You may remember our friend Ashike Zema. We shared her story of confidence and uncontainable joy that came from Ashike completing the Family Business Program and finally opening her own business. Her future was bright, and she believed that everything could now be possible for her and her family.
The reality of the world though, does not always play into our greatest hopes. Life always comes with setbacks and roadblocks, and even a newly empowered life can face a tough road ahead. When we met with Ashike a year after she opened her business, we found that her circumstances had changed, and this tough road was now a reality for her – though you would not know it by the confidence and joy she still carried.
Ethiopia had recently faced political unrest that year, with crowds of citizens taking to the streets to protest their rights and freedom with an ever-changing government and legal structure. In the upheaval, Ashike’s new shop was looted and burned down, along with many other shops around hers. All she had left was what little she had saved since starting the business, but it was not enough to repair the damage and recover the loss of inventory.
Ashike still had the confidence and drive to succeed, so she moved what she had back to her home and opened a coffee kiosk outside. She was able to make ends meet with her new business, but the loss set her back significantly. Her daughter had to stay home from school to help run the shop, and she was no longer able to save from her earnings.
This was not the end of Ashike’s story, however. Family empowerment doesn’t end with the beginning of a business. It is not just a handout and pat on the back with well wishes, but rather it is a covenant – a commitment to walk alongside each individual as they work to find flourishing for themselves and their family. It is in this partnership that cycles are broken, and change is realized for these families and countless others in the community.
After meeting with Ashike in her coffee kiosk and hearing her story, the local empowerment team, along with Global Empowerment Director Aschalew Abebe, convened to decide how to continue this walk alongside Ashike. It didn’t take long to deliberate, and they decided that they would help her recover her lost business. They decided to buy back all of the inventory she had lost, as well as help her move into a more safe and secure location. They also decided to give her 3 month’s worth of savings, to give her a cushion and the ability to send her daughter back to school and begin saving once again.
The reality still rings true that the road may be hard and setbacks are to be expected, but Ashike was now able to move forward with her confidence – knowing that her empowerment runs so much deeper than just the training she received through the program. She will constantly be empowered, through the community around her, and she will always be able to lean into her joy and her confidence – fully believing that truly everything is still possible for Ashike and her family.
Ashike was able to get back on her feet and re-open her business, and has found success and growth along the way! Her resilience and hope carried her through the storm, and her empowerment has inspired and impacted her community to carry on in that same hope.