I want to share this story from the most recent BeadforLife newsletter (full disclosure – my wife is a co-founder of BeadforLife).
The reason I want to share it is that it is an inspiring story that shows the power of a little bit of seed capital in the right hands. This woman didn’t receive a hand-out, she received an opportunity and worked hard to save the money that allowed her to slowly start and expand her businesses.
Meet Ogwang Mary
“My husband loved me since I was in 6th grade. But when he asked for my hand I had to give him a big ‘no.’ Then my father died and I had to quit school. I decided to accept his proposal since there was no other thing for a woman to do.” Mary smiles shyly at her husband of 20 years, a policeman.
Mary sits proudly at her sweater making machine. She has orders for hundreds of sweaters, orders that her husband has secured by going to boarding schools in the northern part of Uganda, where the supply is limited.
Click here to see a video of Ogwang Mary
Mary is a woman of many talents. She launched her sweater-making business while still a beader. She then began holding classes to teach other women about sweater making. In addition to the business of making sweaters, Mary installed a solar panel to charge cell phones for a small fee. Her latest business is raising chickens; she intends to sell both chickens and eggs.
“Mary, you are a natural entrepreneur. You have five businesses going. Why didn’t you do this before BeadforLife?,” asks our interviewer. Mary pauses and looks away. Rubbing her thumb and fingers together, she says, “I never had two coins to rub together before BeadforLife. I never had a chance.”
Mary represents the 1.4 billion people in the world that live in extreme poverty on less than two dollars a day. Without any opportunities to earn, save or invest in a business, they are trapped. They live constantly looking for work to feed themselves and their children.
One of the negative impacts the foreign aid culture has had on Africa is a dependency mentality. So much has been handed out for so long with so little required in return, that people often sit around waiting for the next truck of t-shirts and grain to arrive. Not only does that beat down people’s pride and sense of independence, but it keeps them from being invested in their own future, and it doesn’t give them the skills they need to keep themselves out of poverty in the long run. One of the things I love about BeadforLife’s approach is that the members work hard during the time they are enrolled, and are expected to be the primary architects of their own future.
The huge growth of microloans through groups like Kiva is another proof that many people living in poverty have the intelligence and motivation to improve their lives if they can just get out of the day-to-day struggle for survival.
Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala