GirlsGain is such a successful project because it is led and staffed by exceptional young local ladies. Their passion and training, as well as understanding of the local culture and practices holding back so many young girls, make them the perfect team to help young girls reach their potential. Even in Ethiopia's current 5 month National Emergency because of COVID-19, young girls are focused on improving their personal and family lives.
Here is the story of a member of one of the SILC groups. Medina is 18 years old, mother of two, and an Ethiopian entrepreneur with a dream. She started selling a few onions and tomatoes. After much education about the value of saving, she took out a $17 loan from a cooperative savings and loan group in her village and bought various grains to plant. She repaid the loan within two months and borrowed enough to buy livestock. If her business continues to grow, she hopes to make enough to send her children to school. There are over 100 different savings/loans groups that have been formed.
Young African women like Medina with small plots of land but big ambitions are playing a major role in the continent’s economic development. As these young ladies learn new skills, they also gain respect in their families and communities building a stronger environment where all prosper.
Let me share another example of the achievements of GirlsGain. 1,388 girls who had previously dropped out of school returned. Equally important, village attitudes have started to change, with parents, husbands, and others supporting women’s education and training.
Increasing prosperity in developing nations by helping girls reach their potential makes the world healthier, more stable, and safer.
Originally, my wife and I donated to CRS to support anti-poverty work. After several trips to East Africa, I got involved, especially in Ethiopia. Since, 2013, I have been the program facilitator for GirlsGain, a non-profit program in Ethiopia designed to help girls and young women reach their potential. It has helped over 9,000 girls and 2,500 young men plus the parents and siblings as well as community leaders so far. As more girls turn 12 each year, we should double our outreach by the end of this cycle in 2022. When Bishop Abraham asked me to start this program, I had already retired from the corporate world. I wanted to help young girls and women gain the confidence and knowledge to reach their potential. My Mother lost my Dad before I knew him, and she only had six years of schooling. This limited her opportunities.
Traditional African practices influence people in many ways. Women’s daily lives are long and arduous, carrying water long distances, caring for children, and working in the fields. An estimated 3 million African girls a year are at risk for female genital mutilation. Many girls receive very limited or no schooling.
At GirlsGain, we facilitate programs and discussions so girls can complete their education. They learn academic and vocational skills, hygiene and sanitation skills, and their legal rights. Older teen-agers learn skills that help them earn, spend, and save wisely through community saving and loan groups like the one that helped Medina.
The seemingly small steps these and other women around the globe are taking to improve their lives will lead to a more prosperous world. They deserve our help and respect.
- Art Wigchers, 2020