WISE is like a mother to me!
My Name is Ayelech Esubalew. I am a member of the 'Mekaleya' Self Employed Women’s saving and Credit Cooperative. I was born in a small rural village in Ethiopia in 1972 but I grew up in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. My family had a good life, but my aunt fetched me to Addis when I was nine years old, promising to enroll me in school. I helped her with the household work. There was not much to do and I was attending my evening school. I was able to attain until seventh grade while staying with her. However, as the years went by, the workload got heavier and conflicts developed with my aunt. So I left her house and got hired as a maid in another household for three years. Meanwhile, I managed to continue with my education.
At age 19, I became pregnant and it created arguments within my family. They wanted to give my child for adoption. However, I was determined to sacrifice myself to raise my son. I immediately started searching for my father who then was living in Addis. We found him but he passed away five months after we met. We continued living in my father’s house where I went through lots of struggle to raise my son. I did a variety of menial work. At the last place I worked, the lady who employed me paid me a monthly salary that only covered half a liter of milk for my son’s daily consumption. After two years of working for her, she lent me 100 birr (around $10 at the time) and I started selling berbere (chili powder). It was just at this juncture that WISE’s staff began introducing the work of the organization around where I lived. That was in 1998.
Having joined WISE, I started becoming optimistic immediately after I took the basic business skills training. I became full of hope. It made me think that anything is possible. Shortly after the training, I took a loan and continued my business of selling ‘berbere’ and diversified it to an extent by selling charcoal. My business gradually started showing improvement. Over time, my business reached a better level. I was able to provide everything my son needed and later enrolled him to school. He was a very thoughtful child. He preferred books over cloths. I did my best to provide everything that he needed for his education. I raised him single handedly without support from anyone. I was both a mother and father to him. He scored the highest point when he joined preparatory school. Later when he joined the university, I bought him a laptop computer. I always prayed that he achieves his best. And God heard my prayers. He has now graduated in Civil Engineering from a University in Ethiopia and currently leads a ‘40/60’ condominium housing construction scheme.
There are a number of changes in my life. I was able to build a better house. We used to live in a small rundown corrugated iron sheet house I inherited from my father. Now I changed that into a three roomed house. In addition to my own living quarter, I built one more room which is rented out. Of all the achievements, educating my son is the one thing that makes me happy and proud. He secured a job immediately after he graduated. I also supported my nephew to pursue his education and he is now employed with the Ethiopian Air Lines. Currently, I have a good life. There are many families who were not able to send their children to school. To contribute my share as a citizen, I am currently seeking out to support a child from a poor family.
My saving is not what it could have been. Previously, my priority was not saving but investing on my son’s education. I was able to provide for all his needs. Yet, I have 15,000 Birr (around $1500) saving with my cooperative and 15,000 ($1500) Birr in the bank. I took different round of loans according to my business needs. The highest loan I took so far was 15,000 birr ($1500).
I served my cooperative for the last 15 years at different capacities including as the treasurer and as member of different committees in leadership positions. Currently, I am the group leader in my cooperative.
My immediate plan is to sell household utensils in addition to my current business.
The message I have for other women who are interested to work and improve their living but are home bound is that they must come out and join WISE to benefit from the knowledge and financial services. WISE is like a mother and a home. WISE is my confidant. I am so grateful to WISE for helping me to get here, next to God.
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.