Empowering women with HIV/AIDS to run their own businesses, provide for their families, and send their children to school. We believe that strong women are the cornerstones of strong communities.
Ethiopia is a beautiful country endowed with a rich history, an influential culture, and immense reserves of natural resources. It is estimated that about 60% of the land area of the country is arable, yet only a sixth of this potential is utilized. Ethiopia is often referred to as the “water tower” of the Horn of Africa, containing 12 major river watersheds. In addition, it is widely believed to have the highest livestock population in the African continent. Ethiopia has the potential to be an economic giant.
Despite its huge potential, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest and food insecure countries in the world. Although the severe poverty in Ethiopia impacts both men and women, women and young people are the most affected. Due to cultural and historical factors, women are vulnerable and often lack economic opportunities, have low educational attainment, and suffer higher rates of HIV/AIDS. Often, women are the sole providers for their children.
Over the past ten years, the city of Bahir Dar has experienced rapid population growth. Many new residents come fleeing poverty in rural villages. The city, unfortunately, does not have the appropriate infrastructure or capacity to cope with the population boom. Problems are exacerbated by rising living expenses and limited employment opportunities. Women and children, specifically those who are HIV-positive, often struggle the most.
The goal of our project in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, is to help women acquire the skills and capital necessary to generate enough income to support their families. We partner closely with the Ethiopian non-profit, EECMY-DASSC, providing women with seed money to start new businesses. We give microloans in increments of $250 and offer business training to help them become self-sufficient entrepreneurs. Many women use their funds to open bakeries and coffee shops; sell fruit, vegetables, and grains at public markets; and take care of goats and sheep, selling them for meat.
These micro-businesses build confidence and help women gain economic and personal independence. We boast a 77% success rate, with women making a profit, supporting their families, and starting savings accounts. By connecting women with savings accounts they are able to have greater control over their income, plan for major life events, and keep their children in school.
The project receives powerful local support and is seen as a sustainable way to improve not only the life conditions of the women in the project, but as a way to strengthen the regional economy as well. Our micro-lending model empowers participants to use local talent and resources to come up with creative solutions for the obstacles they face. We believe that success is driven by those who have the deepest understanding of the local culture and history.