Zeineba Yinga’s journey from the slums to the suburbs was made possible by a £17 loan from a scheme funded by the SCIAF.

By Paul O’Hare |

Zeineba was just 12 when her mum died and she had to leave school to care for her siblings – now she is a millionaire entrepreneur thanks to the support of SCIAF.

A former rubbish collector is now a millionaire entrepreneur thanks to a project backed by a Scots charity.


Zeineba with her son: her dream is to build a school for poor children

Zeineba Yinga’s journey from the slums to the suburbs was made possible by a £17 loan from a scheme funded by the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund.

The businesswoman is now helping others to escape a life of poverty.

Zeineba Yinga, 41, said: “I do not believe in charity. I believe in support.

“If a person is supported, it can bring out the talents and the skills which are hidden in them.

“I have a lot of material wealth but I consider having self-confidence as my most successful achievement.

“I’m not dependent on anybody. I am the executive director of my business.

“I was hated by people because I did not have anything.

“Now I am really proud of myself – not because I am a millionaire, but because I have my freedom.”

I met Zeineba at her £66,000 four-bedroom home in an affluent district of Addis Ababa.

A relative performed a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony in the beautifully furnished living room as she shared her astonishing story.

Zeineba was brought up in the impoverished Kirkos area of the capital. At the age of 12, her life took a tragic turn when her mum died during childbirth.

Zeineba had to drop out of school to look after her sister and four brothers, aged seven to 10.

She said: “Since I was a woman and the eldest child, I had to take responsibility to look after the others.

“One day, there was nothing to eat at home and my siblings were crying because they were hungry.

“Since I could not stand seeing them in such a situation, I just ran to a neighbor’s house.

“The family were having lunch and they gave me a gursha, a big chunk of food put into one’s mouth by someone.

“I pretended to eat it but took it out of my mouth and covered it with my scarf. They gave me more gurshas and I did the same.

“I then ran home to feed my siblings.”

Ricky Ross and Michelle McManus joined forces to launch SCIAF's Wee Box Lent appeal to help some of the poorest people in the world

Ricky Ross and Michelle McManus joined forces to launch SCIAF’s Wee Box Lent appeal to help some of the poorest people in the world

The turning point came in 2001 when a friend told Zeineba about a project called Women In Self Employment (WISE), who train and support the poorest members of the community to start their 
own businesses.

Mum-of-three Zeineba Yinga discovered she could put cash aside just by signing up for the program.

She said: “WISE were giving us 5 birr (17p) a day for transport and other costs but I started saving from that.

“Sometimes, I went without food to save money and I walked halfway home.”

After a few weeks, she started a basic business skills course and then qualified for a 500 birr (£17) loan.

Zeineba said: “My first business was preparing and selling spices.

“I used to do everything myself and I was exhausted.

“I paid back the loan in a year and continued taking higher loans.

“With the third loan, I started a ladies’ beauty salon.

“I created jobs for two people and life started to be good.”

Zeineba Yinga teamed up with two friends from WISE and secured a 10,000 birr (£332) loan to launch a dry waste collection business.

She said: “I used to carry the trash myself and people used to call me koshe, which means dirty or trash.

“My reply was, ‘The cash is clean’.”

Within a year, Zeineba was employing 12 people. And when the government changed ownership 
legislation, she gave the company and their assets to the workforce.

Alistair Dutton, director of SCIAF.

Alistair Dutton, director of SCIAF.

Zeineba Yinga also handed over the beauty salon to her brothers and sister as her focus switched to her thriving cafe and restaurant business.

She has created more than 50 jobs and is planning to turn a piece of land into a flour mill factory.

The award-winning businesswoman now coaches other women and is in demand as a guest speaker.

Zeineba said: “I was nothing in my life. I was hopeless and didn’t have any vision for the future.

“I’ve went from a miserable life to a decent and dignified life.”

She hopes to give back to her community by realizing her biggest ambition.

Zeineba Yinga said: “My dream is to open a school for those children who are suffering like I used to and don’t have the opportunity to get educated.”

She will always be grateful for the support she has received.

She said: “I want to thank the people of Scotland.

“SCIAF’s work is life-saving for so many people.”

Making dreams a reality

Tsige Haile founded WISE in 1997 with the aim of helping low income women to realize their potential. 
And over the last two decades more than 32,000 have benefited from its services in Addis Ababa alone.

As well as providing loans the organization runs courses in business management, creative thinking, leadership, self development and health education.

Members are also offered financial advice and access to insurance schemes.

Tsigie said one of the most rewarding aspects of her work is the positive impact it has on the next generation.

She added: “The children of the women who take part in our program will not be in poverty because they have access to education.”

One woman helped by WISE who used to sell food to construction workers now runs her own nursery.

Another used to work for a textile factory and earn 350 Birr (£12) per month.

Today she has 12 sewing machines and employs 30 people.

Tsigie said: “They work in three shifts because she doesn’t have enough space.

“Now, when she gets good orders, she tells us she makes 30,000 Birr (£995) per month.”

Aster Brahnu, who now rents out sewing machines, is another success story.

She said: “Before the training I did not have any purpose or vision but afterwards I started dreaming.”

How your money can change the lives of those a world away

SCIAF hailed Zeineba Yinga’s rags to riches story as a great example of how money raised in Scotland can change lives on the other side of the world.

The charity’s director Alistair Dutton said: “Through WISE, SCIAF are providing training and small loans so women can start small businesses, earn a living and take control of their lives.

“Zeineba Yinga is a fantastic example of how people, with a little help and lots of hard work, can change their lives for the better.

“After a very troubled start in life, Zeineba is now a successful businesswoman and a shining example to other women who are starting up a business and working their way out of poverty.

“She’s one of the greatest examples of how SCIAF transforms lives.”

Last year, the charity raised £3.4million through their Lenten campaign.

And with the Daily Record’s support, they have secured Aid Match funding from the Department for International Development for the second year in a row. That means every £1 donated to SCIAF’s Wee Box appeal until May 4 will be doubled by the UK Government.

● TO donate, visit www.theweebox.org, call 0141 354 5555 or email sciaf@sciaf.org.uk.

Source: Daily Record

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