Out of the darkness
One of the women, Siret*, steps outside into the sunlight. She has a broad, welcoming smile and offers us a taste of injera. My friends and I eat. The injera tastes fresh, warm and like newly baked bread.
Siret now has a lot to smile about, but it wasn’t always this way. She was one of the poorest of the poor in this city in Ethiopia, struggling with her husband to provide enough food and clothing for her family. When Siret joined a self-help group of similarly poor women back in 2009, she could only afford to save 1 Ethiopian birr per week (3 British pence). She had no work but, as you’ll see, lots of potential.
The self-help group, started by a national church, enabled the women to save regularly and eventually accumulate enough capital to provide small loans to group members. This money helped Siret to start a tiny business making and selling injera.
She’s clearly a lady with natural business gifts. She identifies and makes the most of key markets, such as local hotels and a nearby business park. Over time, and with periodic loans from the self-help group, this business has grown so that Siret now employs three more women. She has also broadened her ways of making a living by buying a shop, which her husband now runs, and a house where locals gather to play pool, which employs one more person.
What difference does this make to her family? ‘Now my house is full: we have a cupboard, a bed, chairs and a fridge,’ says Siret. ‘I can provide enough food for my family to eat and can clothe them well.’
Standing next to her is her daughter, carrying another child on her hip. Siret and her husband are supporting their two children as well as two more children from poorer relatives in the countryside. The blessing overflows.