"I have learned many things that I could not learn from my family."

Published: May 27, 2022 Reading time: 4 minutes
Student of Wogida primary school in Gadio zone, SNNPR, Ethiopia.
© Foto: Mihiret Wasihun

Eyerusalem (12) lives in Dila city, an awesome place 367 km from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. She was born into a large family, with three sisters and four brothers. Although Eyerusalem's parents are uneducated, they are aware of the benefits of education. However, due to economic difficulties, Eyerusalem's parents could not afford to send all of their children to school. Eyerusalem and her closest sister had a chance to go to school. Like her siblings, she chose to stay at home and support her family instead of attending school. Eyerusalem herself left school before People in Need started working on the CHANGE project, which seeks to bring the most vulnerable girls back to school.

"My name is Eyerusalem Workachew; I am 12 years old. I was out of school because my family couldn't afford to buy learning materials and uniforms for me. So, I spent most of my time supporting my mom in the kitchen, fetching water, and preparing food for the family. Going to school and attending class was my dream, and I love coming to school because I am learning new things. I am now able to read and write."

The Wogidas' primary school Girls Club 

This particular Girls Club was established by the CHANGE project to empower girls to excel in school, create awareness on maintaining period hygiene, and enhance their skills in school and society. The project works to enhance the knowledge and skills that girls should gain from school, share their experiences regarding gender-based challenges, and find ways forward. In the club, organisers facilitate and conduct regular meetings to discuss absenteeism and early school leavers.

Eyerusalem is a member of the club. She expresses her excitement by explaining that she has "friends in the club who got married and have had children, and they share their life experiences with me, making me a motivated and strong girl." She added, "In this club, what I like the most is that it creates private time for girls like me, and having a strong friend around is the best thing because I have learned many things that I couldn't learn from my family."

On the way to visiting Eyerusalem's school, we caught up with Girls Club leader Yodit, who shared the news with us about what they are doing and how they as a club have become strong and so well organised.

The Wogidas' primary school Girls Club has twelve members aged between 12-18. Most of the club members have experienced gender-based violence in their lives, including rape, sexual harassment, and early marriage. As a club, they can learn from each other. "We use Arts (Drama, Music) and different mechanisms to persuade and pass our message to our communities," said Yodit. In Wogida kebele, many families believe that sending women to school and investing in their education is useless. 

Yodit notes that the club makes great efforts to address female-specific issues, noting how "in the club, we instruct girls how to utilise pads and how to maintain hygiene during their period. Additionally, we instruct girls on a reporting mechanism in case there's any violence within the school and community. I recall there was a rape case in our village. One of our childhood friends was raped when she was fetching water. The community treated the case as typical and arranged a Shemgelena (a traditional mediation process that helps reduce communal tensions, identify issues, and attempt to resolve them. It can also award compensation depending on the case). But, we fought to take him to court, and after a while, he was given a seven-year prison sentence. This was one time that the community took us seriously and allowed us to practice what we advocate," she said.

The CHANGE Project

CHANGE Project—improving Access to Education in Ethiopia for the most marginalised girls, is supported by UK AID implemented by People in Need in collaboration with Alliance2015 (Concern Worldwide, Welthungerhilfe, HELVETAS). CIAI and other local partners are also part of this project. The project runs Girls Clubs in more than five kebeles in Ethiopia. These clubs let girls and boys establish and augment the regular classroom curriculum through engagement in co-curricular activities. The project provides knowledge and skills that foster improved gender relations, challenge gendered roles, and promote equitable and inclusive treatment of girls. The project also seeks an equitable and inclusive treatment for all girls and boys and improved learning and personal empowerment. It targets Ethiopian girls aged 9-19 from marginalised communities. The project seeks to protect girls who face gender-based violence, poverty, disability, vulnerability to harmful and child marriage, as well as girls who have never been to school or are early school leavers.

In addition, the project works on improving learning outcomes and life skills for highly marginalised girls. Finally, the project works toward improved community and government support, acceptance and commitment to sustaining girls' education. Overall the project has been implemented in four regions of Ethiopia SNNPR (Gedeo Zone), Amhara (South Wollo Zone), Afar, and Oromia (Boran). It offers Alternative Basic Education (ABE) and Integrated Functional Adult Learning (IFAL) programmes for 9-14 and 15-19 years respectively.

Autor: Mihiret Wasihun, Veronika Gabrielova

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