Image for Funding female entrepreneurs: the Ethiopian women who turned to each other when the banks said no

Funding female entrepreneurs: the Ethiopian women who turned to each other when the banks said no

‘When women group together, great things happen,’ say the women who set up a savings and loan association in Addis Adaba, Ethiopia

‘When women group together, great things happen,’ say the women who set up a savings and loan association in Addis Adaba, Ethiopia

Do you have a bank account? Have you ever taken out a business loan or a mortgage? For millions of women around the globe, simple financial services can seem impossible. Yet giving women better access to finance could improve their lives immeasurably, as well as unlock USD$330bn (£256bn) in annual global revenue, according to development organisation Care.

Research by Care released this week documents the “enormous” economic and social potential of women who have been helped by Care’s project Access Approved. From Africa to South America, some of the women have increased their income by 500 per cent. Read on for their inspiring stories.

These ambitious women from the slums of Addis Ababa were determined to lift themselves out of poverty by setting up successful businesses, despite getting repeated ‘nos’ from financial institutions. So they went about things another way. They grouped together and formed a VSLA, a Village Savings and Loan Association. And called it Enat Fiker, meaning mother’s love.

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Established two years ago, Enat Fiker has become one of the strongest VSLAs in the Kirkos sub-city of Addis Ababa. Development organisation Care International report impressive results from their Women in Enterprise programme in Ethiopia. Care has seen an uplift in income of 500 per cent, on average, among those taking part. Already, 5,000 women entrepreneurs from the slums within Addis Ababa have been supported in collectively saving money, developing their business skills and facilitating access to affordable loans.

Members of Enat Fiker established their association after attending a 10-day training course as part of the Women in Enterprise project, where the women learned about the importance of credit and savings as they grew as entrepreneurs.

Since it was established two years ago, Enat Fiker has become one of the strongest VSLAs in Kirkos, Addis Ababa

Yergedu Berhe, 45, a member of the VSLA said: “I save 50 birr every week. I took out two loans, the latest for 4,000 birr (US$148), to expand my clay pot business. The best thing about our VSLA is the simplicity of accessing the loan compared to micro finance institutions.”

Those at Care are convinced that financial inclusion is one of the best ways to break the cycle of poverty for women, and this new data highlights just how much revenue can be unlocked. Approximately 70 per cent had no savings at the beginning of the project in 2015, and this was cut to just 3.6 per cent when the project concluded three years later.

Care is calling on the global financial sector to improve products and services for women. This will not only have a positive impact on individual women, but also their communities and, ultimately, national economies, they say.

Images: Michael Tsegaye

Read more in our series: Funding female entrepreneurs

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