Monday, October 27, 2014

“Aim High, Value Time and Convert it to Cash"

Bizunesh Geberehiwot is well known for her excellent public speaking. She served in a Cooperative for six years as a chairperson. Currently she is serving the same Cooperative as a member of the Control Committee. She will tell us her story in short as follows:

My name is Bizunesh Geberehiwot. I was born in February 1957 in Addis Ababa. I am the first child for my parents. I completed elementary school and as I passed the 8th grade national exam, I was transferred to Teferi Mekonen School.  I met my husband when I was a 7th grade student. At that time he was a famous sports man and a boxer. We met when he was going for training and I was on my way to school. When we first met, I was only 16 years old. Since I was in love with him I dropped out of school and married him in accordance with the traditional ceremony.

I then gave birth to four children. When I lived with my parents, I was a spoiled child and I was not able to cope up with the changes and responsibilities I faced in a married life. My husband’s monthly earning was 25 birr (~$2.5) . His salary was not sufficient to support us. As a result it was inevitable for me to start working. I started working in Nifas Silk Thread Factory. My pay was 75 cents (~$.075%) per day. Still our earning was not balanced with our demands. In addition to working there, I used to take different goods to the factory, sell them on credit and collect the money when the employees collect their salaries. Though I did not have much money I managed to send my children to school.

Since my husband stopped contributing money for the household, I decided to go to the sports commission and ask for my share from his salary and stopped waiting for him to give me money every month. Unfortunately my husband passed away in 1999. After his death I was faced with hardship. All my family members had passed away and nobody was by my side.  At that time it used to take two years to authenticate a retirement benefit of one’s spouse. Through that period of time we were in a difficult condition. On top of everything that was happening to me, the factory I was working in was bankrupted and I was laid off.

It was at this moment of hardship that Women in Self Employment (WISE) came in to my life, in 2005. I never was fan of taking credit. However, before providing us with any credit, WISE gave us a training on how to invest, save and manage money, and how to develop speaking skills. With 55 members in it, the  Saving and Credit Cooperative I was a member of was established and I was elected as its first chairperson. After that, I started noticing changes in myself. I felt as if I just started living. Even though I knew how to read, I knew nothing about investment, profit, loss and the value of my labor.

Based on the knowledge I have acquired from WISE, I took my first round of loan. I started trading twice a week in a certain area in Addis. Currently I have goods worth over 6000 birr ($316) at my kiosk in Addis.

My son was unemployed hence I opened a barber shop for him and now he is working successfully. My first child runs a beauty salon for women in the house I inherited from my parents.  The asset we have is estimated to be more than 80,000 birr ($4211) and we have created job opportunities for three people.

In an Innovative and Viable Business Idea’s Competition, which was organized by WISE in 2010, I competed and won a prize of birr 5000($263). I also received 200 ($10.5) and 300 birr ($15.8) awards from two competitions that took place in our Cooperative. Before, I never had speaking skills; now I am capable of speaking in public and sharing my experience to women like me in different forums and events.

I do not have words to express what I feel about WISE.  I was a woman who used to borrow money in exchange for my gold earrings. Today I am not only helping myself but also others. I have savings in two different places, one in my Cooperative, I save around 356 birr ($18.7) every week.

I am now responsible for controlling the activities in my Cooperative. I make sure that no amount of money is withdrawn from the Cooperative for a reason which is not convincing. I have taken a 33,000 birr ($1737) loan and my saving in the association has reached 11,000 birr ($579). My long term plan is to purchase a vehicle. The message I want to pass on to other women is that there is no way a woman who is trained and assisted by WISE could not change if she is open-minded.  In addition, we women have to be strong and persistent in what we have started. We need to aim high to achieve the end goal. We need to value time and convert it to cash.

   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.