From where I stand: “Despite being a breast cancer survivor, I perceive myself as a successful businesswoman."


“My name is Seada Adem. I am a 38-year-old mother of three. I was born and raised in Gurage zone, over 200km away from Addis Ababa. I lost my father, who was the bread winner for the household, at a very young age. When my older siblings left the house to search for means of livelihood, I was the only one left for my mother to depend on for support with household chores and in making hand-made rugs to sell for income. I grew up practicing small businesses as the means to earn money for survival. When I was in my teens, I moved to Addis Ababa and continued to participate in small trading including working at my brother’s small cafeteria, which used to provide villagers with tea and biscuits. Along with it, I used to sell items such as fried maize, chewing gums and cigarettes by the road sides. The small income from these activities barely supported my mother and I.

Seada Adem
Seada Adem gives her testimony on the benefits she has gotten from UN Women supported Integrated and Sustainable Economic Empowerment (ISEE) Project. (Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe)

My brother advised me to marry one of the workers at his cafeteria. I accepted but it did not bring economic prosperity as he anticipated, rather when I gave birth to our first child, my husband and I were unable to afford the cost of living. When my baby was 9-months-old, I had to leave him with my mother and migrate to Sudan with my husband searching for a better opportunity. It was an exhausting seven-day journey on foot. Despite working hard for over six years in different labor-intensive jobs and saving some money, our attempt to establish a catering service in Sudan failed and we came back home empty handed. This was challenging as we had to reestablish our family in Addis with three kids and ourselves without a reliable source of income. While my husband engaged in casual labor work to earn some cash, I had to go back to the roadside trading, this time with Ketema, green grass used to decorate settings for holidays, traditional and religious ceremonies.

While I was on this trading, I heard of a training being provided for self-employed women by Women in Self Employment(WISE). I registered and started to attend with enthusiasm aiming to run a business by applying the skills. Unfortunately, while attending the training, I fell ill and diagnosed with breast cancer. With relatives and friends support, I got treated with removal of the affected breast. When I healed from the surgery, I joined another round training on basic business and life skills. The one on business equipped me with the ability to be a successful businessperson while the life skill enabled me to cope with the emotional distress as a breast cancer survivor.

After completing the training, I submitted a business plan for competition and won 25,000birr. The 25,000birr award with 3,000birr I borrowed from the cooperative helped me to open a retail shop. Now I sell firewood, pottery, charcoal, furniture, coffee and other consumer goods. Unlike my previous attempts to run small businesses with only one product, the diverse products supplying approach, I learnt from the training contributed to the success of my current business. Today, I have 29,000birr working capital. I hired three casual workers, whom I pay 1500birr each, when they provide the needed service. On average, I daily earn over 600birr net profit. This is not only supporting my family in a better way, it also covers the over 2,700birr monthly follow up medication cost of mine. Despite being a survivor of breast cancer, I now perceive myself as a successful business woman.”

UN Women’s Integrated and Sustainable Economic Empowerment Initiative (ISEE) Project facilitates provision of Basic Business and life Skills trainings to enable women generate business ideas, assess their businesses, limitations and opportunities in their locality while equipping them with life skill trainings for effective communication, problem-solving, self-esteem, and effective teamwork. Since 2021, the project, which is implemented by one of UN Women’s partners, Women in Self Employment (WISE), is facilitating business development and market linkage services incorporated to further improve income generation activities and to ensure women’s economic independence. ISEE project, which has so far reached over 800 beneficiaries is funded by UN Women strategic note (2021-2025) donors: Government of Netherlands, Government of Norway, and Government of Sweden.