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. Afterward, there are discussions in “gender clubs" that include boys about these topics as well as the rights of boys and girls.
Select girls and boys who assume leadership positions in the GirlsGain Project are awarded cellphones, which cost about $20, or small solar panels that cost about $70. 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. It is an especially powerful gift, as homes rarely have electricity.
Books are provided to school libraries and toilet facilities are being built for some 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 have learned to include boys in tutoring so they not only learn more but also see how capable the girls are when they are allowed to express themselves and ask questions.
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.
Roughly 1,300 young women are active in 67 SILC groups formed through 2018. Their annual savings, net of withdrawals, have averaged a little over $9. This is in an area where the average wage is around $2 a day. To stay in the program, participants must save at least 50 cents every two weeks. Some of their most profitable strategies involve raising crops and small animals. Fattening goats for sale is an excellent income producer. We have provided two goats, at $33 each, to each girl after she successfully participates in a SILC group for a year. The new program initiated in 2019 is doubling this outreach.
We've been encouraged by the number of fathers who have attended quarterly meetings with their wives and daughters to learn and discuss information on nutrition, sanitation, and harmful traditional practices. These gatherings help parents better understand why the whole family benefits if girls and young wives are more educated and empowered.
All of the above activities are in our budget. Transportation and supplying incentives, (baby goats, phones and solar panels) to the participants who develop into role models are also significant items. Modest salaries for our young passionate Ethiopian staff are the top budget item. The local Ethiopian staff use project-supplied bicycles to get around, and regional managers receive motorbikes to cover the many miles of dirt paths that connect small communities.
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