“More Organizations like WISE, less Poverty”
I was born in 1963 in Gojam region, in an area called Bure. I was the third child for my family. My father was a merchant and had a low value for education. However, with my own determination, I studied until 11th grade. In between, my parents forced me to stop going to school and get married. After getting married, I gave birth to two kids. Even though I have children, I decided I should still go to school and complete high school. I did and I went further and worked on my diploma. Since I was married against my will, I felt pressured; I filed for divorce and migrated to Addis Ababa.
When I came to Addis Ababa, I came with the hope of a better life in mind. However, situations turned out differently. I started my life in the city by working as a cashier in a hotel. While working in the hotel, I met my second husband. We got married in 1987 and started living together. I left my job and after that I started facing difficulties. Even though my husband was providing me with the things I needed in the house; I was not able to have enough cash on my hand. As my father was a merchant, I grew up having cash on my hand. Therefore I was not able to cope with the changes I faced. It became impossible for me to leave my house and socialize. My self-esteem became very low and started believing that this was my destiny.
I lived in a kebele (district) where the head was a woman. Frequently, I used to come in contact with her and mention to her that I could be the chair of the women’s association if it were strongly organized. I did this because I am educated and believed that I should not simply stay home; I was looking for an opportunity to leave the house and do something productive. Fortunately, one person came to my house and informed me that a new institution named Women in Self Employment (WISE) has been established. I was very happy when we were gathered and given orientation about the programme.
In 2009, I became a member of the cooperative established. In the process of taking training on Basic Business Skills, I started envisioning a bright future. I began to think that it all happened for me. All the trainings given were engraved in my heart. With the idea of working on what is not there in mind, I took the first round of loan and started selling spiced butter. Although it was successful, it was exhausting and as a result I decided to stop and shift to street vending which was for the moment making and selling potato chips. In a very short period of time, the business became profitable. So I thought to myself, if it is this profitable, I should not be working on the street.
I then made potato chips, packed them in 100 pieces of plastic bag, wrote my name and phone number. I told my children to go around and distribute them for free. On that same day, 36 customers phoned and placed their orders. I delivered the orders and after that Hiwot Chips became well known in the area. In
2008, in a competition of
innovative and variable business ideas, I made potato porridge from the starch
of the potato and also made food for cattle from the peels of the potatoes. I
won the competition and got a prize of 30,000 birr ($1546). With the money I
was awarded, I rented a hotel in Chancho town and invested there successfully
for two years. In addition to this I bought a plot of land and started a potato
The competition’s benefit was not limited to financial award only, but also linked me with different organizations and built up my network. For instance, I got in to Holeta Research Center and was part of a research conducted about the food content of potato starch. In addition, with partners of WISE, such as Concern Ethiopia, I was invited to travel to Wolaita and Wolo to share my experience with others. Furthermore, I also gave training to farmers on the benefits of potato and other ways of cooking it besides boiling and cooking it in to a stew. I believe I am where I am right now because of what I have gained from the trainings on Creative Thinking given by WISE.
In 2013 I also won a second place in the competition. By using used papers, I invented a charcoal lighter and won a 10,000 birr ($ 515) prize. I was initiated to make the invention from the tip I was given on a WISE training. We were thought that creativity is the solution for a problem. In the same year, in a Bazaar and Exhibition organized by WISE for Christmas, I was able to make 2000 birr ($103) by selling my invention.
I am now done paying off debt, which was 16,000 birr ($825). Currently, I am preparing to take the next round of loan. The saving amount I now have in my cooperative is around 15,000 birr ($773). Besides what I save in the bank, I have bought shares in Addis International Bank. At this moment, I am able to help more than 100 destitute children who have lost both parents. When EdegetBer Saving and Credit Cooperative was established, I served as the Chairperson of the cooperative for two years and later I also served as its Vice chairperson. Currently, though I have transferred my position to others, I am contributing to my cooperative by encouraging other women to join and persuading those who are thinking of leaving the cooperative to stay.
My plan for the future is to facilitate ways to enable me take my next round of loan, in order to pursue and upgrade my inventions, specially the second one. The message I would like to pass on is that there are so many women out there who have the knowledge but not the resource and the knowhow to convert what they have to action. Though WISE is now working with these kinds of women, this Organization alone cannot reach every woman. I suggest; if other organizations with a vision similar to WISE are established, it would be possible to eradicate poverty in a short period of time.
From EdegetBer Saving and Credit Cooperative
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.