Ethiopiaid Monitoring Trip Diary 2017: Economic Empowerment at Cheshire Services!

Posted by Jennifer Naidoo on Monday 3rd April 2017

Last Saturday I travelled to Harar, a walled city with a rich past and history, and once a capital of Ethiopia. There is no airport so I flew to the city of Dire-Dawa, where Cheshire Services also runs a centre with services for the disabled. Fasil, Cheshire’s program manager, was waiting for me. We drove east, up a steep sinuous road into the mountains, to an altitude of about 2000 metres. About 50 kms away from Harar, we turned onto a dusty and bumpy country road and crossed a few small villages in the rolling hills. People smiled and waved at me when we drove by, foreigners are still a rare sight in these parts. We stopped in the village of Ifa Aramaya, where Cheshire has been supporting 20 women with disabilities through its credit cooperative for animal husbandry. Adinan, the social worker running the project, greeted me. We walked up a long path lined with cactuses. It was already very hot under the sun. 

Along the winding path around several houses, with many curious children now in tow, we reached a modest mud house. This is where Chaltousan, a mother of five, lives. She is 40 years old and  was born here. Her husband, Abdul, is a farmer. One of their sons was with spina bifida and severe mental disabilities. He was unable to attend school and, in the absence of proper health care, passed away just three months ago. Chaltousan stopped speaking, it was a difficult moment as she recalled her 8-year old’s tragic end. Life has been hard on the family and they were barely surviving with the help of relatives. Poor families in the countryside cannot access bank loans as they are deemed a liability. 

Cheshire’s outreach team visited Chaltousan eight months ago, and invited her to join the credit cooperative to help her break out of poverty. She first attended a 3-day training with other women in the village to learn basic numeracy and business skills. She received advice on how she should use and pay back the loan, and how to make savings monthly. Chaltousan purchased a cow and 2 goats. At the beginning, it was difficult and she had to postpone two reimbursements. But within six months of selling milk and butter, and lending her male goat to breed in the village, she is now able to save a decent amount every month. The family’s life took a turn for the better and she expressed a lot of gratitude. With her savings, she looks forward to purchase another cow and increase her butter production. 

Meimouna's adopted daughter with their 2 goats in Ifa Aramaya

Over the next two days, I visited other families in Ifa Aramaya (like Meimouna and her adopted daughter, to the left), Gursum and Kabsu. These are all remote villages in the Harar region, where women benefit from the credit cooperatives set up by Cheshire Services. I was shown how the credit cooperatives are managed, from individual records of certified beneficiaries, cooperative committee policies and credit saving booklets. In Gursum, the cooperatives have successfully mobilized resources within the community to increase the amount of credit available for people with disabilities. A worthy endeavor of solidarity! 

In this National Regional State, the population is composed of about 70% Muslims, and 30% Orthodox Christians and other faiths living in perfect harmony. People are not shy and women wear extraordinarily colourful traditional clothes. I will long remember the beautiful faces and smiles that punctuated my village visits and meetings. A long drive back to Dire-Dawa and a flight to Addis Ababa, I look forward to a few final meetings before diving back into Spring in Ottawa.

Olivier Bonnet, Executive Director Ethiopiaid Canada 

March 30 Harar, ET 

Cheshire Services is supported by Ethiopiaid Canada, Ethiopiaid Ireland and Ethiopiaid UK. Since we share a Global Strategy for empowerment and change in Ethiopia, this post is also being shared on Ethiopiaid Australia's page. 

This is the fifth of several posts Ethiopiaid will be sharing after each partner visit while in Ethiopia. Every year, as part of our monitoring and evaluation process, the directors of Ethiopiaid Australia, Ethiopiaid Canada, Ethiopiaid Ireland and Ethiopiaid UK travel to Ethiopia to meet with our partners to make sure we are creating lasting and effective change and that your donations are well spent. Watch this space for more updates!

 

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