by washing clothes and doing various types of jobs. One time, a member of the organization for Women in Self Employment (WISE) who saw me washing clothes advised me to become a member of WISE.  I agreed and got registered at the organization around the end of the year 2011. Subsequently, I received various trainings that changed my life.  I was able to understand how to start one’s own employment with little money and grow to a higher level.  I maintained a hopeful outlook on that I could make a difference.

Since I was skilled at weaving, I started weaving after buying  sponge and layers of fabric with the first round of loan I took from my cooperative at WISE which was 1,000 Birr ($59).  My capital has now increased from 1,000 Birr ($59) to 7,000 Birr ($412). I won the 2nd place prize for the new and viable business ideas competition arranged by WISE for making gloves and bandages using the by-products from factories which awarded me with additional 1,000 Birr ($59). I began to work from my own shop with the loom I bought with the award money and also purchased a sewing machine with my own money. My products have a high demand in the market. I was able to attract a lot of customers by applying what I have learned. I now know how to manage customers because I have received the marketing training course. I am currently eligible for the 3rd round of loan and have a good sum of money in my savings.

I am a member of a Cooperative called ‘TsinaKirkos’. I don’t have any committee responsibility in my Cooperative.   However, I do my best on my own initiative to increase the savings and credit limits of my Cooperative. I have plans to build my own manufacturing factory in the future. The most important message I want to convey, especially for my sisters who want to go abroad to the Middle East, is that we should build our own business, or do a particular job by thinking big and starting small before we decide to travel and work in the Middle East countries, making our lives miserable.  We can work in our country with freedom by starting small and growing into being something big gradually.  I got to where I am today by starting with a 1,000 Birr ($59) investment. I am confident that I can work even harder and become bigger.

AbenetKidane, TsinaKirkos Savings and Credit Cooperative
Kirkos Sub-city

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 Intenrational Education (IIE), Ethiopia Office 

For more on IIE , ACE or WISE please follow the links below.