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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Women are a powerful force for change in communities throughout southern Ethiopia

Elfinish Abate is among a determined group of women helping lead their families and community of Wabe Shore out of poverty by creating and nurturing a community-based economy that benefits everyone.

Located in southern Ethiopia, Wabe Shore was among the poorest communities in the region until the completion of a gravity-fed water system funded by HOPE International Development Agency donors. The system provides clean water to 13,800 people living in the remote community nestled in the rugged hills that characterize the region. The hygiene and sanitation education that accompanies the arrival of clean water in a community ensures that the benefits of clean water, including good health, and a significant reduction in illness, are fully available to the entire community.

Having clean water available right in the community is doing more than improving the health of families in the community; it is providing the foundation upon which families are beginning their journey from poverty to prosperity.

Self-help groups are playing a crucial role in providing women with opportunities to create positive change in their lives and their communities.

The knowledge, resources, and confidence gained through participation in self-help groups creates a thriving community-based economy driven by women who are determined to transform, for the better, their families and their communities.

Elfinish and 19 of her friends and neighbours are members of a self-help group in Wabe Shore established after the water system was completed. The group gathers to learn how to successfully start and run small businesses, increase family savings, and most importantly, work together to overcome poverty. Most of the women in the group generate income by weaving traditional clothing to sell at the market.

Before joining the group, Elfinish did not have the knowledge or resources needed to improve her family’s quality of life.

After receiving training and a small loan from the group’s loan savings fund, Elfinish opened a small shop attached to her home, selling tea and small household items. Inspired by her success, Elfinish then invested her profit back into her business and purchased a sewing machine which she uses to create beautiful dresses and other clothing that she sells at the market and shop.

Working together to create solutions to poverty by developing businesses often creates unforeseen, highly beneficial outcomes.

Elfinish and her group meet to discuss and help solve social challenges in their community, including resolving family issues such as marital disputes. They also support community members through times of birth, death, or illness. This positive social change is being driven by women like Elfinish and her group members. They are now finding themselves better able to respond to the core issues that affect their community. Women and their children are among the most vulnerable in rural Ethiopia. Self -help groups enable women to create and participate in solutions that significantly improve life for them, their children, and their communities.