October 23, 2015

53-year-old Beletu was barely surviving on the wages she earned from selling clay lids in Ethiopia’s Oromia region. With a sick daughter and five grandchildren under her care, Beletu could just afford to buy bread and cover a few household expenses.

Things changed when Beletu was invited to join a self-help group targeting parents and guardians of at-risk children, after school officials noticed her granddaughter struggling in class. One of the objectives of the group is to encourage members to collaborate on a business plan that would advance them both socially and financially, while stressing the values of shared responsibility and self-reliance. In addition to training, the program offers start-up capital of up to $1,000, and support to help the group follow through with their business plan.

Beletu’s group of 14 women decided to build a small store on a plot of land they were able to secure from an Ethiopian government office that supports micro-enterprise. The endeavor turned into a community-wide project, with a nearby agricultural college supplying building materials, and friends and family helping with construction. The store is now a fully operating enterprise in which the women resell grain they buy in bulk from farmers for a small profit. Outside of work, the women forged a tight bond, and lend each other an extra hand when someone is sick or in need.

Beletu continues to work to support her family, and with the help of the program she is now earning three times what she used to make in a month. With the income from harvesting cabbage and potatoes, Beletu was able to open a bank account in her daughter’s name to pay it forward and invest in her future.

The groups are part of World Learning’s Grants Solicitation and Management Program and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).