GirlsGain programs for 12 to 15-year-old girls focus on education. Along with tutoring in academics, this includes health, nutrition, sanitation, and hygiene classes where girls acquire practical knowledge and skills such as how to make reusable sanitary pads. There are discussions in “gender clubs” about these topics, as well as the rights of boys and girls. We include boys in tutoring and gender clubs so they can also improve their learning skills while at the same time see how capable the girls are when they are allowed to express themselves and ask questions.

Select girls and boys who assume leadership positions in the GirlsGain Project are awarded cellphones or a solar panel. These items are significant in an area where few families have a phone and electricity is only something they have heard about. The solar panel is half the size of a standard sheet of paper and can keep 3 lights going for 6 to 8 hours each evening. This is an especially powerful gift when these are the only lights in the area.

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Books are provided to school libraries and separate toilet facilities for boys and girls are being built for several schools through this project. Quarterly parent-student meetings are held to discuss progress. A father who attends a meeting without his wife is asked to bring her to the next meeting.

We've been encouraged by the number of fathers who have attended quarterly meetings with their wives and daughters who are continuing to attend school. At these meetings, discussions focus on empowering the girl while also covering topics on nutrition, sanitation, hygiene and harmful traditional practices. These gatherings help parents better understand why the whole family benefits if girls and young wives have more opportunity to reach their potential.

For young women aged 16 to 19, who are generally married with children, we have found SILC is a powerful tool for gaining equality. SILC is a form of micro-finance where girls must learn how to develop a plan to expand their profit generating activities and save a designated amount for a period of time before they can obtain a loan. When husbands see how capable their wives are at trading and raising small animals for sale, the women gain new respect in the household. We also include lessons on nutrition, hygiene and sanitation in the SILC program.

Over 3,800 young women are active in 181 SILC groups formed to date. To stay in the program, participants must save at least 50 cents every two weeks. These rural areas do not have employers where girls can find a job. Some of their most profitable strategies involve raising crops and small animals. Fattening goats for sale is an excellent income producer.

Through the direction of local community, government and religious leaders, the young Ethiopian GirlsGain staff is helping to build stronger communities as everyone now appreciates what these young girls can do to help their families and communities be all they can be.

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