In communities most affected by the AIDS pandemic, grandmothers’ support groups have formed to bring women together, to find comfort in one another, and to navigate the depths of their grief. Support groups provide life-saving interventions. The impact of such holistic, community-led approaches has been tremendous, with successes achieved because of consistent funding.

Grandmothers in support group, Developing Families Together, Ethiopia
Photo: Alexis MacDonald/SLF

Developing Families Together (DFT) is a community-based organization in Ethiopia. They believe that by empowering women, it is possible to not only change their lives but also the lives of their children and communities.

One of the many programs that DFT implements is income-generating support for grandmothers. In the town of Debre Sina, DFT has worked in partnership with local government agencies and community organizations to create a grandmothers savings and credit cooperative. This has networked grandmothers together to pool their resources and savings and receive seed funding to start small businesses. Through this cooperative, grandmothers receive business training to learn basic financial management and marketing, and they conduct market research to see where the gaps in their community are in terms of income-generating activities.

Grandmothers of the savings and loan cooperative have developed their own bylaws and have self-selected a council that manages the network and makes decisions together with the members. Through the cooperative, there is continual mentoring of new grannies and support from DFT in terms of market assessment. This enables members to create needed services rather than duplicating or copying income-generating activities. Some of the income-generating activities grandmothers engage in include sheep-rearing, breweries, salt and coffee sales, small-scale trading shops, retailing of cotton, and baking and selling injera.

The savings and credit cooperative has allowed grandmother members to grow their savings and monthly contributions to the group, and the income they earn through their businesses provides the basic day-to-day necessities for their grandchildren.

Community-based organizations support grandmothers to form savings and loans groups and run income-generating initiatives. The idea is simple, reliable and very effective: women come together in groups to consolidate their individual savings and collectively act as ‘the bank.’ They are accountable to each other, meetings are structured, records are detailed, and activities are transparent.