Economic empowerment teaches individuals and families how to get better control and understanding of resources and life choices by allowing them to think beyond the immediate daily survival.
This blog post has two parts. In this first part, we would like to give our AJ Family information on what the Income Generating Activities (IGA) component of our Family Empowerment Program is and what it consists of.
IGA refers to all interventions AJ makes to enhance the readiness of families, particularly that of our Family Empowerment Program (FEP) mothers, to start activities that improve their household economy.
The level of education of the 50 mothers in our program is very low; 20 mothers never attended school; only six know how to read and write; and 24 dropped out of school between elementary school and high school. The majority of mothers are, therefore, dependent on day labor jobs to earn as much as they can to support their children. Thirty-seven of the mothers are also single mothers, so that carries the responsibility of raising children alone.
Because of the sporadic nature of the income they make through their day labor work, FEP families receive a monthly stipend from Addis Jemari, and are now largely dependent on those monthly stipends that they receive from AJ. This support is important to decrease the vulnerability of the families by allowing them fulfill basic needs. It, however, goes nothing beyond satisfying basic needs.
We know this will makes you wonder what is the larger plan for the future of FEP families?
The purpose of the monthly stipend that we are providing to FEP families is not to create long-term dependency on outside resources. Rather, we have stipends in place to temporarily reduce the economic vulnerability of the families until the period they start viable income making activities.
AJ has two approaches in place to help FEP families come out of poverty:1.) As said above, the first approach is making direct investment in the families’ basic needs such as nutrition, health, and education through monthly financial support.
2.) The second approach is to make sure that families move out of poverty by supporting them to start sustainable income generating activities. In this second approach, we follow three strategies that help bring tangible change in the lives of these families:
Capacity building: This activity includes training mothers both formally and informally to build their knowledge and skill sets in areas of literacy, financial literacy, money management and savings, as well as walking mothers through workable IGA business plan and other trainings deemed necessary to get the mothers to the IGA portion of our FEP program.
Building financial capital: This includes ensuring our FEP mothers save 20 percent of their monthly stipends, thus creating credit opportunities for mothers by linking their saving accounts to that of government micro-finance institutions that provide initial seed money to help mothers have start-up capital. AJ also invests in our mothers with start-up capital as well.
Access to physical capital: This includes encouraging and supporting mothers to get workspace for IGA from the local government and provisions of different equipment to start their business.
Through the IGA component of our FEP program, our goal is not only to support families to secure dependable income, but also avoid the likelihood that the cycle of poverty will continue to the children in our program. In our program, there are 117 children who are dependent on these families.
Together with us, our FEP mothers are currently making tangible plans to start businesses in their choices of interest and skillsets they have. These areas include (but are not limited to) dry foods preparation, vegetable selling businesses, coffee and tea shops, and milk production. We guide and support mothers to start IGA that is aligned with their skills and interest, which is key to their success!
Please stay tuned for the second part of this blog where we will share some of the business plans of FEP mothers and where they are in this big endeavor.