Ethiopia: Empowering girls for a brighter future

Read how a GPE-funded program is increasing access to education and retention of girls, children with disabilities and internally displaced children in Ethiopia.

April 19, 2022 by Abdusemed Mussa, Save the Children Ethiopia
3 minutes read
Ayelech, 18, right with her younger sister Medhanit. Ethiopia. Credit: Musema Unoro
Ayelech, 18, right with her younger sister Medhanit. Ethiopia.
Credit: Musema Unoro

Long distances from home to school, poverty and harmful social norms are just some of the barriers that make it difficult for adolescent girls like Ayelech to access quality education.

Few rural girls use sanitary pads, largely because of lack of access and financial constraints. Many menstruating girls use rags and pieces of cloth to stop sudden menstrual blood leakage; due to this, poor school attendance, weak academic performance and school dropout are very common among rural girls.

The Comprehensive Home-grown, Inclusive, Learning and Development School Feeding Project (CHILD SFP) is a program funded by a US$20 million GPE grant implemented by Save the Children.

CHILD SFP aims to increase access and retention for students in 499 preprimary and primary schools, including girls, children with disabilities and internally displaced children. Among other things, the program focuses on gender and girls’ empowerment to increase retention.

For girls, in most cases poor class attendance is followed by dropping out of school. “It usually starts by girls staying at home during the menstrual cycle and then slowly the time spent at home becomes extended for a mixture of intersecting reasons—economic problem at home, distance from school and household chores,” says Mulu Chara, a language teacher in Boneya Chiro primary school and one of the teachers who attended a gender and girls’ empowerment training organized by CHILD SFP.

Equipped with the knowledge they gained during the girls’ empowerment training, the teachers work hard to raise awareness on gender equality in the school community, including the students.

“We conduct awareness raising sessions on gender equality. We tell the boys to stop stigma about menstruation; we explain the wrong perception on gender role and other existing taboos in the community. We advise the girls how to keep their personal hygiene—thanks to the gender and menstrual hygiene management (MHM) training and material support we received from the program, we are empowered and we are empowering the young ones,” said Tigist Markos, a physical education teacher and gender coordinator in Boneya Chiro primary school.

In addition to providing training on gender and MHM, the program is working with the target schools to dedicate a changing room (MHM corner) where adolescent girls can avail themselves of the necessary accessories there, such as mattresses and pillows, bedsheets, disposal baskets, wipes, handwashing basins and so on.

CHILD SFP procures and furnishes all the items in the MHM rooms. The program has also procured reusable sanitary pads and underwear for girls of menarche age. So far, around 33,000 adolescent girls in upper primary grades benefit from MHM support.

“Now, the school environment is very conducive. We have no worries about our monthly cycle thanks to the people who gave us this opportunity. I wish every girl in our community has the same [MHM] support like me, so then they can feel comfortable to go anywhere they want,” says Ayelech.

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Gender equality
Sub-Saharan Africa: Ethiopia

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