“I am proud to be a founding member of my cooperative”

(Taken from Issue number 149, August, 2017 Let Me Narrate My Story newsletter of WISE)

Getenesh Teklu will have been a member of WISE for a full 20 years in a few months time. She is one of the founding members of Alegnta WISE Saving and Credit Cooperative, the first cooperative formed by WISE. Having been born and raised in Kersa Farmers’ Association in Shune Woreda of Arsi Zone (Oromia Region), she encountered a lot of cultural pressure and challenges during her childhood, and recounts her story as follows.

As a child I did not have an opportunity to receive an education, as there were no schools in my area. Due to this, I was not fortunate enough to enjoy my very early years, and went straight into marriage which resulted in a lifetime of toil. Marriage in our area was not bearable even for adults, let alone young children. When I could not tolerate this kind of life any more, I ran away from home and joined my sister in Addis Ababa. After a few years I was introduced to the father of my children. He was employed in a government agency and we lived off his monthly wages. In time, I bore him children, but, as the number of household members increased, we found it difficult to live on his income. As life became more and more hard, I resolved to start baking “injera” (the local staple) for sale. Although I thought of setting up my own injera baking business with what money I had, I found it was insufficient. Even after trying to buy 5 or 10 kilos of teff, I failed to experience any change in my lifestyle. While trying to figure out what to do, a friend, Ms. Yeshi Alemayehu, informed me that an organization called WISE was about to be established to assist women in need who wished to start self-help associations. Four of my friends and I subsequently joined to establish “Alegnta Self Employed Women Saving and Credit Cooperative”, in which we have been members for the past 20 years. At the time, WISE informed us that it had organized training programmes for us. The first one, focusing on business/commercial activities, was very interesting and attractive, and we wished it would never end! We also undertook training on personal and environmental hygiene, as well as on various subjects designed to help us achieve success. In truth, I was very fortunate to become oriented with unforgettable and extremely useful ways/methods of improving my livelihood. I began saving up money from the monthly transport allowance I received from WISE, and, after a few months, was able to take out my first loan from the cooperative. I purchased some essential items and began preparing injera. The training I had received helped to improve the quality of my product, and I started to attract many customers. The sale of injera resulted in an improvement in my situation and helped foster in me a feeling of self confidence. I was able to obtain a good income for myself and my family, and to raise and educate my children. I also began discussing and consulting with my husband on relevant issues, and managed to find some peace and tranquility in my life. I should again stress that the training I received from WISE was instrumental to my success.

I tried to work as best as I could in my small kitchen. As the number of my customers began to increase, I employed 2 persons to help me with my work. I also continued with my savings activities. Since I was undertaking my work properly and with an eye to the quality of my product, the amount of injera that I sold increased. In addition to the 2 workers, my children also lent their support. Above all, however, the training I had received from WISE was crucial to improving my understanding of the value of savings activities. I used both my daily and monthly income in an appropriate manner, and managed to expand my business with loans I periodically took out. I was also able to fulfill my perennial dream of building a home. Through hard work I have seen my wishes come true.

(Although Getenesh has experienced a lot of ups and downs in her life, she has now achieved success and seen her wishes fulfilled. It is possible to emulate her and attain success in what one wants to do if one is prepared to work hard and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. Getenesh says that translating knowledge gained into concrete action is bound to result in an improvement in one’s life. She also believes that she has guided her children towards successful lives. Her eldest son obtained his doctorate degree and is currently employed. WISED has provided Getenesh with many favours. She says that she is now able to sign her name, instead of using the finger print method. She also emphasizes that had she not joined WISE, her life would have been about the same as it was prior to joining the organization. Getenesh participates fully in social affairs activities in her community, and views her relationship with her neighbours and members of her community as extremely important.)

Getenesh concludes by reiterating that for a person to be successful in life, it is essential to work hard and not give up hope. It is also necessary to take advantage of opportunities afforded.
She adds “Joining WISE and taking advantage of these opportunities has led me to the success I now enjoy. The training I received has helped me change the way I think, as well as the way I dress! Furthermore, I now possess approximately 3.5 million birr!”.

Getenesh Teklu
Alegnta WISE Saving and Credit Cooperative
Nifas Silk-Lafto Sub-city, Addis Ababa