From where I stand: “Not only did we have no money to buy food with, we didn’t know how to change that”

Birtukan Fekadu. Photo: UN Women
Birtukan Fekadu, 22, and her husband struggled to find a way to support themselves until Fekadu joined a women’s savings and credit cooperative. Through the cooperative, she learned about agriculture productivity, business skills, leadership and women’s rights, and received a small loan. Now she earns enough to feed her family, and no longer worries about money to send her son to school.

"When I got married, there wasn’t a single source of income that we could call our own. We had no property or plot of land. We did not have any oxen with which to plough the land, so people refused to rent us their land saying, ‘how will you farm my land if you don’t own an ox?’

We planted a few things in our backyard to feed ourselves at least once or twice a day. Whatever I needed money for, I depended on my husband for it. Not only did we have no money to buy food with, we didn’t know how to change that.
Then I heard about and joined a women’s saving and credit cooperative. I started saving small amounts and soon I was eligible for a loan. I also received training on increasing agriculture productivity, business skills, leadership and women’s rights. We bought an ox and tilled a plot of land making use of the improved seeds we got from the cooperative. Now that we were getting surplus crop, I harvest and prepare the produce to sell in the market. I go to the market three times a week, and each time I make about 1,000 Birr [USD 36].
Today we have one cow, one ox, which we rent in return for crops, as well as 10 sheep and two donkeys. We eat what we like, and sending my son to school is not a problem. We can access bank services and we know of opportunities to improve our lives. For me, even the ability to go out, work outside the house and be an active member of a women’s working group is new, and it means a lot."

Birtukan Fekadu, 22, is a farmer in Yayagulele, Oromia region of Ethiopia, where the Rural Women Economic Empowerment Joint Programme by UN Women, World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), provides crucial support to rural women and their cooperatives. Fekadu’s story contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 1, which aims to eradicate extreme poverty, as well as SDG 2, which promotes food security and SDG 5, which calls for gender equality and women’s empowerment.