Getting creative through WISE
Her birth place is Shashamene, Southern part of Ethiopia. As her mother led a very poor existence, she grew up with her grandparents in the town of Zeway (a small town located in central Ethiopia). Amelework Bekele said that she had led a comfortable life, as children who grow up with their grandparents often do. After completing her academic education, she joined Don Bosco Catholic School, pursuing a course in tailoring. She then spent 12 years teaching tailoring and sewing in the same school. With only a small salary from this job, however, she could not support her mother. She lost all hope and went abroad to a Middle Eastern country. Amelework takes up the story…
“I worked in a Middle East country for seven years and was lucky not to encounter any difficulties. I was happy to help my mother with the money I earned at great effort. Upon returning home, I immediately got married to a retired government worker. With a small amount of capital I then began tailoring activities. We supported ourselves with my husband’s pension and the income I obtained from my tailoring work. However, I did not utilize the money I obtained in an appropriate manner, since I did not have any knowledge of appropriate money handling. I simply could not save money and felt within me that something was missing. It was hard to live month to month with a small income.
One day I went to my kebele ( district office) to buy sugar and noticed a large gathering of women. I tried to find out what was happening, but could not do so for a while, as everyone was busy doing something. I waited for the chance to talk to some of them, and was happy with the explanation leaders of ‘Serto Masaya’ Savings Saving and Credit Cooperative gave me regarding the activities of the Cooperative. I joined the Cooperative in 2008.
After completing a Business skills training programme, I took a loan, bought required cloth and other related items, and revived my tailoring business. Having received valuable knowledge from the training programmes, I began to put aside a small amount of savings from my income. I also started to plan my household and business activities. Gradually, everything fell into place. After a while, I underwent yet another training course in Creative Thinking, which had a huge positive impact on my activities. During the course of my work I was able to use the creativity I knew I had within me, and started designing various clothes for numerous customers. When I needed money I borrowed some from my Cooperative, eventually increasing my activities. I came first in various ‘innovative business ideas competitions’ and received cash prizes from Women In Self Employment. My designs include flowers composed of chicken feathers, cake made of black ‘teff’ (local cereal), ‘Father Christmas’ costumes made from nylon, and women’s handbags made of plastic. I always try to design something new. I could say creativity is my life.
As my retiree husband used to sit at home with nothing to do, and since my own income was insufficient to live on, I obtained honey and butter from Bahir Dar, and with assistance from my husband began distributing them to merchants and other interested persons. I also bought a washing machine to wash clothes of bachelor men in my locality for fee, thus obtaining additional income. So instead of simply relying on my husband’s monthly salary, we were able to increase our income by diversifying our activities. Our situation today is much better than that of yesterday.
In addition to an amount of 6000 birr ($300) savings in my association, I also save money which I put in the bank. I have currently taken out a loan of 7,000 birr ($350) from my cooperative. What makes me very happy is that I am undertaking various activities at the same time. I would not have been successful if I had taken up an activity only.
As I possess many years’ experience in tailoring work, my future plan is to purchase a large number of sewing machines and set up a training school in tailoring and embroidery. I think I will be successful in this, as there is no one competing on the business in my locality.
Finally, I wish to say that nothing is impossible if people are able to use their inner creativity in their work, supported by the required knowledge.
Involving oneself in different commercial activities, rather than just one, is the ultimate way to increase one’s income.”
Serto Masaya WISE 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.