EU Commissioner for Development Acknowledged Our Project of Self-help Groups in EthiopiaPublished: Feb 6, 2013 Reading time: 3 minutes
‘Mentesenote’ is the name one of the self-help groups supported by People in Need in Ethiopia. Its name means ‘Nothing is impossible’ in the local Amharic language. A group of women lived up to its name when having been visited by Andris Piebalgs, the EU Commissioner for Development, in the impoverished neighbourhood of Merkato on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Mr Piebalgs acknowledged the project run by People in Need which, through training, promotes womens’ personal development and helps them start their own business.
Mr Piebalgs, who participated in the African Union summit taking place in Ethiopia and also the subsequent Donors' Conference on Mali, was presented with the skills of twenty women including the preparation of the traditional Ethiopian bread called ‘injera’.
People in Need’s project called ‘Social protection for urban people of Ethiopia’ which is being undertaken within tri-lateral projects of the foreign development cooperation of the Czech Republic, lends support to more than 7,000 women organized in 396 self-help groups. “Not only women benefit from the project. Thanks to their newly-acquired skills and sources of income, the whole family feels a positive change. The overall number of people being supported by the project amounts to sixty thousand,” Sara Worku, PIN Programme Coordinator in Ethiopia, says.
How does the project work?
Women in self-help groups do not receive any money. In collaboration with the local partners, People in Need just provides training which covers not only particular practical skills to allow them to start their own business, but also their personal development. Thus, these impoverished women from slums, who were never considered to be equal members of society, are enabled to learn how to speak in public, promote their views or handle their finances. The training also teaches them how to develop administrative competence and prepare a business plan.
The main mission of self-help groups is the fact that every individual has a potential for development provided he or she is presented with an opportunity. People organized in groups are able to share their know-how and support each other, which consequently reinforces each member of the group. “We meet every Friday at 4 p.m. Sometimes, we stay together for an hour, sometimes even for three hours. We advise each other on work, pass on our experience, share the joys and sorrows of life. ” Birhanu, one of the Mentesenote group members, describes.
The system of the self-help groups is not new to Africa. And these are women who make the best of it. “You can find an absolutely fundamental difference between a woman who comes for the first time, and a woman who has been working with the group, let’s say, for a year. The former are often very submissive. Their experience tells them, they are not considered to be the relevant part of the society. Over the time, they learn how to promote their views, launch their own business, engage their family members in work and start saving money”, Petra Matulová, PIN Head of Mission in Ethiopia, elaborates.
Thanks to self-help groups, women have money available to deal with illness or buy household items. “Together, these women have influenced even the construction of a new road. Originally, the government intended to construct only a bypass outside the impoverished neighbourhoods, however after their negotiations with the officers, the asphalt road will run right through them.” Petra Matulová, explains.