The Incredible Strength and Determination of Emama Fishka
By Gosaye Feyissa
February 8, 2019 (Ezega.com) - The courage someone builds in his heart at young age will not diminish with old age. Starting any kind of business would be a challenge for anyone, but particularly difficult for Ethiopian women. Despite the pressure from home, Ethiopian are always struggling to move out and engage in small business activities everywhere. For women, this also includes taking care of their children. This is particularly true of patriarchal society like Ethiopia that keeps women at home in subordinate positions, using religion and culture as an excuse.
But, in spite of these ordeals, many ambitious women have become successful by overcoming those very challenges. Emama Fishka who was born in 1938 in Harar town is one of the most notable ones at hand. When she was a child, she had a dream of becoming a business woman and was filled with hope that her dream will someday become a reality. After completing high school education, she came to Addis Ababa and got married and cared for her seven children. Along with her husband, she enrolled her children to school. The situation was not good as she was engaged in looking after children and shouldering other social responsibilities which became obstacles to take up her business plans.
Despite the hurdles she had to face, she always believed that her dreams will be realized one day. Her plan was not only to generate money for herself and her family, but also to support others in need around her. As soon as her children started taking care of themselves, she began traveling to Mumbai and Dubai to purchase different items that she expected to sell at local market with a reasonable profit. However, as she had no skills in entrepreneurship, she became bankrupt after a couple of years.
Emama Fishka had to quit her business due to the political turmoil that swept the country following the national election of 2005. This was the reason why Emama was forced to shift from foreign trade to start a small business in her home country. Emama worked from dawn to dusk to save her business but things did not work out well yet again. But she continued to learn business in a rather difficult way. Emama Fiska never lost hope. She had her own car and good business in the past but all were gone. Despite what she had to face over the years, she decided to go back to square one and start business all over again.
She decided to start ‘Ye Jebena Buna’ (traditional method of boiling coffee for sale) in Addis Ababa with only fifty Birr around Semien Mezegeja, at the northern outskirts of the city in 2014. Her agony seemed to loom with no end. That same year, her beloved son died in a tragic car accident.
“To tell you the truth, I had no money to start any business at that time and this was my first challenge for losing hope to start a business,” Emama said. For over two years, the markets situation was not good due to lack of customers.”
Once again, she never lost hope in what she had encountered in her life. Her small business was everything for her. She started to prepare local traditional dish at old age but to the surprise of every one, her face was beaming with delight as she was happy to serve her customers who frequented her small business.
Although her real name was Beza Gebresillasie, her customers gave her the name Emama Fishka (meaning, the whistler mom). In 2015 when malaria epidemic occurred in pocket areas of Addis Ababa, Emama Fishka started to use her whistle in her small restaurant to warn all those who came to dine at her place to wash their hands.
Emama Fishka provided her customers with quality food at fair prices. She has a brand name for each food she prepares in her place. During lunch time many people sitting and eating in front of the door, while others wait outside by the road.
Some brand foods found in Emama Fishka’s menu are Kana, Gebi Lelimat, Special Dr. Abiy and Lemma Megersa, and recently started Arangowade Tekil Arbegna Girma Woldegeorgis. She gave names to these foods based on good personality of people she knew. There are many other lists of foods in this house which found in many others restaurant. But, the service and quality of food along the fair price makes Emama Fishka kitchen the preferred spot for many people. The hospitality of Emama Fishka and her workers also attract the attention of customers who sit themselves in the small restaurant for meals.
Lack of adequate space for her customers, water supply and higher taxes are her challenges. She pays taxes ranging from 50,000 to 80,000 annually. Emama Fishka said “I have no sufficient benefit from the job, but I have no debt. I pay salary for my workers on time. To me, love and harmony is more important than accumulating money and so that I am happy.”
For many people, it is surprising to see such a devoted woman who struggles to come out of poverty and lead her livelihood in the proper way. However, many women who have the capacity to engage in various business activities don’t use their chances in the same way. Some of them are engaged in prostitution and other related works, while others are trekking to Arab countries to face tragic ends.
“The reason I am going to work strongly at this age is to never see the hand of my children or being reliant on the government,” Emama said. She teaches her workers about how to prepare the variety of food and enable them to work and help themselves when they leave her restaurant.
Her dream is to build big restaurant and promote peace and harmony among people of the country. “I always think about my country rather than myself. The peace and love seen in my home should be expanded to across the country rather than spreading hatred speech and counting the diversity of ethnic groups.” she said.
This old woman is familiar with updated information in the country and across the world, is not only providing and selling food, but also promoting peace and love in her home by posting various placard in the wall of her small house. Her age has not restricted her to accomplish her wishes and desires “If I get the opportunity, I want to teach my community about the importance of peace and love which I have learnt from my customers when they come here to eat food”.
She traveled to many regions to promote the benefit of hand washing to increase awareness in rural communities and received many certificates from various institutions including from Gulele Woreda Sub-city. Except for brand foods, 35 Birr is the amount of money she charges for a single plate. The price of those brand foods rises up to 50 Birr. She always tries to satisfy the interest of her customers. At the age of 80 years old, she is still in good spirits of loving her country and continues to work hard every day. She can’t seem to spend her time without work. She criticizes other people who have capacity but cannot use it and don’t want to learn from others.
Many people including Emama have been struggling to keep pursuing their goals while others search for easy ways to get money to buy chat and cigarettes sitting ideally with nothing to do. Still others go against the law and engage in dangerous activities such as deceit, theft and extortion. Emama Fishka’s effort and commitment should be an exemplary for all jobless people who languish on the streets of Addis of Addis Ababa begging for easy money.