"Women, Don't Undermine your Potential"
My name is Zenebech Ezezew. I was born in 1958 E.C in Debre Tabor town, Gondar. My parents were in good economic situation. However, they got divorced while I was a child and that was bad for my upbringing. I stayed with my father and joined church education but couldn't continue further due to a problem I had with my step-mother. Later, I escaped an arranged marriage and ran away to Gondar city where I started working as a domestic worker with a salary of six birr ( around $3 at the time) per month.
In the meantime, a woman who knew my strengths and the meager payment brought me to Addis Ababa. I was hired as a domestic worker and continued my education in the evening until I reached tenth grade. Grade eleven was difficult for me, hence I dropped out from school, got married and gave birth to three children.
To support my husband, I brought cheese, butter and egg from Sebeta and Sululta (small semi-urban villages on the outskirt of Addis) and started selling injera too. But life was very difficult. While I was in such a difficult situation, my friend who is a member of Women in Self Employment (WISE) saving and credit association (SACCO) advised me about the benefits of becoming a member of WISE and the various services of the organization. Thus, I joined 'Tinsae' Saving and Credit Cooperative in 1999 E.C. By that time, I was struggling to work in a small shop. I took the Basic Business Skills training and the first round loan of 500 birr (around $40) that helped me expand my business.
The training brought me tremendous attitudinal change within a very short period of time. Before I tool the training, even if I was working hardly day and night, I was unable to fulfill the minimum subsistence needs. The training helped me understand the meaning of profit and loss, efficient time and money utilization and income and profit calculation. The Health training helped me improve my personal and environmental hygiene. By taking different rounds of loans, my business expanded and I was able to buy the necessary household utilities like refrigerator for my house.
Currently, I have taken Birr 15,000 ($750) loan and my saving has reached Birr 12,000 ($600). I have two savings, for me and my children and for condominium being constructed by the government. I am helping relatives besides myself. Two of my children have graduated from colleges. The first one is to soon start working in Ethiopian Airlines as a mechanic soon and the second one will get his driving license within a short time. My last child is a girl. She withdrew from a public school and joined a private one for which I am paying 500 birr ($25) per month. I used to spend my time and money to fulfill other people’s expectations; serve meal followed by coffee ceremony, etc. I and my family are no more wasting time in serving coffee.
My life has changed tremendously. I now have all the necessary household equipment for my house and I am able to visit my relatives in rural areas.
I have a plan to expand my business in the near future. Thus, I am planning to buy a car for transporting the goods. Since I have a driver and mechanic at home, the car will be easily manageable at my household level.
I want to send a message, to all Women - you shouldn't depend on the income your husbands bring home. You have to be strong enough and shouldn't undermine your potential since every household needs a woman.
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.