Celebrating International Women’s Day: Ethiopian girls encouraged to get educated, dream big

By Amanda Thorsteinsson, Communications Officer, Canadian Foodgrains Bank

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of girls and women around the world. We believe investing in girls, including making sure they have the proper nourishment to be able to stay in school, is key to changing the world.

Seventy-something Aamina may be disabled, but what she lacks in body, she more than makes up for in spirit.

She’s especially not afraid to use her voice—especially when it comes to advocating for her grandniece, Sisay.

“She can be whatever she wants to be,” she states proudly.

Sisay came into Aamina’s care four years ago when she was eight years old. The two live in the South Gondar region of Ethiopia.

There wasn’t always this much hope for Sisay’s future.

Due to her age and disability, Aamina can’t work. She gets about $5 Canadian from the Ethiopian government each month as a pension. It allows her to keep from having to beg on the streets, but that’s about it.

For a period of time, she had no money to pay the fees for Sisay to attend school.

But then Aamina heard about a program to help extremely impoverished families help their children get a good education.

Through the program, supported by Canadian Foodgrains Bank and its member, World Renew, Aamina was able to receive monthly meal rations, school supplies, and the support of a social worker for Sisasy.

Now Sisay goes to school and has enough to eat. “I want to be a doctor one day, and take care of sick people,” she says.

And if anyone doubts that couldn’t happen, Aamina pipes up on Sisay’s behalf. “Why not her?” she asks, motioning to her grandniece. “No one is born a doctor. They are made because they work hard and study. Sisay works hard and she studies. So why not her?”

Indeed—why not her? Sisay certainly works hard to make it possible.

She wakes up at 6 AM every morning and prepares breakfast for herself and her aunt. She arrives at school early to take part in an 8 AM flag ceremony. She starts class at 8:30 AM, and stays at school until 1 PM.

When she gets home, she prepares lunch for the two of them, boils coffee, feeds her aunt, and begins preparing the nightly meal of injera, a traditional Ethiopian bread.

For Canadians, it might seem strange to hear about a child working so hard in the home, but in Ethiopia such practices are normal.

Sisay doesn’t complain, but it’s still a tough existence. But the support they receive from supporters of the Foodgrains Bank across Canada brings them hope.

“I am getting old,” says Aamina. “All my wishes are for Sisay now. She is very much loved.”
Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a partnership of 15 churches and church agencies working together to end global hunger. In the 2013-14 budget year, the Foodgrains Bank provided $42 million of assistance for 1.2 million people in 42 countries. Canadian Foodgrains Bank projects are undertaken with matching support from the Government of Canada. Assistance from the Foodgrains Bank is provided through its member agencies, which get matching funds through their accounts in the Foodgrains Bank for programs implemented by local partners in the developing world.

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