Saleem Bukari is a social entrepreneur. But this wasn't always the case. She lives in an isolated and conservative village in Pakistan with her husband and five daughters. For years she made a small income embroidering fabric that her husband sold in the local market. In 2004 Saleem joined a MEDA training course, called Behind the Veil, to become a sales agent. She began bringing the embroidery of her neighbours to the market, which required her to leave her home and travel to Karachi, the nearest large city market where higher value was placed on these products.
The Pathways and Pursestrings project focused on increasing the income women earn from the work they were already doing within their homes. The project was based on the premise that with greater economic resources, women would gain more value within the family and community, improving their status and expanding their control over the income they earned and increasing their participation in family decisions. These results have been achieved. The project's independent evaluation team concluded, "The assumption that improved economic well-being leads to relatively stronger social and even political capital (defined as the power to influence decisions) seems to hold true on this project." Critical to pushing beyond the initial gains experienced by these women will be their ability to build on these successes. Money in their hands provides women the opportunity to take additional steps in creating the social, legal, and cultural changes they want to see.
Marcia is a long-time client of MiCrédito, a local microfinance institution, in the rural area of Teustepe. Marcia has been running a pulperia (small store) based in her home for over 30 years.
Marcia is currently using MiCrédito's debit card and savings account product, offered in partnership with BAC, one of the largest regional banks in Central America. This initiative is part of MEDA's TechnoLinks project which aims to use technology to increase access to financial services for MiCrédito clients in Nicaragua. Marcia has never had a debit card before, so it has taken time for her to become comfortable using the product: "At the beginning I didn't like the card. I liked having money in cash, but now I am used to the card and will go and take out money when I need to buy things."
Johnny is a father of four and the owner of a photography business in Managua, Nicaragua. A client of local microfinance institution MiCrédito for two years, he recently received his Banco de America Central (BAC) debit card.
As part of MEDA's Techno-Links project, MiCredito offers members faster loan approval times, savings accounts and more efficient disbursement of electronic loans. These benefits are especially valuable in areas where basic financial services and bank branches can't be easily accessed.
Pablo Arlejo Arquil Lopez has been a loyal MiCrédito client for the last three years, running a store in the rural community of San Jeronimo in Teustepe, Nicaragua. Pablo sells rice, beans, flour, and more recently, solar panels.
Pablo is just one of MiCrédito's partner distributors in Teustepe. Rather than providing solar panels directly to clients, MiCrédito is offering its clients the opportunity to expand their businesses and make a positive impact on their communities by becoming local providers of solar products.
Through support from USAID, MEDA is establishing a Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) development program in Libya. Women face numerous obstacles in the business sector, from accessing credit and markets, to cultural restrictions and a lack of business expertise or encouragement for innovation. The SME program offers training in capacity building, coaching and mentoring for women entrepreneurs to better equip them in growing their own businesses.
Baala Ajara has many titles. She is a mother, a wife, a seamstress, a farmer, and a businesswoman. Recently she added best soybean farmer in the Lambussie/Karni district to the list.
Based on the criteria of record keeping, acreage cultivated, and farmer adoption and contribution towards agricultural extension, Ajara was nominated by MoFA (Ministry of Food and Agriculture) as the 2013 Best District Soybean Farmer on the 29th Farmers Day Celebration. She received a bicycle, two machetes, a pair of Wellington boots, a bar of key soap, a certificate, and two sacks in prizes.
Henock Menza used to work in the District Office of Chencha, Ethiopia as a community officer. He has a six month-old child and his wife also works as a public employee in the area. Henock is 32 years old and had previously worked as an intermediary in his spare time to support his family. Henock was paid 1044 birr per month ($54 USD) in the public sector before he responded to a vacancy posted by Paradise Fashion in Chencha, a high-end weaving market player, to become an Ethiopian Airlines order intermediary. After getting the job, he now receives 1600 birr per month ($83 USD), motivating him to work hard and to follow up with weavers to ensure the delivery of timely and high quality airline orders.
Shumet Anteneh is a 45 year-old farmer living in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, in a village called Keiro Mender. He is married with 7 children. The family has 2 ha of land where Shumet previously cultivated rough pea, onion, fenugreek, lentils and finger millet. He added rice cultivation in 2005. At that time, production was good, though he was facing problems with birds and other animals attacking his rice field. This problem became severe as no other rice fields were in close proximity to share the damage. He decided to stop producing rice until other farmers around him could also plant it and share the risk of bird attacks. In 2008, Shumet restarted producing rice together with other surrounding farmers.
Zewditu Tona and her husband Bafa Enaro are farmers living in Sodo Zuria, Ethiopia. Zewditu's father-in-law owns the land and helps out with the children while she and her husband farm. Zewditu cultivates potato, banana, cabbage and tomato, and uses organic compost to help fertilize the crops. They have 4 children ages 13, 10, 7, and 3; the three oldest attend school. Zewditu and her husband previously had trouble paying for their children's school uniforms and putting food on the table, but now they are able to plan for the future.
Similar to other parts of the Amhara region in Ethiopia, farmers in Libo Kemkem district struggle to make ends meet partly due to a lack of habit around savings. The seasonal nature of income, added to local perceptions of saving money has hindered farmers' economic wellbeing and resistance to economic or agricultural shocks.
42-year old Bilew is a farmer who lives in the Fogera district of Shaga kebele, Ethiopia, in a village called "Guaya-midere". He is married with 4 children and owns 1.5 ha of land which he inherited from his family. He has been cultivating rice since 1999 and in addition to his own land, Bilew sometimes leases 0.25-0.5 ha of land for cultivation of crops like rice, rough pea, sunflower, chick peas, and teff.
Across Ethiopia, the role of head of the house goes to a man that will be responsible for the family's livelihood. Despite this tradition, the Southern Nation Nationalities People's Region, specifically the Gamo Gofa zone, has seen an alarming trend of single-parent households on the rise. Many husbands abandon their families as economic burdens become too much to handle. As a result, the women are forced to support their families without any assistance. This is the story of a woman in a similar position who was able to make a difference through determination and a strong spirit.
"My name is Tsehay Alemayehu and I have six children. Since the age of three, I have been taking medication for my illness. Despite my physical problems, I am determined to leave my children with something that can change their lives. I joined E-FACE under the VSLA financial service intervention and it has changed my life for the better. It has been one year since I became a member and I cannot imagine life without this service.
"My name is Shacha Gufa and I am an E-Face MEDA client. I live in the Sodo Town woreda of Hibret Kebele with my wife and five children. With the exception of my eight-month old baby, all my children attend school. My wife works outside of the home as a coffee trader to help supplement our family's income. To help improve my family's financial situation, I joined E-FACE in 2012 as one of the first project clients. Under this project, I became a member of my kebele's Village Savings Lending Association (VSLA). It has been almost one year since the inception of my VSLA group and my life has changed drastically since that time. Being a part of the VSLA allowed me to start saving my money and it gave me access to services that helped me improve my income. Most importantly, my VSLA group brought me together with a network of people who are eager to better our community.
Assefa Abera, a 50 year old male weaver from Chencha, is married and has three children, aged 3 , 5 and 12. He has been weaving for 35 years and he farms different crops to help supplement his income in order to send his children to school. Before the MEDA EDGET project, Assefa had no history of saving.