Strong will with the help of micro-start wins struggle against povertySuccess story [Archives:2003/634/Community]

May 5 2003

By Ali Malhani
Public Information Associate

“After my husband died, I did not know how to feed my five hungry children. What would the YR3000 pension left by my husband do to us? To add insult to injury, my husband's family wanted to take property of our one-roomed house. We suffered a lot, but we struggled and your program really came as a relief to us,” Nemah Naser Ahmed, 50, the widow narrates her struggle to survive with her kids. She lives in Dar Saad, one of the poorest areas in Aden. In addition to her strong will, Micro-start branch in Aden helped Nemah's family overcome the hardships of poverty.
Micro-start is one of the most important United Nations Development Program (UNDP) projects in Yemen that helps the government in its poverty alleviation strategy. The program operates in 3 cities through executing community based organizations: Sana'a, through Islah and Social Organization for Development (SOFD); Aden, through The Women Development Organization; and Taiz, the program's branch. The targeted beneficiaries are those who are living in sheer poverty. It basically provides small loans ranging from YR 10000 to 60000 to the beneficiaries to assist them sustain an existing vocation or start one. More than 90% of the beneficiaries are poor women. The societies have social specialists who survey poor areas and assess the needy cases and their ability to pay back the monthly installments of the loan. It is very important for any beneficiary to have a small business that needs support or to start one in order to qualify for the loan. “We do not want those who take money to buy fish, rather we want those who need the money to buy the needed tools that enable them fish by themselves” Huda Ba Mahfood, director of The Women Development Organization, Aden, talks of the core objective of the program. Nemah is one of many successful. But what did she do with the assisting loan? And what is the impact on her life? What difference did it make?
The first loan she got was YR10,000. She gave her elder son part of the money and sent him to a carpentry with some of the wood that her husband had wanted to use to roof the second room. The carpenter made them a small hand textile fabricating 'machine'. The machine is used to make a traditional dress for men called 'mewaz.' She let her 17-year-old son learn how to make 'mewazes' using this machine until mastery. The rest of the loan was used to buy the textile raw material. The family started marketing their production to some of the traders in Aden. Being impressed by the few good mewazes the family offered, a trader struck a deal with the family in which the trader provides the raw material for and the family does the weaving into mewazes. The trader pays YR1200 to the family for each mewaz the made. They made 3 mewazes a week, i.e. made as much as YR3600 a week from the machine.
Having embarked upon this profitable craft, the family decided to expand their business. The younger son taught his elder brother the profession and the family bought another machine for the older son.
While the sons were making the mewazes, the mother was busy frying chipped potatoes, amposa, bajia, and other kinds of popular Yemeni fries. She was good at so doing and making good sales too. This brought a good idea of a second loan. “We should open up a small shack 'kushk' to sell our fries,” the mother told her sons. With a second loan of YR20000, the family built a small newsstand-like shack next to their house for selling their fries. Their income grew little by little and the desire for more success also grew with it.
The mother, encouraged by the success and the trust in the program, took a third loan of YR30000. She started a third business of buying and selling 'drow'a,' a famous light dress for Adeni women. She uses the loan as a working capital and buys more quantities for better prices while maintaining the same selling price. The family now is making not less than YR30000. They started saving money to improve their life too. The first thing they did was making their father's dream come true, i.e. completing the roof of the second room. A new TV was bought too. Moreover, they got a telephone line to their house. “Your program is very good. We benefited a lot from your program,” the old mother repeated her grateful comments on the program. “Your program is really a relief to the real needy. It releases them from their poverty crises,” She added. “We hope it will continue to help all the needy,” The old widow concluded.