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Alami is passing on what she’s learned

Skills training showed Alami how she could make a success of her petty trade, and now she’s showing her neighbours in Ethiopia how to do the same.

Alami Gemedo, 24, didn’t complete her vehicle mechanic training because of financial constraints, and she wasn’t able to find work in a garage. Instead, she had to fall back on the support of her large family. That’s not how Alami wanted to live – she wanted independence. Through hard work and enterprise, she’s found a way forward, and she’s showing the way for other young women. 

A change of direction 

Alami’s family of 12 live together in Idola Burqa village outside Shashamane, in southern Ethiopia. Alami knew she’d have to make her own living, but after her training didn’t work out, she had to look elsewhere. She decided to sell basic goods such as coffee, grain and salt from a small kiosk on her family’s plot of land. She had limited success: “My business wasn’t growing fast because I was not working in a planned and organized manner due to lack of business skills,” recalls Alami. At that time, the EYW program was facilitating entrepreneurship training for selected small business owners in the village, and Alami joined them. 

Training for success 

Alami really appreciates the training she received as it was in her own local language. She was inspired to work diligently, to think outside the box, and to break out of the cycle of failure she seemed to be in. It was in the training hall that I decided to expand my business by exploring existing opportunities and understanding the challenges around me,’’ she says enthusiastically 

“I decided to expand my business by selling brewed coffee, milk, soft drinks, and bread among other things,” she explains. “I am pleased that I have been able to create job opportunities for two youngsters who work for me part time. I pay them each a monthly salary of 500 Birr, in addition to other benefits like food. I also deposit 500 Birr for my Equb [an informal, traditional saving association] every week.” 

 Branching out into farming 

Alami went on to extend her business enterprise into farming. She explained her plans: “I have rented 0.25 hectares of land with an annual fee of 5,000 Birr to cultivate teff (ancient, staple grain used in Ethiopia) and wheat, with a total investment of 15,200 Birr. I expect to get 18,500 Birr net income from this investment. So the total income I expect by the end of the year to be around 35,000 Birr. My next plan is to construct my own house!”  

The growth business 

By July 2019, Alami had sold her first teff harvest for 9,600 Birr and she had increased her weekly Equb deposit to 1,000 Birr. Her dreams have grown too – she intends to open a restaurant from her savings and create more jobs for unemployed youths. Alami feels that she is now in a better position than most of her friends, so she advises them to follow track; two of her friends have already started their own small trading businesses. “Many of my friends are jobless,” she says. “I am proud that I am supporting my family financially and am able to send my two young sisters to school.” 

Seeking government backing 

To improve things for her peers, Alami is calling upon the government to provide more technical and financial support for younger people who would otherwise end up being homeless and exposed to addiction. I would like to advise all stakeholders to do more awareness creation activities, to share experience among youths, and to make financial services and skill trainings available,” urges Alami  

Most of all, she adds: I believe young women have the capacity to change their lives if they are provided with a safe environment and support from their family, community, and government. 


Alami‘s story is part of the multiyear campaign, kicked off on International Youth Day 2019 by the Empower Youth for Work program and the Work in Progress! alliance. The campaign aims to support the national influencing work of the respective programs by joining forces with local role models. The ripples of #Iwasthere are spreading out around the world and these stories are proof that change can happen anywhere – we hope they will inspire you, too, to become an active citizen. 



Why these stories?

There are more young people today than ever before in the history of the world; 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 worldwide, and 90% of them live in low-income countries. . Harnessing the energy and strength of young women and men to become active citizens is core to Oxfam's goal of transformational change.

With their energy, skills and creativity, young people have the potential to be the driving force for social change, strong economies and vibrant democracies. 

Oxfam is working jointly with youth to challenge barriers that prevent them from


Enjoying their rights


Participating fully in society


Being an effective voice in decision-making processes