Every day, Habtam Asfaw walks to the Meskerem School in Bahar Dar, Ethiopia, where she attends grade 6. It wouldn’t be a long walk, if she didn’t have to deal with boys and men harassing and frightening her along the busy road. Every single day, all over the world, girls like Habtam face physical, psychological, and sexual harassment and violence on their way to and from school and while in school.
Since Habtam attended a life skills training at school, she has more confidence and feels better prepared to respond to harassment. The monthly training offers a space where girls can share their experiences and fears with female teachers who advise them on issues like menstruation, family planning, gender-based violence and conflict resolution.
To support girls’ attendance, the Meskerem School has also built a menstrual hygiene facility where girls can take a break, rest, and change their clothes if necessary. This ensures that girls can manage their periods in a safe, hygienic and comfortable way and reduces menstruation-related absenteeism among girls.
Supported by GPE and other education partners, Ethiopian schools receive grants to improve their schools, focusing on what’s most needed. This often includes interventions to support girls’ education such as life skills training, refurbishing classrooms, and building separate toilets for boys and girls.
In just four years between 2013/14 and 2017/18, the completion rate of girls in grade 8 increased from 47% to 56%, and the repetition for girls in grades 1-8 decreased from 8% to 5%. More schools in Ethiopia are becoming girl-friendly and for girls like Habtam, a safe school environment is key to continuing and completing her education.