By: Ketil Fuglestad
“In the end, I brought my husband home so he could die in his own house,” Meselech Dude recalls.
We meet her in her home town of Arba Minch in southern Ethiopia. This is where she and her husband, Soloman Jamo, spent their married life and raised six children – five girls and a boy.
A great loss
When Solomon developed a serious liver disease, it hit the family of eight pretty hard. Around a year ago, his condition worsened. He was admitted to four different hospitals, and the medical expenses took a toll on the family’s funds. But none of the treatments could save Solomon. Meselech and her children grieved the passing of a beloved partner and father.
Solomon had worked as a watchman at the Ethiopian evangelical church Mekane Yesus’ synod in Arbaminch.
“After he died, it became harder to afford clothes, food, electricity and water,” Meselech says.
At the banks of a river, Meselech would gather gravel and stone in sacks, which she in turn would sell to people on the lookout for house building materials. But her income was too low. She applied for start-up funding from Self to Self Economic Development Association (StS EDA)’s small business programme, which is supported by the Kavli Trust, and her application was approved.
“When I received funding from Self to Self, it was like Jesus had visited me,” Meselech recalls.
A shop and a sheep
Now, Meselech was able to reopen a small shop that she once had run from her house, selling spices and vegetables. She used the start-up funds to buy groceries and expand the small shop. So far, her business is doing well.
“I have goods worth 3,500 birr in my shop,” Meselech says.
“I also have 350 birr in cash. And I’ve bought a sheep for 1,000 birr. When she produces a lamb, she will start earning me money. My daughters help out in the shop, so I have no salary expenses. I now have 6,000 birr in bank savings.”
6,000 birr equals around £200.
Looking to expand
“I’m saving up to build a second, better shop right here,” Meselech says.
The mother of six keeps her store open from early morning until mid-day. Resourceful as she is, she has acquired a sales pass at the large market in the city, where she spends her afternoons selling groceries. Sales and revenues are increasing, and now cover regular expenses as well as tuition fees for her son Bethel, 19.
“He’s studying accounting at Arba Minch University,” she says.
The loss of a husband and father weighed down the family. Biruktawit, 17, the youngest of the girls, could not stand the grief and tears that filled the family home. She left to stay with relatives for a while. When we meet the family, Biruktawit has recently returned home.
“Before she left, she’d finished ninth grade. Now, she wants to return to school. That makes me so happy,” Meselech says.
All the six children stay at her place. They help and support each other. The four eldest girls have all finished twelfth grade.
“Marishet, 27, and Genet, 21, have studied computer science. Marishet has found work, while Genet is still searching for a job. Bereket, 25, has studied accounting and is now employed,” their mother proudly recaps.
The funding from StS EDA and the Kavli Trust enabled Meselech to reopen her small shop and invest in a sheep. Now, she’s saving up to build a second shop. Photo: Ketil Fuglestad/StS EDA