Every morning at earlier, Til Maya Ale gets out of bed and dresses in the dark before heading out of the stone and mud house that she shares with her husband and two teenage children. She crosses the yard to a newly constructed two-story building to feed the twenty-five chicks. She checks on them before continuing to the rooms that house twenty-five older chickens. Two hours later, she will once more get up to fetch water at the village tap and fill their drinking troughs. “Sometimes I can’t sleep because I worry about the chicks,” she confesses, “but I am hopeful about the future.”

Til Maya joined the Abtha Uthaun Womens’ Group in 2005. The name means: Friends, let’s wake up! “We were blind before,” she says, “and thought joining the group would help educate us.” Like many of the women, Til Maya recognizes the importance of the literacy program. Although she is far from fully literate herself, the program has opened her eyes to the value of education. Both of her children work hard in school, while also helping her with chores.

Her dream was to raise chickens. Using her profits from the pigs she invested in goats and a buffalo, besides growing vegetables. With years of savings, and a small loan from her siblings, Til Maya had nearly enough to build a new home for her chickens, a building, which will also serve as store.

“Because of my initial success, I got a small loan from the government for my chickens,” she explains. “In addition, our women’s group received seven new kinds of vegetable seeds for free!” Emboldened by her success, she asked the government for orange trees and soon received twenty-five trees, which she now tends.

Tilmaya is president of her group of 36 women. She asserts that their newfound confidence, access to credit, and a pre-school program the group has initiated are the greatest benefits. “I want to learn more about business and I also hope to build a latrine,” she says. “All this came about as a result of the group. I would be so happy if there were money to fund more women like me.”

Til Maya’s story exemplifies ADWAN’s approach to empowerment: Give women opportunities to develop confidence and build a track record, and they take the next step on their own. This year many groups have approached local government agencies and NGOs for training, seed funds and loans. ADWAN’s women run successful sewing businesses, raise livestock and vegetables on a larger scale, tend their own fish farms and operate general stores.