Monday, October 12, 2015

International Day of the Girl

Girls are important, but oftentimes, in Ethiopia, girls are important because it’s them who fetch the water, cook the meals, clean the house, and make the coffee. Many Ethiopian girls are given fewer opportunities than boys and both women and girls are discriminated against in many different and subtle ways. Ethiopia is not alone in this. Many other countries suffer from similar problems, and even in the US, women and men are not treated 100% equally.     

presenting at the morning flag ceremony
In Ethiopia, 60% of boys are literate, but only 40% of girls are. Half of Ethiopian children don’t finish their primary education and only 1 in 3 girls go to secondary school (high school). There are 9 million girls in Ethiopia, and if two thirds of them are not getting a high school education, that’s 6 million girls who have missed the opportunity for an education. Six million girls who are falling behind with little opportunity to make money for themselves and their family. Six million girls who are heading for a life of poverty.

If every girl finished school, they would add 4 billion dollars to the Ethiopian economy, which is more than Ethiopia receives in international aid each year. That is why I decided to celebrate the International Day of the Girl on October 11th. I want to support all my students, but especially the girls. They need encouragement and guidance and they need to know that they are worth something, and that something is not small or insignificant.

To commemorate the day, Spencer and I worked with my coworker, Kebede, and a group of 52 ninth and tenth grade girls to create a Wall Against Discrimination. First we showed them a video called Smart Economics, given to us by an NGO called Girl Effect. It talks about the importance of girls and gives examples of how girls’ lives could be better. It also talks about the $4,000,000,000. After the video, we gave each student colored paper to trace their hand and we wrote some sentence starters on the blackboard to give them ideas about what to write. We wrote things like: I wish to stop discrimination against women and girls because…, I wish all girls…, and Girls are important because… It was written in both English and Amharic to ensure the girls understood. A big thank you to Kebede for translating everything!

The next day at the morning flag ceremony I presented our Wall Against Discrimination to the school, while the school director (principle) translated what I said into Amharic. I put it up on the wall on the outside of the administration building, along with some statistics about girls and women in Ethiopia. It’s a central location where every person who walks into the school can see it.

students watching my presentation at the flag ceremony

It’s a small, grass roots project in just one school in a small town in rural Ethiopia, but for those 52 girls, it was great. Change will not happen overnight and it cannot happen with girls alone. Everyone needs to make an effort to create an equal society for all people. Our project might be small, but even if all we did is get people talking about the issues, we have done something worthwhile. 

All statistics are from Girl Effect.