Unleashed Potential:- Defeating Poverty and Counting Millions

Defeating Poverty and Counting Millions

She recently wrote her story in Amharic and we decided to share a shorter version with our English readers. I tell you how every sentence she wrote is so touching. It was not easy for me to shorten the story and also translate it to give the actual taste. Zeineba Yinga is a leader, an entrepreneur and a mother. She grew through a hard life and perseverance to defeat poverty. WISE helped this woman unleash her potential. Enjoy reading. Tsigie Haile, Director, WISE.

Greetings. "I am now going to write you my story. I may forget some things but how can I forget poverty, hunger and ‘people’s unwelcoming face towards a person who is needy’ (yesew feet in Amharic).

My name is Zeineba Yinga. I was born in 1974 and grew up here in Addis Ababa around Kirkos area. The area used to be inhabited by very poor families. However, the social bonding was very strong. My mother passed away while giving birth. I, as the oldest child, was then 12 years old and my youngest sister just one. In between there were four brothers. As the oldest child and a girl, I was responsible for taking care of my brothers and sister. One day upon coming from school there was nothing to eat at home and my siblings were crying because they were hungry. Since I could not stand seeing them in such a situation, I just ran to a neighbor’s house. The family was having lunch. When I got in, they said, “Come in, have lunch”. I very much wanted to eat but how about my brothers and sister. I pretended as if I did not want to eat. Then , they gave me “gursha” (a chunk of food put into one’s mouth by someone, usually big). I pretended to have eaten it but had taken it out of my mouth and covered it with my scarf. They gave me more “gurshas”. I did the same and ran home to feed my siblings. I have a lot to tell you but let me not bore you. I also don’t want to write the terrible experiences of my life as it will make my kids and husband feel very sad. So there is a chapter that I have left out. I believe I had to carry the family’s responsibility because I was a female. If I were a boy, would I be expected to be responsible?

Let me now tell you how I got WISE. I got WISE while in a very difficult situation. It is a woman in my neighborhood who suggested to me to join WISE. As I met the criteria of being very poor, I was accepted immediately. I, then, started saving Birr 1-2 per week. After some weeks I took the Basic Business Skills training. The training was so lively. It made me forget my problems at home. Trainees were given Birr 5/day for transport and offered bread and tea. For me, who might not have breakfast or lunch, it meant a lot. I saved the money given by walking half-way home. The trainees were mostly in a similar situation, leading bitter lives. Thus, it was not difficult to understand each other. The training enabled us assess ourselves raising the questions like – “Who am I?, What do I have? Why am I poor? How can I change? What should I do?”

After the training, I took Birr 500 loan from my saving and credit cooperative and used it all for my business plan. I was tempted to buy a pair of sandals but decided not to and continued to wear the torn shoes. My first business was preparing and selling spices. I used to do everything myself and I can’t tell you the exhaustion. I paid back the loan in a year and continued taking higher loans. With the third-cycle loan, I started a ladies beauty salon. That time I was attending a hairdressing training. Life started to be good. I created jobs for 2 people. In addition with partnership with two young women I came to know at WISE, I started a trash collection business. As the practice was new, I knocked at 1000 houses but was initially able to register only 50 customers. I used to carry the trash myself and mockers used to call me “Koshe” (dirty/trash). My reply was “ the cash is clean”. I gradually employed 12 men and women. When the government changed its regulation on ownership of trash collection businesses after 5 years, I gave the business and assets to my employees and fully moved to my café and restaurant business. I also gave my beauty salon business to my brothers and sister.

I always used to get advice and encouragement from the staff of WISE. The Director is like my mother. Let me cut my story short and tell you where I am now. The self-employment that started with a Birr 500 loan has grown to a capital of millions and aspires to count billions. My house is estimated at Birr 2 million, my car Birr 300,000, a loader rental business I ran in partnership with a friend (also a member of WISE) Birr 3 million, my café and restaurant Birr 300,000. Recently the government has given me a 2000 m2 piece of land to establish a flour mill factory and I am currently processing the license. I have created jobs for 22 employees, excluding the people of the trash collection and beauty salon businesses.

I have received awards from the ex-Prime Minister, ex-President, my sub-city administration and WISE.

I have three kids and a supportive husband. Regarding my education, I first dropped out from grade 5. I tried to continue and finally stopped at grade 11.

I share my experience with newly-organized members of WISE. I mediate people in conflict in my neighbourhood. I help people in need as much as I can. I have served my cooperative as Chairperson for six years. I do all these happily because I know where I was. "