This 2 page brief highlights how CARE's GRAD program in Ethiopia is expanding on the concept of a traditional VSLA to improve impact.
Dedication, That’s All It Takes
Dedication, That’s All It Takes
“If you have the right aspiration and devotion towards what you want to achieve in life, I guarantee that you will reach it at some point in time!”
These are the words that Selina Akhter, a 20 year old girl was saying to other village girls her age. In just six months, she was able to change her life like no one else in her village. She is an example of how one’s own dedication and sincerity can fulfill goals in life, despite many obstacles.
Selina is one of four children of a poor family from the village of Buruj, in the Bogra district of Northern Bangladesh. Her father, a day laborer, is 52 year old Sahidul Islam. Sahidul Islam struggled to provide three square meals a day for his family of six and to cover educational expenses for his children. His wife, Gini Begum, helped support the family by working as a milk collector for the Buruj Collection Point. Although Selina was a very bright and successful student, her parents were forced to consider discontinuing her education in order to have money for all the other household expenses. Desperate for more education, Selina begged her parents to allow her to study at least up to high school (Grade 10). Sensing her desire for higher education, her parents granted her request despite all of the economic challenges they faced. Selina was very determined and even worked as a private tutor to earn money to buy books and pens for herself. Meanwhile, she took part in the secondary school certificate examination in 2013 and passed with distinction (GPA 4.39 in all subjects). In spite of this success, she was deeply dismayed because her parents could no longer cover her educational expenses and it was not possible for Selina to cover her educational expenses with the meager amount of money she earned by tutoring other children. She was desperate to find a source of income that would allow her continue her studies and help support her family.
While searching for a part time job, she heard about a vacancy for an assistant at the Buruj Digital Fat Testing (DFT) milk collection point, which is jointly operated by CARE and BRAC Dairy. She contacted the CARE project manager and informed him that she desperately wanted the job. After listening to her distressing but courageous story, the CARE project manager discussed the proposition with the collection point manager and with Selina’s parents. All parties were able to come to an agreement. Shortly thereafter, Selina’s new life began. She started to work as a DFT assistant in March of 2013. It was very difficult to cope with the new job and technology associated with the DFT system, but with the help of CARE coupled with her will power and drive to succeed, Selina soon mastered everything required for the position.
Social barriers were one of her greatest obstacles, as it was unusual for a woman to be in such a profession. However, with her determination to move forward, and with the help of CARE, she overcame all the obstacles. After joining the milk collection center she started to attend the CARE producer group meetings and talked with the group members about the benefits of selling their milk to the DFT milk collection point. Soon after, the participation of woman in the collection point increased and the collection point manager decided to increase her wage, compensating her for going above and beyond the call of duty.
Her parents are happy that their daughter is able to earn money, as it is supporting not only her education but also helping with other household expenses. As her mother says, “I am very happy because my beloved daughter is not only covering her educational expenses but also contributing to family expenses. I feel proud when other girls in the village come and ask for a job like the one Selina is doing.” Her father no longer considers discontinuing her studies and has decided to allow Selina to enroll in the higher secondary school certificate exam. The proud father beams, “There is nothing more pleasant for a father than when his daughter earns money for the family. She is not only covering her educational expenses, but also paying for some educational expenses for my other two children. I think this is remarkable. Now the village people speak to me with honor. Neither my daughter nor I are merely another face in the crowd; it’s clear that we have done something different.”
Every day she works at the collection point from 6:00 am to 8:30 am. After that she attends college and then goes home to do her daily chores. She then returns to the collection point to work from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Although she is very busy, Selina is now leading a better life and has the ability to fulfill her dreams. She aims to finish her studies and to be increasingly self-reliant. She has become a shining example of success in her community. As she says, “I have a bigger vision for my life and this has helped me a lot to reach this stage. I want to use my strong willpower to achieve the ultimate success of my life. I am very grateful to CARE for showing me the right path which helped me to become what I am and what I want to be in the future.”
Selina has become a symbol of hope for her entire family. Other parents in her village all want a daughter like Selina. She has broken social barriers and is now free from ridicule to work in a male-dominated profession. CARE has facilitated her relationship with BRAC, trained her to operate the Digital Fat Testing machine and linked her with the project impact group. She is now well-known to all the milk producers who sell their milk to DFT milk collection point. Rehana Begum, one of the farmer leaders of a milk producing cooperative group, says, “We feel very comfortable selling our milk to a girl who is from our village. We can now discuss any problems with her. She teaches us how the milk fat is measured and how we can increase our milk quantity and fat percentage. We are lucky to have her at the collection point. The other women farmers are now more willing to sell their milk to the collection point and as a result the total milk collected has increased.”
Selina is seen as a role model in her community. After suffering from distress and poverty, she is now able to lead a dignified life with the help of CARE. She looks to build off her success and wants to accomplish even bigger vision in the future.