How One Woman Led Her Family's Transformation

How One Woman Led Her Family's Transformation


“The project enabled my family to be stronger… there is no work I won’t try.”

Meet Zewede Yilma, a 38-year-old mother of six living in Meskan Woreda, Guraghe Zone. Her husband, Yemanebirehan Tsege, left her to work as a priest in Addis Ababa, earning a meager income while she struggled to provide the basic necessities for her children. She owned no land and could earn only 300 birr ($15 USD) each month selling drinks and injera (an Ethiopian staple food) at the edge of the local market. She relied on the government safety net and her brothers to support her survival and that of her children.

This was Zewede’s reality day in and day out for years. Unbeknownst to many however, possibly even herself, Zewede had the heart and potential to be an amazing entrepreneur. With the support of GRAD (Graduation with Resilience to Achieve Sustainable Development), she has transformed her life and the lives of her entire family. In the process, she’s gone from dependent on others to self-reliant and empowered, breaking through a host of barriers along the way.

GRAD has had much success in empowering women like Zewede in both economic and social ways. After joining the project and becoming a member of a Village Economic and Social Association (VESA), Zewede received training on financial literacy, savings and credit, and income generating activities. The training helped her to see new opportunities in her location. She started taking loans from her VESA, 300 birr initially growing to a 1,000 birr ($50 USD) loan. The money allowed her to open a small restaurant, which now includes space in back for market-goers to rest their animals. The restaurant and animal boarding allowed Zewede to more than triple her monthly income to 1,000 birr per month, money she desperately needed to support her children. But Zewede was not satisfied. When the project introduced its micro-franchise activity she saw a new opportunity. Micro-franchise saleswomen, now including Zewede, sell basic consumer goods door-to-door. Investing 500 birr ($25 USD) to get started, she now regularly generates an additional 800 birr ($40 USD) in income per month.

Dejitu Yuntuta, 35, widow, in Ethiopia works on her farm.

Zewede has gone from
dependent on others
to self-reliant and
empowered, breaking
through a host
of barriers along the way.

This was still not enough for Zewede. Keen to help her husband move back to be with the family, Zewede next leased 0.5 hectares of irrigated land for 5,000 birr ($250 USD) per year. The project, which aims to graduate at least 50,000 safety net households within five years, helped teach her production techniques and value chain principles and in the first season she earned a 20,000 birr ($1,000 USD) profit from a yield of 100 quintals of onions. This year she earned 22,000 birr after harvesting over 50 quintals of potato. Zewede’s annual income has increased by over 1200 percent, but her success is best reflected when she speaks about the impact the income has had on her family.

“The project enabled my family to be stronger. Our children now wear better quality clothes and eat nutritious food. We are also able to send our oldest daughter to university and we have been able to buy furniture and a TV for the house,” Zewede said. Best of all, her husband has moved back home and now helps her manage the restaurant and work in the field. Thanks to Zewede’s entrepreneurship the family has 30,000 birr in working capital. They are planning to rent more land and expand their vegetable farming. Zewede is also eager to become a micro-franchise wholesaler, selling products in bulk to other saleswomen like herself. “There is no work I won’t try,” she notes with a newfound sense of potential after years relying on others.

CARE Action advocates engage with local and state legislators to pass policies and secure funding that puts opportunities and resources in the hands of women worldwide. CARE recognizes the vital role women farmers play in feeding entire communities and lifting people out of poverty. Learn more about our food and nutrition work here

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