Loans and energy-saving technology transform lives in rural Ethiopia

rural women ethiopia
Women outside of grain mill, financed by the project, where they have taken their maize for grounding. Photo: IFAD/Alberto Conti

For Kimiyaa Umar, a 35-year-old mother of six, from the district of Meta in central Ethiopia, lack of money and knowledge on how to run a viable business prevented her from bettering life for herself and her family. 

That was the case until a year ago, when Umar received a 3,000 Birr (US$140) interest-free loan, along with entrepreneurship training through the UN Women-Joint Programme on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, which has benefited over 19,500 women throughout Ethiopia.

“We were selected to benefit from the programme for being the neediest. We had no capital or the knowledge on how to deal with business. Today, we are models in our village and many women have started to organize themselves by self-initiation,” said Umar, who leads a group of 13 women under the programme.

Highlights

  • Six UN agencies have come together to support the Government of Ethiopia: UNDP, ILO, UN Women, UNESCO, UNICEF and UNFPA.
  • 19,500 women benefited from the programme throughout Ethiopia.
  • Interest-free loans and training have allowed women to save and invest in a cooperative business.
  • The stove technology cooperative today holds 60 members and a total capital of 40,000 Birr (US$2,000).

The joint programme was launched in Ethiopia in 2011 and brings together six UN Agencies, UNDP, ILO, UN Women, UNESCO, UNICEF and UNFPA to support the Government of Ethiopia in its efforts to improve the lives of women and girls. Aligned with the Government’s Growth and Transformation Plan, and grounded in the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for Ethiopia, it targets women in all 11 regions. Its goal is to increase rural and urban women’s income to improve food security, nutrition and livelihoods, along with rural and urban women’s opportunities for education, to enhance the capacity of federal and local level institutions and communities to promote and protect the rights of women and girls, and to promote leadership and decision-making, among other benefits. The joint programme was made possible by the financial contributions of the Governments of Sweden and Norway.

With the support of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UN Women, one of the applied activities under the programme is to provide interest-free loans to women with poor incomes, while also fostering the development of basic business skills. When women return the loan, it is used as a revolving fund to economically empower more women.

The programme has helped Umar and the other women save and invest in an energy-saving cooking stove technology cooperative targeting women in their village and beyond.

Rural Ethiopian women working
Left: Group members were able to buy goats and sheep with the income-generating 3,000 Birr loan that they each received. Right: Mrs. Tadelech weaving her hand-made baskets. Photos: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

“Before receiving the loan we were given training on how to start and manage a business, including how to save and the benefits of saving. Using the skills gained, all of us started different businesses and now each one of us has finished paying back the 3,000 Birr loan, and saved enough to invest in a different cooperative business of labour, time and energy-saving cooking stove technology,” she said.

Umar further explained that each group member relies on this stove technology in their home. Group members also sell the stoves throughout different villages in order to benefit more women. Currently, the stove technology cooperative, which began a year ago, has 60 members with a total capital of 40,000 Birr (2,000 USD).

A year ago, Kimiyaa wasn’t even able to provide her children with school supplies.

Her children could not study in the evenings since their only source of light came from a small locally-made Kerosene lamp. Through her business, Kimiyaa was able to purchase a solar-powered lamp.

The loan also helped her buy a goat and expand her profits. “When I first got the 3,000 Birr loan, I purchased two female goats and one male goat. I fattened the male goat, which I bought for 600 Birr and sold it for 1,500 Birr. Each of the two female goats gave birth to two. I sold the three goats and paid back the 3,000 Birr loan,” Umar said.

Kimiyaa emphasized that the programme has helped them make a difference at the community level in a short amount of time, and has motivated them to keep working harder.

“Over 200 women in our village were influenced by us and started saving the little they have. They also come to us for some advice. If more is invested in such women, we will make a lasting change,” she said.
 

This story was originally published by UN Women.

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