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"Teach a man to fish.." Celebrating entrepreneurs in developing countries who run microenterprises

By Koreen Cueto, Communications and Journalism Intern, Opportunity International Australia

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Tomorrow we celebrate the United Nations day for microenterprises, small businesses run locally by entrepreneurs in developing countries using microfinance loans. The UN calls them, “The first responders to societal needs,” because they are often present in the most remote areas of the world and provide livelihoods for vulnerable people, including women and youth.


What makes microenterprises so effective in alleviating poverty is that they create room for self-determination. Self-determination is the power to make up one’s own mind about what to think or do. Sadly, choice can often seem like a luxury for some. For families who live in poverty, daily choices are whether they can afford to buy food, medicine or send their children to school. Self-determination is a far-off dream for them—terrible choices about which of life’s necessities to buy are forced upon them. No one deserves to be put in this position, and everyone has a right to make meaningful decisions.

Like many entrepreneurs in Australia, entrepreneurs in developing countries who run microenterprises manage every aspect of their businesses. They source products, and at times, make the products themselves, sell them at the local market, manage profit and promptly pay back their loans. These entrepreneurs, however, are building their businesses as if their lives depend on it—because it does.  A small profit at the end of the day can make the difference between eating dinner or going hungry. However, they deserve to make choices beyond this. Entrepreneurs in developing countries deserve to make dignified and empowered choices such as what school they send their kids to or the ability to cook a nutritious dinner.

Entrepreneurs in developing countries are incredibly creative, hard-working and inspiring. One of Opportunity’s loan recipients, Attika, embodies these qualities.

Attika lives in a village in Indonesia with her husband Iwan and their two children Gilan and Putriamelie. When her kids were young, life was difficult for the family. “We struggled to survive,” Attika says, “we lived hand-to-mouth.” If her kids were sick she’d use the money for paying the doctor instead of using it for the daily rent of her market stall, which meant she didn’t earn any money that day.

In 2010 Attika, received a loan from Opportunity and developed a business making ice-blended fruit shakes. During the next few years, she received and repaid more loans to set up several other businesses—one selling martabak (Indonesian pizzas) and another selling keripik (cassava crackers). She also purchased fruit trees, chickens and fish for a farm. 

Through her small businesses, Attika’s income grew substantially, and she’s improved her family’s standard of living. She is able to send her kids to school and buy them school books and uniforms. “I’m driven to provide for my children,” Attika says, “I want my children to create their future as they like.”

Attika’s experiences have had a ripple effect in her community. She wants to share her blessings by paying it forward. She now mentors her neighbour, Iralestari, who dreams of building a shop and earning enough income to send her children to university.

Microenterprises are a force for good by providing a source of income for families who struggle to buy life’s necessities. This enables them to be architects of their own destiny; giving them the opportunity to forge their own future, a future full of hope. They also empower entrepreneurs, like Attika, to give back to their local communities. Opportunity is proud to celebrate Microenterprises Day and the role they play in helping people break out of the crippling cycle of poverty. Teach a family to fish and you will indeed feed them for a lifetime, and more.

If you would like to help a family and their microenterprises in a more meaningful and creative way, check out our gift catalogue:








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