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Interviewing Ato Awel Mahmud & Ato Asmamaw Degu

14 augustus 2018

Throughout the ‘Women for Women’ project in Ethiopia CARE and MCDP have worked closely with the Addis Ababa City Administration. They have played a vital role through opening up access for the women to the bazaars, supporting the establishment of Savings & Credit Cooperatives and supporting the Business Plan Competition.

The Micro Scale Enterprises Development Bureau focuses on reducing high unemployment rates through micro enterprise. They aim to support the establishment of enterprises in more than 100 sub-sectors of Addis Ababa through training and access to markets and loans. The Women and Children Affairs Bureau focuses on the increased participation of women and is encouraging them to start small businesses to enhance their income and alleviate poverty.

Why is it important to support Ethiopian women?

Awel Mahmud: “For so many years women were neglected the opportunity of earning an income, leading to high rates of unemployment and poverty. Supporting women has a direct and significant impact on the economy.”

Asmamaw Degu:If we don’t provide the necessary support for half the population, the impact on our economy will be devastating. When you support a woman you support a family, then a community, then the wider society. The impact is everlasting.”

Why support women to start their own enterprises?

Asmamaw Degu: “Being dependent on their husbands has disempowerment women and they have become susceptible to abuse and other problems. Supporting women to start their own businesses will liberate them from social as well as economic problems.”

Why is training important?

Awel Mahmud: “In our experience, most businesses fail due to lack of knowledge, skills and attitude that are essential in starting, maintaining and expanding businesses. As a government institution we put a special focus on business training.”

What role do men have to play?

Asmamaw Degu: “The role of men is several. At the household level, men should support women by sharing responsibilities, including childcare and household chores. In businesses, men should support women by believing she can do better things, earn her own income, make decisions and have full access and control over assets.”

What issues do women face in accessing capital?

Awel Mahmud: Women often have no access to collateral, which makes it difficult to borrow from formal financial institutions. A lack of business knowledge and skills can also lead to a low repayment rate of loans.”

Asmamaw Degu:Micro Finance Institutions should design products that are suitable for low-income businesswomen. They should not be treated equally with other privileged parts of society. There should be some kind of incentive that can motivate women in accessing finance.”

How important are micro scale enterprises to the economy?

Awel Mahmud: “Their role is significant, especially for a developing country like Ethiopia. It supports the low-income community to start a business, generate an income, support families and contribute to the wellbeing of society. It is a stepping stone for SME development and then to the industrialization of the country. They have greatly contributed to the reduction of high unemployment rates.”

“Ethiopia is at a critical juncture right now in terms of economic growth and industrialisation. The Government’s commitment to accelerating economic growth and SME creation provides great momentum for providing an enabling environment and long-term security for aspiring women entrepreneurs.” Silke Handley, Programme Director, CARE Ethiopia.

How important is it to formalise the women’s businesses? 

Awel Mahmud: “Formalising the businesses of the women is essential. One of our requirements for support is having a trade/legal license. Once they are licensed they can access working or market space, loans, training and market linkages.”

How important is the role of NGOs like CARE?

Awel Mahmud: “The role of CARE is critical and we give high recognition to your organisation.  We learnt a lot from the business plan competition. It wasn’t about hand outs, rather supporting the women to assess the feasibility of their businesses.  This will help the women take their businesses to the next level.  This project has contributed to empowering women both socially and economically. We want this work to continue.”

Asmamaw Degu: “We have learnt a lot from this project. You have done a remarkable thing by introducing the low-income women to Addis Capital Goods – you paved the way and we have since enabled commercial sex workers to access in-kind loans for other enterprises.  The effort that has been started with the project should continue with a wider reach and should be scaled-up to the next level.”

Interviews by Misrach Mekonnen, Project Manager, CARE Ethiopia.

Photo credit: Michael Tsegaye/CARE

Read the Collective Power report about women entrepreneurs in Ethiopia here