Woyneab Habte ’17: Founder of On-Her-Own

Founder of On-Her-Own, the first work-study program in Ethiopia helping to provide low-income female students with non-exploitative means of income.

The Innovator

As a student at Ethiopia’s Hawassa University before transferring to Mount Holyoke, Woyneab Habte ’17 perceived a deep injustice: many of her fellow students felt they had no options but sex work to pay for their educations. Upon coming to Mount Holyoke, she discovered work study and saw its possibilities for Ethiopia.  As a Mount Holyoke sophomore, she founded On-Her-Own, a copy shop at Hawassa University that gives women students jobs and choices.

Woyneab leveraged her studies and strong acumen for networking to establish and grow On-Her-Own. At Mount Holyoke she was an economics and international relations double major, with a Nexus concentration in global business. Outside the classroom she surmounted one challenge after another: negotiating for the policies, space, and equipment to create the first work study program in Ethiopia; impressing numerous donors to enable start-up, then developing a sustainable business model; and creating a strong, mutually supportive cohorts of women ready to take on their own challenges.

The Project

On-Her-Own has led the effort to permanently provide low-income female students from rural parts of Ethiopia with non-exploitative means of income. Currently based at Hawassa University, it is the first thriving student jobs program in Ethiopia.

The mission of On-Her-Own is to introduce a permanent and sustainable student employment program for low-income female university students so they earn their way through college, successfully graduate with transferable job skills and become financially independent. We launch small college businesses that simultaneously serve and hire students.

Engagement in MHC-supported social innovation programming

CGI U (2015, 2016); Mount Holyoke Pitch Competition (2016); Draper Competition (2016); CGI U Commitments Challenge (2016); CGI U Innovation Fund (2016); Conference support for Harvard Social Enterprise Conference (2017).