We designed the women’s leadership audio toolkit with a woman named Fantu because women like her form the backbone of the Ethiopian economy, yet have largely been excluded from leadership development. Fantu is a single mother that I met while researching a women’s self help group model – a model where 15 women get together and begin saving money (or sometimes they start by saving coffee beans) providing other group members accountability and support. Once the group has amassed enough capital they keep saving, but begin doling out small loans within the group, charging interest, and maintaining almost 0% default rate on loans. Fantu’s group started 3 years ago with each woman saving 50 coffee beans a month and now has a working capital of over $3500 of which they have used to start small businesses – and for Fantu, to start a small dairy business which now supports her son Dawit.
We’ve heard of micro-finance success before, but what struck me as unique was that the self-help groups began initiating something unusual for savings groups, which is self-directed learning based on their needs. Some groups I met had issues with their children’s health so they began seeking out support for health and hygiene, other groups wanted to learn about micro-insurance so they hired an insurance company to develop an affordable insurance package, and for Fantu’s group, they were interested in gaining more respect in their community and building confidence of young women – basic building blocks of women’s leadership.
I was able to explain to the group what CCL does and how we work with individuals, organizations, and communities to unlock their potential. Fantu’s group was adamant that what CCL provides is what they needed and that the other self-help group associations also needed this. Two major challenges exited to make this work… 1) many of the women in the groups are illiterate, and 2) there are 15,000 self-help groups in Ethiopia similar to Fantu’s, with over 250,000 members in total. To reach scale we needed to come up with an innovative approach that did not dilute content, yet provided the women with an engaging, culturally relevant leadership development process. For this particular demographic, a 10-part narrative ‘radio’ drama, combined with a low-literacy guidebook proved to be the best tool.