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March 30, 2022

Empowering women to build a bright future: Self-Help Groups in Ethiopia

 

By Dereje Zeleke, Ethiopia Country Programmes Director at Hope for Justice

 

Poverty is one of the main root causes of human trafficking. With half of women in Ethiopia regularly running out of food or unable to eat for a day*, many are at high risk of exploitation.

 

In order to ease poverty and protect women and their children from being trafficked, it’s vital that they are able to build a self-sufficient future. In Ethiopia, Hope for Justice is empowering women with the skills, means and support that they need to carve out their own path to independence and prosperity, through our Self-Help Groups.

 

Our 452 Self-Help Groups meet regularly, providing 9,000 women with a support network in their own community that allows them to build their economic, social and emotional strength.

 

Together, the women realise their potential. They learn small business and financial management skills, and save money as a group. The group then provides loans to its members, to enable them to create their own small businesses; the women in the below group are shown with their savings and loans books:

 

 

The women also have the chance to share their ideas, skills and resources and come up with solutions to their social and economic problems. Often, when a woman is struggling to tackle a problem by herself, we find she is more than capable of overcoming it when she joins hands with other women.

 

With a financially stable future and a local support network in place, the women are less likely to be forced to send their children away to work to help provide for the family, putting them at high risk of being trafficked.

 

They are also in turn more likely to afford school fees for their children, which will further increase their sons and daughters’ chances of a bright future. Indeed, we were delighted to recently hear from some of our members that they had decided to stop their children working and return them to school instead.

 

Addisie’s story

 

With eight children to feed, 33-year-old Addisie was struggling to make ends meet. Six months ago, she heard about a Hope for Justice Self-Help Group operating in her community, and decided to join.

 

Addisie said: “Previously, I had no knowledge of saving. I used to bake only a small amount of enjera (flatbread) for only the people around me.”

 

Over the last few months, Addisie has gradually contributed more to her group’s savings, and been introduced to small business skills and financial management training. She took out a loan and scaled up her enjera-baking activity.

 

She now sells enjera at the local market, and has also started making containers for the flatbread to expand her business.

 

Addisie continues: “Now, I have Ekub (local savings) side by side with my group, and this has made me very strong. I am motivated, gained strength and started giving more attention to my future plans.

 

“Furthermore, it is a great guarantee that the money my group saved is deposited in the bank. I am very confident that my children will continue their education and be protected from exploitation and trafficking.”

 

Addisie making an enjera container

 

*Source: UN Women. 50.2 per cent of the adult female population in Ethiopia are experiencing severe food insecurity. Severe food insecurity is defined as when a person has run out of food, or gone an entire day without eating at times during the year.