Business Skills Training and Provision of Loans Unlock Economic Growth Opportunities for 900 Women
The Rural Women Economic Empowerment Joint Program (RWEE JP), the Joint Programme on “Accelerating Progress toward the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women” of FAO, IFAD, WFP and UN Women in partnership with the Government of Ethiopia provides the Basic Business Skills training and loans of up to 10,500Birr (470USD) to rural women in Yaya Gulelle, Adami Tulu and Dodola districts. The overall aim is to accelerate progress towards economic empowerment of the targeted rural women. So far, 900 rural women have been provided with skills and loans, with the potential for more rural women to access the loans as part of a Revolving Fund under the Programme.
The first training in Yaya Gulelle district was held from 21st - 30th November 2016 in collaboration with the Districts’ Women and Children Affairs Bureau and the Cooperative Promotion Agency. Three hundred women were equipped with the necessary skills that would enable them to effectively use the loans to increase their incomes in order to improve their livelihoods and of their families. The training, which targets rural women with limited education uses approaches such as visual aid, drama, role plays, and practices from their own community to familiarize the women with basic business planning and implementation skills including financial management. According to the women, the training benefits them in different ways. For some it is an opportunity to learn how to start small businesses from scratch and be profitable while others learn how to expand or diversify their small businesses.
One of the beneficiaries, 29 year-old Ms. Almaz Lemma, a member of Dire Bifut Saving and Credit Cooperative, said the training and loan assisted her to expand her ongoing small business of retailing Sorghum, the main ingredient for brewing traditional beer in her region. Almaz dropped out of school in 6th grade to pursue her passion for business. According to her, attending the five-day training on basic business skills and earning the certificate has boosted her self-esteem. “For me this is the first certificate I have ever received and it will keep encouraging me to focus on the business, to earn more cash and one day to open a retail shop of consumer goods in town,” said Almaz who used the over 6,200Birr (282USD) loan she received through RWEE JP to increase her supply of Sorghum per week to ten quintals from the previous supply of two quintals.
az added that the profit from the expanded business will enable her to timely pay back the loan and to continue covering the school expenses of her two younger brothers, age 15 and 18. Almaz has been supporting her brothers who are now in 7th and 9th grades since her father, who is a farmer does not have enough income to cover all their school costs. According to Almaz, she is determined to continue assisting them in their schooling so that they will be able to complete their education at university level and get jobs with good salaries to improve their life styles. “One day I may get married and have a family. This is, however, not my priority now as I first need to be economically independent and change my family’s livelihood for better,” said Almaz, who confidently lives in a community, where a young woman for her age without marriage is perceived as undesirable.
Another participant, Mrs. Shebire Taddesse, the leader of Dire Bifut Saving and Credit Cooperative, provided her testimony. According to her, limited access to capital is among the main challenges of rural women, which hinders them from involving in income generating activities. Unlike other loans which require some amount of money as collateral and might have interest rates as high as 15 percent, which is not affordable, the loans provided under the RWEE JP are affordable with only 5.5 percent service charge, and so preferred by the members of her Cooperative. As she explained,
“The cooperative was established four years ago and the members have been contributing 10Birr (0.5USD) every month. Before RWEE JP’s support, the loan that the cooperative gave to the women never exceeded 1,000Birr (45USD) and most women used it to support their basic needs. The loan and the different trainings we receive under the program enable us to invest more and increase our income.”
Mrs. Shebire added that the main lesson she gained from the training is on how to differentiate profit from loss. “I have the experience in fattening and selling sheep. Before the training, I have never given attention on how to calculate the profit by considering all costs. Using the over 6,200Birr (282USD) loan through RWEE JP, I purchased an Ox and have started to fatten it. My plan is to sell the fattened Ox during the upcoming Ethiopian Christmas in January. From its income, I will purchase more and fatten to supply for the Easter holiday Market in April,” she explained about part of her business plan with a determination to carefully manage. Mrs. Shebire, who is 38 years old, and married with five children said that her long term vision is to improve her family’s lifestyle including to enable them live in a corrugated iron sheets covered house from the current grass roofed one.