A lecturer at the Addis Ababa University, School of Social Work, undertook a research entitled “Understanding Family Resilience in Context: The Experiences of Female Headed Families in Urban Poverty Participating in Saving and Credit Cooperatives”. A draft findings report was presented to WISE’s management.

The objectives of the research are i) to understand family resilience as experienced and interpreted by female heads of families in urban poverty in Addis Ababa, ii) to explore the strategies/resources and processes that female heads of families use to overcome poverty induced challenges and to emerge resilient in the faces of multiple adversities, and iii) to develop empirical data informed and resilient-based social work practice framework with families in urban Ethiopia.

Poverty as explained by the respondents.

“My poverty doesn’t have any equivalent symbol to describe. It was severe and beyond words to explain.. When I wished to work, there was nothing to work with (no cents) so how could I work? When I didn’t have money, the month ran faster than the normal time. House rent, electric and water bills .. . seemed to come fast .. even getting water to drink was a problem as a bail of water cost ten cents which I didn’t have.”

“Before I was supported by the cooperative, I was low. I used to feel that even my thinking ability is less than others. Belittled myself and felt that I am not equal to other human beings. I considered myself bad and useless who cannot do anything useful to change my life. When such thinking engrossed my mind, I usually cried with a feeling of hopelessness.”

“It was a very bad experience for me. If a woman lacks the means to engage in some kind of activity, if a woman lacks to feed, clothe and care for her children, and if a woman is forced to helplessly stare at her children while they are crying for food, there is nothing scary that makes her feel lesser than other people. I lived in such a state of poverty.”

“I told you that poverty had been sickness for me. I was not better than a sick person. I was always in a depressed and shrunk feeling whenever I thought of providing food to my children. Some days, I pray inside/in my heart, the children not to ask me for food. I don’t think this is an indication of healthiness.”

“Who do you think is going to be with you if you are poor? No one. If you try it out … never at equal terms. Even the poor doesn’t want to be with you, rather prefers to be close to the halves.”

“ … I don’t want my children to be winced, to shy off because of our family’s destitution. Asking people for help is embarrassing, makes you graceless, … they may give you one. The second time you go, they give you hard look … human face is like fire, it burns?

Change as described by the participants.

“It is not the first Birr 700 loan that changed my attitude, rather it is the training. Upon finishing the trainings, the idea of working for self rooted deep in my mind and I arrived at a decision that enough is enough; living in poverty. The trainers are competent, committed and have the power of changing trainees’ minds … I was impressed by the style of training and its content and attended all the sessions.”

“The trainings I received helped me to think and use my mind for creative business activities. The money alone has nothing to do unless supplemented by the business and resource management skill trainings I received from the NGO.”

“I think it could be the magnitude of poverty I suffered from that helped me to change quickly. The determination I had and the hope that sprouted in my mind were energies that propelled my life journey forward. I will continue to work hard and I believe the limit is the sky.”

“ Now I believe that I am strong. I continuously work unless I am sick. I don’t sit without work at all. When one item cannot be sold, I try out another … I am work different types of activities at a time depending upon the situation. There is a day when there is zero sales. There are also days I become busy throughout. You know, you have to accept it, live it, work hard and thank God at both times. This is the type of person I am”.

“Adios poverty”