Friday, May 15, 2015

Join WISE, Work Hard and Change your Life

I was born in Wollo, a town located in the North Eastern part of the country in a village called ‘Kallem’. Even though it is a rural area, I had a pleasant upbringing since my parents had a good financial status. However, I dropped out of school at the age of 13 on fourth grade and went to Arsi (Central Ethiopia) to take care of my sister during her maternity where I stayed for four years. I then came to Addis Ababa, got married and became a mother of five.

I found married life to be very difficult. My husband used to work in construction and our life was hand to mouth. I am a hard working woman from early age and have been engaged in selling different goods moving from place to place and Injera (local bread) at home to be able to send my children to school. But, I was not able to ease the financial burden; life was very difficult.

At one point, I was able to borrow $3,000 (~$200) to start a business to prepare and sell red pepper (“Berbere”) in a small shop and that was when my neighbors for the first time told me about Women in Self Employment (WISE). I joined one of the saving and credit associations (SACCO’s) named ‘Tinsae’ in the year 2012. After I took the Basic Business Skills training offered at WISE, I took the first round of Birr 1000 (~$66) loan and bought various goods for my shop. Using the second round loan, I reconstructed my shop and enlarged the window to fit the business purpose. A little while later, I took Birr 5,000 (~$330) loan and expanded my business to avail more goods. I was able to pay back each loan in a short period of time and took advantage of subsequent rounds of loans.

Besides the Basic Business Skills training, I took Leadership, Health and other trainings. The trainings helped me a lot in terms of enabling me to critically evaluate my life. The trainings helped me understand that I waste my time unnecessarily doing staff not worthy wasting my time over. Hence after the trainings, I started using my time consciously, started saving and was able to manage my income and handle my customers properly. I realized that customer handling has its own contribution to the success of any business. I also acquired knowledge that health is an asset for any business woman thus I started taking care of myself.

Currently, I borrowed Birr 12,000 ($600) and my saving has reached Birr 8,000 ($400). Additionally, I am able to save Birr 200 birr ($10) every month for a condominium house to be allotted by the government and Birr 200 ($10) per week in my Ikub (a traditional rotating saving).

I have a plan to expand my business and to change myself even better and more rapidly. Thus, I am saving more amount of money in my cooperative than is expected of me. I have remarkable changes in my life. My shop was very small and I started my pity- trade long ago selling charcoal. Now, I have expanded the business availing more goods and have many customers. I renovated my house with material worth Birr 4,000 ($200). The loan I took is now fully paid back, I even am serving in the leadership committee in my SACCO and all of my children are employed. I also have a business license and I am a legal tax payer!

From the changes in my life, the one thing that gives me the most satisfaction is that I am not dependent on my now grown up children for support and that I will be independent even at an old age. This is due to WISE and the trainings it offers. I love those trainings and would even like to get more in the future as well.

My future plan is to be a wholesaler; to open a big shop operated with additional employees. I want to continue sharing my story to others. Once, I was destitute to the point where I was forced to sell my gold earrings. For stay at home women, the advice I want to give is ‘Join WISE, Work Hard and Change Your Life!’

Almaz Messele
 From Tinsae 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.