Education: a way to a better life for girls who want to progress

Published: Sep 26, 2022 Reading time: 4 minutes
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CHANGE project Mekonisa Primary School. Dilla zone
© Milan Votypka

In rural Ethiopia, children are expected to assist their families in routine chores. The responsibility is doubled among girls. Cooking food, fetching water, collecting firewood, and taking care of their younger siblings are tasks that burden Ethiopian girls greatly. Hence, girls are often denied an education; instead, they stay at home. Usually, they marry at an early age. This is a reality for two girls: Aregash and Tayitu, who live in Mekonisa kebele in Gedeo Zone, southern Ethiopia. Thanks to the project CHANGE, led by People in Need and funded by UK aid through the Girls’ Education Challenge, these girls can work toward their dreams: education and employment.

Aregash is 18 years old and married. “I came from a very poor family. My parents depended on a very small farm. I was their sixth child. They couldn’t afford to send all of us to school. So, I was among my siblings who stayed in the house to help my family,” she said.

Her friend Tayitu tells a similar story to Aregash when talking about how she was raised. “We were five in the house. There wasn’t enough food and clothing for all of us. Hence only two of my siblings got a chance to get to school; the rest of us remained at home.”

“I got married when I was 16. There was no other choice for me at that time. I was not happy with my marriage. My husband came from a relatively educated family. He used to ridicule me and even beat me whenever we argued,” she said. “I couldn’t tolerate painful words that came from my husband and left my house and later divorced. Since then, I was eager to attend regular classes to learn to read and write. But I couldn’t fulfil my dream until the day I got this opportunity,” Tayitu added.

Leave no girl behind

The five-year project is designed to directly benefit more than 24,000 thousand girls between the ages of 10 and 19 in four regional states in Ethiopia. The Southern Nations and Nationality Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) program is designed to support around 9500 girls in total.

Aregash continued: “Two years ago, members of the Community Action Group (CAG) from my village told me about an opportunity for girls like me to access basic education and business skills training. I grabbed the opportunity immediately and started my education. Throughout the two years, I have been supported educationally.”

“Apart from the material assistance, however, I received moral support from my teachers and local CAG members that energised me to stand firmly and finish the two years of education. Now I can read and write. Besides, I learned how to start a business after two weeks of business skills training. I joined a saving and credit self-help group and am planning to start my own business,” she added.

Primary School Principal, Abraham Shibiru, confirmed how the CHANGE project brought visible differences to disadvantaged girls and other students. “All classes were suffocated. More than a hundred students were smothered in a single class. The majority of students sat on the floor. Besides, there was only one toilet for both boys and girls. And that created discomfort, especially for girls,” he explained.

Closer to their dreams

Over the past four years, more than 5,400 out-of-school and highly marginalized girls enrolled under Alternative Basic Education (ABE) and Integrated Functional Adult Literacy (IFAL) Programs. Around 270 adults transitioned to Regular Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) or formed a self-help group to pursue their dreams. Aregash and Tayitu are among those who graduated from the two-year program and the self-help group to start a retail business.

Abraham is hopeful that the number of girls attending school will improve in the coming days. “Following the construction of a new classroom and the provision of sitting desks, we now have 40 students per class, all of whom have desks. Also, new toilets for boys and girls were constructed. Those are important factors to make the school compound attractive and comfortable for students,” he concluded.

Apart from assisting marginalized girls, the construction of a model school for both programs, medical support for girls with disabilities, and education and sanitation material support for beneficiaries are just some of the primary focus areas of the CHANGE project.

CHANGE project: Improving Access to Education in Ethiopia for Most Marginalised Girls is funded by Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) and implemented in four regional states Amhara, Afar, Oromia and SNNPR. People in Need (PIN) is leading the project in SNNPR, Gedio zone; Wenago, Yirgachefe and Kochere woredas.
Author: Setotaw Tadesse Girma

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