Eight years ago, Mesera struggled to make ends meet for her growing family. Today, she's a thriving business owner and community leader. Her journey of transformation began, in part, with a local financial cooperative. 

Mesera standing in field looking off into distance

Mesera needed to earn more income from her farm to cover her family's basic needs. Other job opportunities in her area were scarce, and without access to loans or credit, she was unable to grow her farming business. She was stuck in a viscous cycle. 

Around this time, Mesera's neighbors asked her to join a local financial cooperative. The group was small, with only 20 members, and Mesera had little to contribute financially. Still, she saw the potential of pooled resources, so she trusted her instincts and became a committed member of the group. 

In a growing number of rural Ethiopian communities, member-led financial cooperatives are emerging as an innovative way for women like Mesera to save, borrow, and invest in their businesses. Glimmer helps build the capacity of these cooperatives—providing loans and the skills to use them effectively, and ensuring women have the opportunity to participate and thrive.

In 2020, Glimmer invested capital in Mesera’s cooperative. She took a loan to purchase goats and received training on livestock rearing and sustainable farming practices. This support was the catalyst Mesera needed, and she quickly began to expand her farming and trade business. With a steady and reliable income, she's paying for her children's tuition, including university for her eldest.

Mesera standing next to fellow cooperative member smiling

The entire cooperative is thriving, as well. Membership has grown tenfold to more than 200 active members. It's financially independent, giving loans from it’s own revolving fund since Glimmer’s initial investment. And, importantly, women in the group have a seat at the table. Mesera's new leadership role as the cooperative's cashier places her at the center of the daily activity and economic growth in her community. 

“If each of us went our own way such a project wouldn’t have happened, so I was happy that we stayed together as a group.”

These wins are echoed across the 13 other financial cooperatives Glimmer is working with in Oda Bultum. Of the project’s 9,100 loan recipients, nearly half are women. They've started new businesses, increased farming productivity, and assumed leadership positions. Each of their stories underscores a profound truth: when women have access to social and financial capital, families and communities thrive.