When You Invest in Girls, a Little Goes a Long Way

Bruktawit and Mahlet
pose for a photo near their school.

Bruktawit and Mahlet, both 11 years old, are growing up in Yeka, a slum on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. They both walk about fifteen minutes to get to the Hizbawi Serawit School in their community, but some of their classmates may walk up to three hours one way. Hizbawi Serawit used to be a difficult place to go to school: there was no water, so children would carry water for the day in plastic bags – if they could afford it; the school had very few books in the library and no learning equipment in the classroom. A lot of students couldn’t afford books or uniforms, and many girls would drop out of school when they reached puberty because they had no sanitary materials. Schools also did not have appropriate toilets or washing stations.

With your support, Plan started the Girls’ Empowerment Through Education (GETE) project in April 2012 in Yeka and another slum area called Akaki Kality, with the goal of making sure that girls and boys have a quality education, not just a school building. GETE (which means “beautiful girl” in the Ethiopian language of Amharic) provides parents with agriculture training and business skills so they can support their children’s education. GETE also delivers educational materials for schools and students that need them and offers trainings for teachers and tutoring services to students. By working at these multiple levels, GETE is fostering a sustainable environment to shape future leaders and uplift the entire community from within.

Now, within just a year and a half of project start-up, five schools in Yeka and Akaki Kality have new water tanks to provide drinking water and sanitation services for the students. Hundreds of parents have gained business skills and financial training to start their own small businesses so they can afford to send their sons and daughters to school. Over 30,000 notebooks and pens have been provided to schools for students to use.

GETE is part of the Because I am a Girl initiative, which focuses on girls who are often excluded from educational opportunities. For example, GETE provides sanitary materials for girls to use at school, so that they don’t need to stop attending when they get their periods. This simple service breaks down taboos around the subject, helping girls to easily transition through this phase in life without risking dropping out of school. To further build their confidence to overcome discrimination, thousands of girls have been trained on reproductive health, life skills, and leadership. Bruktawit and Mahlet show us just how effective these trainings can be.

“We need to stand up for other kids even if we’re not the ones getting left out,” says Bruktawit. “I learned in the project that all children are supposed to be able to go to school. But Mahlet and I knew a boy who didn’t go to school; he took care of the sheep instead. So we went to the principal, and we went to his family, and we found out that he was living with his stepmom. Then we worked together and helped him, and now he can come to school.”

Given the skills and opportunities, a girl can uplift her community. Thank you for giving girls like Bruktawit and Mahlet this chance!