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Girls Power! Empower our Girls!

This picture is of “my girls”. These amazing young ladies were 6-8th grade volunteers at the library in Hosanna, Ethiopia. They came to the library every day and wanted to help do anything. Before you know it they were always in my office- the storage room - looking for something to do. I found a book for them to look through. It showed how to tie scarves in different designs. Again before you know it they were creating a fashion show, taking all my scarfs and creating fabulous new looks. They surprised me since they were from such a remote and isolated place. But I guess fashion travels everywhere. Next I gave them a book to read. It was a favorite of mine- an Ethiopian picture book about a girl who wanted to be an astronaut and took everyday objects and used her imagination to create a space ship and planets and more. I read it to them and asked them if they liked it. They all looked blank. It occurred to me that the English and concepts were probably too foreign so I explained why I liked the book- strong girl, powerful imagination, dreams of the future. They all started beaming. Then I asked each one to read a page. They were doing better each go round. We were having a parent’s day and I invited them to read the book to the school community. I wasn’t sure if they could and didn’t have time to practice it with them. As the day came I was worried that it would be confusing to the parents and boring reading all those pages. Then to my surprised, 2 girls came to the microphone. They had broken the book down to a sort of “drama” and each read a section. It flowed. They read perfectly. It was interesting. They had practiced and created a presentation themselves. They didn’t need me at all. Needless to say I was beyond proud of them. But also amazed at what they could do on their own, just given access and a bit of support. I always had believed that the talented young people here could accomplish anything but to see it in action. A powerful motivator for me.

When I think of “my girls” I think of the great potential that all girls have and how important it is to give them a good education so they can build a good life for themselves and their families. But so many girls in this region don’t make it. Only 54% of the girls in primary school pass the 8th grade state exam and can move on to 9th grade.  

One time I asked local teachers in Hosanna to brainstorm reasons why girls don’t stay in school. The reasons they listed were exactly what plagues so many girls around the world. Top on the list was family responsibilities, early marriage, lack of freedom of religion, female circumcision, biased attitude toward women and lack of conducive environment. In Ethiopia early marriage could mean age 11 and in some areas even 8 years old. Girls often have to stop going to class to walk miles to fetch water or care for younger siblings. 80% of the girls in the rural areas of the county have suffered an FGM (Female Genital Mutilation). These girls deserve a safer and better life. The government agrees making FGM illegal and calling it a “harmful traditional practice”. But it still exists. Being from the West it is hard to imagine the challenges these girls have to overcome. Changing cultural attitude and practice is not simple and will not happen easily. But changes can happen.

H2 Empower is committed to work with the girls themselves and their school leaders to support their needs and find ways to help them complete their education.  Support our Girls Power Campaign. Give our girls a future.

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