Empowering women to diversify their income

  • By Medhanit Gebremichael, Farm Africa
  • 13/02/2017

Photo courtesy of Medhanit Gebremichael, Farm Africa


The Anfa Village Saving and Loan Association (VSLA) is just one of 13 similar groups established with the support of leading global organisation Mercy Corps in Degehabour in the Somali region of Ethiopia. The groups were formed with support from the Market Approaches to Resilience project, led by Farm Africa, which aims to build resilience to climate change.  

The VSLAs empower women to diversify their incomes by offering loans so there are funds available to invest in creating and developing small businesses.

Traditionally, women in Degehabour have stayed at home, only able to watch as their husbands struggle to provide for the family as recurrent droughts hit. The Anfa VSLA has brought a big shift in attitudes, developing a culture of saving,  and helping women learn new skills and new ways of generating income.

The 26 members of the group hold regular meetings twice a month when they record all their transactions. Each member saves a minimum amount each month, out of which an allocation is made to a social fund that supports members in times of need.

The group is then able to make loans to members who want to start a new business or strengthen an existing one. So far five members have had support from the social fund and eight, previously dependent on their husbands for finance, have started their own small businesses for the first time.

Halgen Abdi, a married mother of nine, is one such member who has achieved success with the help of the VSLA. She talks of how difficult it was to sit back and watch the times when her husband came back without money.

“I always wished to be able to support him at least by selling clothes. But I used to spend my days sitting at home since I did not know how to achieve that”.

The training and support from Mercy Corps has made her dream come true.  With a loan of 2,000 Birr, she was able to start selling clothes door to door, and no longer worries about her husband’s daily income.

“Now we have an additional income source to provide for our children. I have paid my loan back and I am waiting to take the second round loan. I want to expand my business and own a shop apart from selling clothes door to door.”     

Amina Dol, a mother of six children, is another success story of the Anfa VSLA. She too remembers how difficult it used to be before she joined the group.

 “I used to stay at home waiting for my husband to provide for everything. I used to feel frustrated seeing him struggle.”

With a loan from the VSLA of 3,000 Birr Amina purchased six male goats and within three months was able to fatten them up and sell them for a good profit. She repeated the process eight times and was able to pay back her loan as well as earn an income. She is now waiting for another loan so she can further expand her business. Her husband is also happy and encourages her to be an active member of the group.

The group as a whole has made further profit selling canvasses and clothes and is keen to share their experience of how to form a savings association with others. They are confident that as women in business they can continue to change lives for the better.

The Market Approaches to Resilience project is part of the UK Government funded BRACED (Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters) programme.

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