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Ethiopian self-help group means food for all

1 February 2013

Mariama Said reflects on her family’s life before joining a self-help group set up by Christian Aid partner, the Women Support Association in southern Ethiopia. 

'Because there was not enough to eat I felt helpless, desperate and worried every day', Mariama recalls.

She could barely provide her three children with food each day, and they struggled to go to school because they were so weak

Joining a self-help group gave Mariama the confidence to start her own business

However, since joining the self-help group, Mariama has seen her weekly income rise dramatically from a couple of pounds to something closer to £100, using a loan from the group to expand her small food and drink business.

Her success is in no small part due to her own tireless hard work, but she also attributes it to the support and advice she receives from other group members.

'The quality of our life has improved… In the past I felt helpless and never thought I would be as rich as this.'

It has taken Mariama a long time and has been hard work to build up a business that can provide for her family in the good times and the bad. She is out of bed by 4.30am most mornings, and by earning her own income and running her own business, she defies the open hostility of people who believe a woman’s place is in the home.

Mariama is ensuring a very different future for her children: they have enough food to eat and a varied diet, and she is committed to their education so that they do not have to struggle like she has.  

Helping others

Mariama is an impressive individual. She recognises that humanity can lift people out of the most difficult situations, and is now inspiring her own community to reach out to those among them who need help.

For example, her self-help group has supported people from within the town who are living with HIV to set up their own group, which enables them to earn a living. When they cannot afford transport to the local town of Jinka to pick up their antiretrovirals, Mariama organises a collection so they can travel. 

When people from a nearby town fled fighting, Mariama’s self-help group also ensured that they were cared for and fed.

Mariama remarks: 'We did it out of humanity. When we saw the children starving, we had pity for them. We have learnt the importance of mutual support.'

Find out more

January 2013 children in church resources focus on Mariama's story (PDF, 1.5mb)

Discover more of Christian Aid's work in Africa  

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