Lack of appropriate sources of income and economic insecurity are the major challenge to cause the women to encounter malnourishment, stigma, discrimination and violence which involve physical and psychological harm in their communities. In addition, the problem force most of the target women to find a way to earn income, often in commercial sex work, which again leads them to unsafe sex, at higher risk of AIDS, starvation and marginalization.
NLK promote and engage in income generating activities for target needy groups and their families and other vulnerable groups of the communities. This program assists in empowering HIV/AIDS affected and infected Grandmothers, OVC care giver women and other vulnerable youths in realizing their potential economically. Embroidery making and selling products, hair dressings services and home based micro business are among the successful Income Generating Activities for the target women beneficiaries.
Between2014-2015, the NLK’s economic empowerment program reached 1064(F 710 & M 305) needy target beneficiaries in the four project communities. These beneficiaries have successfully established and maintained their self-operated and/or group micro businesses, as the result of which they have been able to generate income to be spent for food, health and education of their children. In 2015, in Addis Ababa, in particular, NLK had launched innovation economic empowerment intervention for its target Grandmothers and OVC care givers under generous compassionate financial assistances of the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF). The project engaged 100 target Grandmothers and OVC care givers women in Mushroom harvest and vending. The project provides the beneficiaries with innovative economic opportunities to increase their income and nourishment. The processes by which beneficiaries accomplishing these goals also provide them with psychological and social benefits that encourage them to continue to integrate or re-integrate into a community. As the result of the intervention, the target beneficiaries transformed themselves from dependents to economic self-reliance.
The improvement come on the lives of the beneficiary women due the innovation mushroom project inspired the NLK team, stakeholders, beneficiary Grandmothers, women and the communities. The stories shared by individual beneficiary of the project is evidence that innovation project- mushroom harvest is best alternative of income and food sources for the poor section of communities particularly the destitute Grandmothers, women and children. As the beneficiaries reported that “mushroom is short cycle commercial or food crop. The harvest process requires only smallholdings, low cost and minimal skills but it incredibly provides rewarding income and nutrition”. Moreover, the production process was reported to be user and ecological friendly which the target beneficiaries could manage easily in modern way by using simple technology. Therefore, the success of the target beneficiary women is evident that the poor section of the communities can adopt the mushroom production to improve their income, nutrition and education of their children.
In Ethiopia, there have been many actions which look to prolong the lives of destitute marginalized people, particularly elderly, destitute women and children affected and infected by HIV/AIDS through, for example, providing nutritional support which successfully prolongs lives. However, NLK believes that the provision of support for income generating activities (IGA), particularly such innovative project of IGA enables destitute elderly women to become economically self-reliant. NLK continue to identify and engage the needy women to such innovative IGA which is leading to a large demand in the marketplace. Moreover, recognizing the changing needs of customers, NLK will continue dedicate to support the “ hard to reach” low income marginalized women in building skills and market research which deliver quality products needed in their communities. In summary, NLK recorded achievements of its comprehensive program which include; Economic empowerment of the target HIV/AIDS affected and infected Grandmothers, OVC care givers women, Home and community based care and support for PLHIVS, Awareness Raisings and skill building through implementation of SASA VAW, and HIV/AIDS prevention program, Psychosocial and educational materials support for target Orphan and vulnerable children due to AIDS, .
In summary, NLK’s development program has successfully reached16,000 vulnerable women and youth through HIV/AIDS awareness and skills building activities; 913 women living with HIV/AIDS with palliative care and peer support;245 grandmothers and OVC households with food support and capital provision to expand existing household businesses; and 310 OVC with educational support. These efforts have reduced transmission of HIV, prevented violence against women (VAW) and have mitigated impact overall. The Project’s achievements are not just numeric. It has effectively responded to the target groups to maximize impact reduction and minimize new infections by bringing women out of isolation and ignorance of HIV and its transmission. Women have been sensitized, as well as, local stakeholders. They have learnt how to express themselves and how to connect with others, transforming themselves from dependents to service providers in their communities- as contributors on community issues and providers catering to the needs of many deserving and poor members of their community. They have changed the perception of local stakeholders about people living with HIV in particular positive women. Moreover, they have inspired other HIV positive women to embrace innovation and creativity. As well, the NLK’s project communities have demonstrated of results in terms improving the knowledge and attitudes of project participants favoring VAW and its connection to HIV/AIDS prevention; and balanced power to be happening between women and men of the communities.