My name is Minke Dancha and I think I am about 60 years old. I live with my three sons and one daughter. I am also raising my grandson who is 5. I live in a government owned house in the Shiro Meda area of Addis Ababa. The home has mud walls, a living room, one bedroom and a kitchen. We have one bed, which I share with Yared. The other children sleep on the sofa or mats on the floor.
I currently work as a weaver with Connected in Hope and the Former Women Fuel Wood Carriers Association. I get paid for each scarf I weave and I can usually weave 20-30 scarves per month. In addition, I make baskets at home in the evenings, which I also sell. Before I joined Connected in Hope and the Former Women Fuel Wood Carriers Association, I was working as a wood carrier. I moved from the countryside to the city when I was 18. Since I did not have a job or any skills, I began carrying wood. I would collect wood in the forests at the top of Entoto Mountain and then I would carry it for 8 km into the city of Addis where I would sell it for about 10 birr (50 cents).
Shortly thereafter, I got married and had children. When the children were young we were very poor. Once my daughters were old enough, I would bring them with me to collect wood. My daughters carried wood from the mountain once per day. They would carry wood in the morning and go to school in the afternoon. I was able to receive 10 birr for each of their bundles too. Even with the added income from my daughters, we still found it difficult to afford food and clothing. The only food I could afford was corn. For clothing, I would find items on the side of the road, wash them and repair any holes. That is what husband and children would wear. My husband died from tuberculosis about 15 years ago. My health is not very good either. Because I carried wood for so long, I have chronic leg and back pain.
I joined the Former Women Fuel Wood Carriers Association 24 years ago and learned to weave baskets. Then, after the Association partnered with Connected in Hope, I was taught to weave scarves. Connected in Hope pays us up front for our scarves and they provide all the raw materials. People used to look down on my when I was a wood carrier. I was treated like a livestock animal. Now, I can hold my head high and feel pride in my work. I can tell people that I am a weaver and a businesswoman.
Now that Connected in Hope is involved with the Association, I am able to buy meals, soaps, and other household needs. I am able to make healthier meals for my family. Now that my children are older, they are more self sufficient. I am only responsible for my grandson and myself. Yared, my grandson, attends the Connected in Hope preschool. I love that he is getting a good education and that the school is close to our weaving workshop.