The Slaight Livelihood and Gender Equality Fund has provided transformational support for girls and women in the eastern Amhara Region, Ethiopia.
Since 2020, the project, funded by the Slaight Family Foundation in partnership with Canadian Feed The Children's family of supporters, has been creating sustainable change by keeping girls safe and in school and providing scholastic material; helping 520 women start their own businesses; and raising community awareness and mobilizing action to support women’s and girls’ rights and prevent sexual and gender-based violence.
While year two was significantly impacted by COVID-19 and the civil conflict in Ethiopia, by mid-2021 and throughout 2022 the Fund has made great strides on the main pillars of the project.
SUPPORTING WOMEN’S ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT
Women and adolescent girls have been trained on basic business skills, provided with seed capital, and have started a wide variety of businesses. They are earning money to support their families and gaining independence and confidence. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of risky migration.
Women who have experienced difficult pasts now have paths to brighter futures.
I have faced a lot of challenges, including quitting my education and being given in marriage while I was young to a person I didn’t want to marry. Now, I have my own income; I am not dependent on anyone. This is the biggest and most important thing for me. The training I received has changed everything, including how to live my life happily.
The average age of women involved in the program is 25, and they have started a total of 508 businesses in more than a dozen business categories.
One of these women is Fayruza, aged 23 and unmarried, who has started a sewing business.
Fayruza’s parents knew the value of education for girls and kept her in school, resisting the tremendous social pressure for her to marry early.
I completed grade 10 and I was planning to go to the Gulf. I joined this program to start something of my own, to get knowledge, and start a business that can support me without a need to go to other countries.
Women are organized into 17 government-registered savings and credit cooperatives, enabling them to use credit, build their savings, and reinvest in their businesses. This newfound economic empowerment is life-changing not only for women, but for their families and their communities.
KEEPING GIRLS SAFE AND IN SCHOOL
Supporting women’s economic empowerment goes hand-in-hand with changing attitudes towards girls’ education.
There are practices that discourage girls from continuing their education. There is a pressure from the family to get married early, their attitude towards girls’ education is very low.
I believe girls can perform the same as boys. That is what I tell my parents and my friends’ parents. I am a member of a girls’ club and we discuss this issue with our teachers and students during our meetings.
Due to the conflict, our school lost a lot of property including chairs and tables; and all office materials and libraries were looted. Now our school is recovering from the disaster and thank you very much for your provision of school materials and for being with us during this period.
Gaining traction, getting results
Systemic change takes time. While there is still much work to be done, there are already signs that these efforts are having an impact.
Girls’ voices are being raised and heard and schools and teachers are taking action.
We started providing training for teachers and club members every Friday. After the training, we changed the way we used to do things. We created a way to get information about the situation for girls at home so that we can take action before it is too late. In this way we have saved four girls whose parents had decided to give them in marriage.
Thank you to The Slaight Family Foundation, our partners African Agribusiness Incubation Network and CHADET in Ethiopia, and Canadian Feed The Children's family of dedicated donors for supporting this important work on behalf of women’s and girls’ rights. Although it will take time to fully recover from the trauma left behind by the pandemic and three years of civil conflict, the foundation has been laid for long-term and significant change for girls and women in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia.