Friday, March 14, 2014

“From Nothing to Something Big”

I was born in 1959 in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. I am the only child for my parents. My parents were separated and I used to live with my father, who was a boxer, and my grandmother. My father always took me to his boxing matches until he died during a party he was invited to celebrate one of his victories. After my father’s death, my mother no longer wanted me to stay with my grandmother and so she took me away with her. 

However, I very much wanted to live with my grandmother and so run away from home and went back to live with grandma right after my mother’s second marriage ended in divorce.
My grandmother was a businesswoman and I assisted in handling her business after school until one of my friends and I decided to withdraw from school and start a business. I became a street newspaper seller. I get the newspaper from a Printing Press and started the business but it didn’t last because I could not stand all the abuse from boys on the street. 

Then I withdrew from school at 4th grade to work for the National Coffee Board of Ethiopia at the age of 11 to support my grandmother. I worked as a coffee picker for a long time with a pay of 75 cents ($.075) per day.

In the year 1985, I got engaged and I am now a mother of four. My husband was a soldier in the Air Force. Our incomes put together never sufficed to satisfy the household needs. In addition to the money I got from the National Coffee Board of Ethiopia, I queued up for long hours to purchase goods with lesser price for both household consumption and to sell. After working for the Coffee Board for 35 years, I resigned from my job due to depression and upon departure was paid 3,000 Birr ($300) for my service of 35 years. The Corporation’s business activity was then closed.

I became a housewife for five years then on. In the meantime, a mother of my daughter’s friend, who was a member of WISE, advised me to join WISE. I was suffering from an illness at the time and so had my daughter, who failed to pass the 10th grade national examination, get registered instead of me. She managed to complete her College studies with the loan she took out after she received WISE’s training. She is now employed.

One day, I went to WISE to repay my daughter’s loan and got myself registered as a member when the secretary told me that both a mother and a daughter at the same time can become members. I applied to become member on that same day which was back in 2010. I then took the training courses which changed me like I was born again.

I learned how to start my own business, which I started with the 1st round of loan I took out which was 700 Birr ($70). However, after taking the creativity and professional development training, I was inspired to engage in the business of selling knitted garments as well in addition to the coffee sailing business I already had up and running. On the New and Viable Business Ideas competition, I then received an award for making knitted dresses and won 2,000 Birr ($190). I was capacitated to be able to provide for my family.

I now have 5,000 Birr ($ 263) in my savings and am eligible for the 4th round of loan which is 5,000 Birr. I have purchased a bank share and was able to raise my share capital from 2,000 Birr to ($105) to 7,000 Birr ($368) within a short period of time. I also once again won 8,000 Birr ($ 421) on the 2006’s New and Viable Business Ideas competition. I am a member of a Cooperative called ‘Wegen Le Wegen’ and one of the members of Committees and I am determined to assume any responsibilities as long as I am a member.

 I have a plan to expand my knitting business by purchasing a sewing machine with the prize money I got; I am tired of the regular rejections I face from the seamstresses claiming a broken/bent needle while sewing my patterns. In addition, I have a plan to buy a washing machine since the clothes get dirty very easily as they are knitted by hand. And in the meantime, I plan to buy a car for my husband so he can have his own cab. He is currently a hired taxi driver.

I advise my sisters to become a member of WISE so that they are no more called housewives but entrepreneurs.

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.