“I’m telling you the truth, I’m not saying this just to make you happy,” Dawud, a father of three and husband to his wife Misku, told us in their family home.
“Our lives have been transformed.”
One look at this young, healthy and happy family living in Ethiopia and you could tell that it was true. They carried with them a quiet pride of their well-kept yard, their goats and chickens grazing through, their home well-prepared against wind and rain, and their children – in school, well-fed, and curious about their visitors.
But they admitted that their life wasn’t always this way. And that it took learning about gender equality from Canadian Feed The Children’s MILEAR project staff for it to change.
“I never helped my wife,” Dawud acknowledged. “The food in our home was not good. Our kids would see the food in our neighbours’ homes and ask for it here. We used to be sad in the market when we couldn’t buy any food or clothes for the children.”
Then they became involved with the MILEAR project – which helped give them access to water through irrigation and taught them improved farming practices – and also helped them break down cultural stigma attached to helping each other in traditional “men’s” or “women’s” work.
That meant Dawud started taking on work at home like bringing in firewood, cleaning, fetching water and taking care of the children to give Misku the time she needed to take a lead in farming.
“I cultivate the land, I plant onions, I take care of the seedlings, I help with the harvesting and with packing it all for sale,” Misku explained. “I want to change our lives.”
“Now we help one another,” Dawud continued. “Misku comes to the fields to help and I help at home too. Now we have a good income and we don’t worry about our children. I have a good harmony with my wife. We have a good life now. Gender equality was the most important thing we learned.”
What Misku and Dawud have learned is that gender equality significantly impacts household financial security – and that is why unlocking women’s potential is essential in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Now, by growing mango, teff, onion, mungbean, and sorghum together they have increased their productivity and income – and with a CFTC-funded irrigation system nearby, their yields were not drastically affected by the recent drought.
Misku and Dawud have quickly become leaders in their community and want their neighbours to benefit from what they learned too: “We are trying to create awareness in our community so they can change their lives. We want to be good neighbours, and help one another.”
When asked what they want the most for their three children – Saudat, Huziefa, and Siham, their answer was simple – but one that took a lot of courage to make possible: “We want them to grow up, complete their education, become good citizens, and have a happy life.”
Unifor Social Justice Fund is the largest private funder of Market-led Improved Livelihoods in Eastern Amhara Region (MILEAR), a $7.44-million project funded generously by Global Affairs Canada.