I have Educated All my Sisters and Brothers to Worthy and Honorable Levels

(translated from January, 2017 “Let Me Narrate My Story” newsletter)

This month’s guest on our “Let Me Narrate My Story” newsletter came to WISE’s head office to participate in the capital growth competition, so I did not have to go her place of work. Her name is Emebet Belay, and after she had finished her business, gladly agreed to recount her story to me, as follows.


“After my father died, I became responsible for providing for my mother and my four younger sisters and brothers. I tried my best to do so, even though I was a youngster of only 18 years old. At the time, I had begun a very lucrative contraband business. I eventually viewed the activity as harmful rather than helpful. Furthermore, 100,000 birr of my contraband goods were confiscated. As a result, my family fell on hard times. Observing my plight, my brother’s wife suggested that I join WISE and undergo training. Since I thought that I was already well versed in business activities I did not heed her opinion. However, she kept pestering me, saying that I would receive a transportation allowance from the Organization. Because of this, I accepted her suggestion. WISE’ss head office used to be located at Lancia, and, as I did not have money for transport, used to walk there to receive the training. Even though I thought I had a good understanding of business activities, due to my previous work, the training helped me to become aware of some incorrect ways of undertaking my previous business activities. For instance, in order to gain and maintain friendships, I used to hand out clothes to many of my friends. I realized, however, that this was detrimental to becoming successful in my business activities. The training I underwent taught me that business and friendship did not go hand in hand, and, furthermore, that I should be self-confident and know myself, my potential, and how to get what I wanted.

The training also enabled me to understand the value of, and need for savings, as well as how to undertake business activities in a proper and careful way. Of the 60 birr given to me for transportation costs, I saved 30 birr. With the remaining 30 birr I bought oil, flour and sugar and began making “dabo kolo” (a type of Ethiopian peanut). I devised a method of having customers sample it. They enjoyed it to such an extent that they began buying it at increased prices. I used to obtain 500 birr income from this in a month. I then went around trying to sell the dabo kolo, and found out that various shops wanted to buy it, as it had become quite well known in my area. I was thus spared much time and effort going around trying to sell it myself. However, in the midst of all this, I fell ill and was forced to stop my work.

On regaining my health, I went to visit my relatives in the countryside and noticed that clothes there were being sold at reduced prices. I bought some, returned to Addis and sold them at a good profit. I then discontinued my previous dabo kolo work and embarked on clothes marketing activities. After taking out a loan from my association, I started buying and selling used clothes at the Hadid market centre in Addis Ababa. My income increased beyond my expectations. Before joining WISE, I used to put my money in a hole under my bed. After I joined the Organization however, I began using bank accounts. After a while, I opened a clothing shop for women, using my savings, and, as my activities increased, hired a worker to assist me.

At the present time, I operate two large traditional clothing shops in the Kazenchis and Haya Hulet areas of the city. I also own a clothing boutique at Haya Hulet junction, and travel to Bangkok, Thailand from time to time to sell and buy items of clothing. Having started with only 30 Birr, my business capital has now reached over half a million birr. I had previously borrowed 54,000 birr from my association and presently have savings of 180,000 birr in the bank. I also managed to win a competition involving those persons who had accumulated the most capital, and was awarded prize money of 7,000 birr. I have been able to educate all my sisters and brothers to a worthy and honorable level.

My husband supports me in my work, although I am in charge of my business activities and household affairs. As I have the unique ability of convincing my husband on various issues, I am mostly responsible for making decisions. Within my association I serve on the Mediation committee, and am also involved in promoting educational activities. All of us members of the my association serve with a sense of belonging and with genuine affection and concern for each other, values inherited from WISE staff members. We visit those members who have fallen on hard times and fulfill our individual responsibilities within our local Iddirs and women’s associations. For the future, I plan to centralize all my business activities in order to establish a more profitable business enterprise.

My message to other women is to work hard and try to change problems into solutions, with the idea of a ‘better tomorrow’ in mind”.


Emebet Belay
From Birhan WISE Women’s
Savings and Credit Cooperative
Kirkos Sub-City, Addis Ababa