Women in Ethiopia are being trained to make cobblestones, a profession that gives them regular income and financial independence, allowing them to raise their families and send their children to school.
There are hard rocks, light rocks, and soft rocks. Who wouldn't want the soft ones?
Around 38 percent of Ethiopians live under the poverty line, and barely meet their basic needs.
At first, everyone kept telling me, "You can't do it." But I started working. I know what I have been through. My husband was a soldier. He couldn't do much to support us because he was injured. We had six children. Two of them died very young. After his death, my biggest worry was how to raise my children. Then this cobblestone work came to my rescue. On my first day, I made three cobblestones, and the trainers were impressed. Still, there were times when I found it difficult to shape hard rocks. All I wanted was to make my life better, and I was determined to do whatever it takes.
ATO SOLOMON [Trainer]
We give the training to women, the young, old, and disabled. All we look for is their willingness.
I had no regular income back then. I used to collect firewood. When the kids didn't have school, they would come along and help. The bare minimum was all I could afford. Life was tough.
ADDIS [Demeku's son]
She worked as a maid and sold firewood, and I helped by working as a daily laborer. But it was still hard to get our daily meal.
It got even harder when school started. Providing them with notebooks and pencils was what worried me the most.
Life was frustrating back then because we had to look to others for help. Now, people are knocking on our door for help because we are in a better place.
This project has benefitted those who had little or no income
My life has changed for the better. I don't lose sleep worrying about our next meal or how I am going to get their school supplies now. I have been able to earn 1000, 900, 800 birr [ETB], and there was even a time when I was paid 1,500 birr. My older son wouldn't have dropped out of school if I had had this job then. I feel blessed now that I make enough to cover our expenses. I am able to pay 216 birr each month for my daughter's school. She will be graduating next month. I look at my life now, I feel like I have accomplished a lot: feeding my family, sending my children to school, and showing them the way. What more could I ask for? I'm not worried about dying anymore, thanks to God.
It only wakes 17 days of training and less than USD$10 worth of tools to work on cobblestone.
Currently, around 100,000 people are working on cobblestone; 45 percent of them are women. This project was introduced in 2006 by the Ethiopian government and GTZ.