Ethiopian Business Review

Hope to Single Mothers

Single parents face many obstacles – both social and financial – when raising kids. The daily challenges of raising kids can even take a psychological toll on single mothers who have to raise kids and work full time in order to provide for their family. EBR Staff Writer Meseret Mamo tells a story of how one NGO, Meseret Humanitarian Organization (MHO), is hoping to bring hope to the lives of single mothers in Ethiopia.

Sisay Boken, 38, is a mother of three who is raising her children alone after her husband died ten years ago. Her youngest child was only three months when he died. Though Sisay has studied up to the eighth grade she has now forgotten to read and write. She lives in one of the slums in Kirkos Sub city and has been working as a house maid, washing and cooking for other people in her area. Her income has been inconsistent and sometimes she is unable to feed her children. 

Her children perform poorly in school and teachers constantly summon her in order to discuss her children’s behaviour. She frequently disciplines her children in order to get them to obey her. Still, not much has changed. She used to suspect that they cheat and lie to her. 

As Sisay’s story makes clear, raising a child as a single mother can be tough. This can be especially difficult when a single mother has little-to-no education, money or support network. With these difficulties in mind, Sisay remembers vividly having to perform difficult household labour while sometimes carrying her young children on her back. 

For many, the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” reflects a hard truth: raising a child alone is nearly impossible; it takes several loved ones to complete the task. Yet, for people like Sisay, it’s difficult to find support networks, especially as the increasing demands of modern city life take up people’s time, which often puts mothers in a difficult position.

The effects of having to juggle children, work and other commitments isn’t only difficult logistically, it can also take its toll psychologically.

According to a study by Sara S. Mccanhay of University of Wisconsin-Madison entitled, “Single Mothers and Psychological Wellbeing,” single mother’s face specific psychological challenges because of their unique situation. Chronic stress, strains on their time and managing several economic and social commitments can contribute to their psychological wellbeing is declining over time, which can result in a more negative outlook on life.

Single mothers are likely be exposed to enormous stress because they have to provide the finance for their family while also assuming roles traditionally allotted for male partners, according to Missaye Mulate a Ph.D candidate in Social Psychology at Addis Ababa University. 

“Lack of resources appears to be connected to poor psychological functioning among single mothers,” he says.  “Single mothers often experience a greater number of stressful events such as demotions, layoffs, accidents, critical illnesses.”

Yet, Missaye says that the problems facing single mothers are not intractable. He says that single mothers need economic and social support in order to become more self-sufficient. “We need to solemnly support them so as to alleviate or at least reduce their economic constraints” says Missaye. 

Sisay says that economic empowerment initiatives have helped her. A year ago, she took part in a training held by the Meseret Humanitarian Organization (MHO), a nongovernmental organization which focuses on poor single mothers and their children. 

There, she received trainings on basic business and life skills and they even loaned her 1500.00 birr [USD75] to start her own small business.  “I can change the life of my family if I work hard,” she told EBR. She now sells cooked food and charcoal, among other items. She says she’s experienced some success; her capital has reached roughly 16,000.00 birr [USD800]. “Now I believe that I should no [longer] spend time by complaining” says Sisay, recalling the days when her circumstances frustrated her. 

Meseret  Azage, 44, founder and manager of MHO, was raised by a single mother and knows what her mother went through.

The organization, which was established two years ago with a budget of 100,000 birr, aims at helping single mothers by reviving their morals and helping them raise productive children.  So far the organization has made 280 children and their mothers’ beneficiary of the programs. 

Mothers receive basic life skills training like hygiene, self respect and forgetting and forgiving the past. They also learn basic business skills, such as running small businesses, accounting and how to start a savings account. They are also given credit to start their own businesses. “It has changed the lives of many mothers and their children,” says Meseret, “the changes I see from these mothers is very encouraging.”

For Sisay, being a distressed single mother is now a thing of the past. “If one is willing to have a positive outlook, life can change to the better with or without a husband,” she says. 

She is now saving money to buy a condominium and her children are now good at school and even help her run her business.

Sisay attributes her new life and outlook to the training she received at MHO. “I am thankful for the training and loan I received” she concluded.

2nd Year . July 2014 . No.16

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