Derare Hirpha, Ethiopia
Derare Hirpha, a 37-year-old married mother of six, is a Jaldu Epicentre committee member and secretary of the management committee of the SACCO (the name of the Rural Bank established by our Microfinance Programme).
“I lost my mother when I was six years old and the responsibility of raising the children remained on my father’s shoulders…My father was a conservative man and he was very serious and strict in our traditional upbringing (more so with us girls). He always worried, especially [about us girls getting pregnant] before marriage since it is considered taboo. Therefore, we were very careful not to make him sad if we made any mistake. At that time, my father sent all his children to school. To avoid the problem, my father facilitated my engagement to someone as a fiancé while I was at school.
“My dream shattered after I was put forward into the eighth grade. One day when I was walking to my home from school, a man abducted me and took me far away from my home. At that moment, I lost all hope of getting an education. I was totally disappointed. I couldn’t even get a chance to marry my fiancé. After I lost my virginity, the family of my abductor sent a message to my father that I am with them and safe. According to the culture, if a girl is abducted and loses her virginity, her family will never take her home and therefore they had to accept the marriage and make peace with the abductor’s family through elders’ arbitration. My abductor became my husband and I no longer went to school.
In 2005, The Hunger Project-Ethiopia came to Jaldu, and that is when Derare became involved in our work. “I attended the general Vision, Commitment and Action Workshop and one focused on microfinance when The Hunger Project came to my village. I was inspired by the objectives of the project. My heart started to shine again when the organisation clearly stated its commitment in promoting gender equality through women’s empowerment programmes with focus on its Microfinance Programme for women. Upon the first election of Epicentre Committee members, I was elected as one of my kebele’s [village’s] representatives. Later on I was elected to the Microfinance Programme for the Women’s Committee. After the election, I attended various trainings. I remember attending the first day training on leadership; a writing pad and pen was provided to us. On that day, I thanked God as I was back writing after 17 years of marriage.
“I was one of the members of the initial loan group of women from my kebele. I became a member of the loan committee and this helped me reassess my future and help other women by disseminating information obtained at the epicentre. During the mobilisation process, to promote the programme, I remember helping other women to start their deposit schemes by giving them my own money since they did not have any money of their own.
“Initially, I received birr 400. I bought a heifer and a sheep. After repaying my loan, I was able to earn a small profit from selling the heifer. With this profit I was able to go to the hospital and get treatment for my eye. After I successfully repaid my first loan on time, I was able to access the second round of loans, birr 600. With this loan, I bought a donkey and chickens. I used the donkey mainly for three things: to transport water for household use from river, to transport grain to the grain-mill and to transport goods to market for sale. From the donkey alone, I achieved a profit of around 600 birr.
“I used part of my profit for [an eye] operation… and part of it for buying clothes and school materials for my children. After repaying the second round loan, I received a loan of birr 800 for the third round. I bought a calf and goats.
Derare says her participation in the Microfinance Programme for Women helped her change her perception of herself. At the beginning, she was totally economically dependent on her husband.
“As a result of the Microfinance Programme for Women, I am learning business management, generating income and I own various assets. The programme helped me to bring my health back. I no longer suffer from eye problems. Today, I am a confident woman who can speak out my opinion openly in public. Also, I am able to support my family with the profit I get from my activities in providing them with nutritious food and by providing my children with clothing and buying their school materials. Currently, all my children are at school ranging from first to ninth grade, and I always advise them to keep up their education.
“In addition, the programme encouraged me to be an active member of the community. Some of the training I attended includes leadership skills, saving and credit management, environmental sanitation, HIV/AIDS, family planning, home management and gender issues. Based on the training, I built a pit latrine…[and] I learned how to build an improved stove from mud. Recently, with some got additional income, I replaced the mud stove with brick.”
Today Derare is living with her husband in peace. He now considers their household resources as their shared, common assets, and supports Derare’s efforts to improve their family’s life.
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