February 2015

Women and Child Livelihood program - The Self Help Group approach

In early August, a number of HFC staff visited the “Siklit” (Success) Self Help Group. These groups are one of our core livelihood intervention strategies for women in Addis Ketema who are at risk of migration. The approach is based on the principle of collective savings and loans with the objective of economic, social and political empowerment. 

The Siklit group is made up of eight members who each contribute 7 birr (approximately 40c AUD) each week. Of this, 5 birr goes towards the groups’ collective savings and an additional 2 birr is to save for social events including weddings and funerals.  Group members are elected as a representative, secretary and signatories to the bank book and they take on responsibility for maintaining all records and banking the money.

“I am very happy. If we didn’t start this group, it’s very difficult to know each other and how we can help. In future, our social affinity will be strengthened”.


The group members are all low income earners, with some running small businesses including a mobile coffee and tea stand, coffee ceremony mat weaving, preparing injera (a local bread) in peoples home, and washing clothes in the neighbour. Two members worked for local businesses and two were supported by family members.

The first issue raised at the meeting was the plans to increase the number of members. They have been reaching out to other women in the target area who fit the selection criteria and have a number of people in mind. However, one of the potential members is worried they will struggle to find the time to attend the meetings. Another member has been forced to move out of the area. She wants to stay in the group so a vote is taken and it’s agreed she can attend every second week, until a replacement is found.

Another member, Addis, wants to leave the group because she doesn’t have any income and cannot contribute the weekly 7 birr. The group discuss the issue and suggest that they should loan her 250 birr to her to start a coffee ceremony mat business. Addis is initially reluctant, as she has limited skills and doesn’t want to work. However, the group encourage her and offer to help buy materials and get started with the business. They discuss the requirements for start-up capital and return on investment, estimating that it’s possible to make up to 300 birr ($17 AUD) a month if you work hard. The group are happy with the proposal and one member commented “I am very happy because today we all agreed to support Addis. It’s a very good outcome for us”.


The group then discuss some upcoming training on Basic Business Skills and Entrepreneurship that they are all encouraged to attend. For those with prior commitments, other members will record the information and it will be shared at the next meeting. Previous trainings hosted by HFC have really helped members develop skills and confidence. One member noted: “I am very happy that we now have hope. Before the Book Keeping training I could not express my idea to outside people. Now I feel that I can change my life and the life of others. I am very happy, especially today”.

Finally, the group share a plan for business opportunity they are hoping to develop. They have noticed that the nearby government owned mall has no food or drinks available to customers and are planning to make a pitch to the government to open a small cafeteria. However they are aware of the risks and the need for a loan. The group members are concerned that they need to jump on the opportunity before it is taken by others, so decide to meet with the appropriate Government officers to pitch their proposal following the HFC Business training.

“We are very happy. There are a lot of changes we have witnessed already. Hopefully history will be changed in the future. We feel very positive – especially today”.