In November of 2014, project coordinators from our Prague office visited our micro-enterprise project in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. The mission of the trip was to monitor project effectiveness and development, improve partnership cooperation, and plan for the upcoming year. Our Public Relations and Fundraising Director, Michaela Stachova, also took part in the trip. While there, she was able to visit with and interview some of the women who participate in our project.
Since 2008 we have been working in Bahir Dar, assisting female entrepreneurs improve their livelihoods by providing microloans and training to expand their businesses. In 2013, 119 women received business management training and loans. The initial training course lasts five days, but women have access to advise and support throughout their entire involvement with the project. Our goal is to enable female entrepreneurs to become socially and financially independent so they can not only care for themselves, but for their families as well.
Business Plan: Restaurant
Our first stop brought us to the house of Ms. Teruye. The fragrance of fresh coffee and incense met us before we reached the front door. Ms. Teruye has been in the project for 5 months, and she is doing extremely well. After taking part in business training courses, she took her initial loan and opened a small restaurant. At the time of our visit, many in her community were in the middle of the harvest season, so there were few customers; however, Ms. Teruye assured us that she has many loyal customers and that they would be arriving after their farm work. She works in the restaurant 7 days a week, from 6 in the morning until 9 at night. She uses the profits from the restaurant to look after her four-year-old son, who is also cared for by Mr. Teruye’s sister and mother. Opening a restaurant has been her life dream, but she lacked the experience and financial capacity to do so. Through her participation in our project, Ms. Teruye was able to realize her vision and provide for her family.
Business plan: A Successful Shop
After drinking some excellent coffee, we travelled to the home of Ms. Tsege, who opened a small store, and with the money from the project purchased a refrigerator. She now is able to sell cold drinks, Ethiopian beer, snacks, and baked goods. She opens her store everyday at 6 in the morning and closes at 9 at night. She purchases her merchandise one to two times per week from a bulk-sale market.
Before Ms. Tsege received her financial help and business training, she was listless and, as she says, “lacked life energy.” However, the success of her store has changed her life for the better and has motivated her to work to improve the life of her family. She is currently raising her own seven-year-old son, and thanks to the extra money she’s made from the store, she was able to adopt and take care of her ten-year-old niece. From her earnings, she is able to send both children to school.
Business Plan: Sheep Raising
Our third visit took us to the household of Ms. Fasiky, who, thanks to the help of the project, has been raising and caring for three sheep. Her sheep are incredibly healthy, as Ms. Fasiky has used her loan and earnings to purchase healthy feed and has given them land upon which to graze. She sells the sheep for meat, and with those earnings, purchases more sheep for her flock. Her sheep raising business has enabled her to care for her four-year-old son. Ms. Fasika is different from many other women in the project in that she lives with her husband. However, her husband was seriously injured while he was in the military and is unable to work. She must provide for her entire family alone.
Ms. Faiska is also the director of one of the female business cooperatives. The members of these “self-help” cooperative groups save 50 birra ($3) each month and place those funds into a collective savings account. The money that is saved in the cooperative is then divided up to help fund and ensure the growth of businesses of cooperative members. As a director of this economic cooperative, Ms. Fasika received business and cooperative training. Her leadership role in group empowerment also enables her to represent women’s issues in the greater civic society, as she herself is an embodiment of the talent and independence of Ethiopian women.
Meeting these women was a powerful experience. They are truly inspiring in their strength and intelligence. They each use the support of our project to improve the livelihoods of their families and communities. The initial monetary investment is small, but it’s clear the return on the investment has the ability to change lives!