Hiwot Ethiopia’s has been implementing programs focusing on girls’ education along with other areas which include health, education, livelihood, and promotion of children, girls and women’s wellbeing. Currently, funded by International Child Development Initiative (ICDI), Hiwot Ethiopia is implementing a two year (2019-2020) project entitled “Education matters More” at ten kebeles (ten schools) in Moretena Juru
woreda of North Showa zone. This project is built upon the success of the previous project (first phase) “Education matters, especially for girls”, which was implemented between February 2015 and February 2017.
Both projects primarily target primary school girls and boys who are disadvantaged groups living in poverty and highly exposed to school drop outs. Thereby, the projects’ major focus has been on understanding and mitigating barriers to girls’ primary and secondary education. It aims also at raising awareness among and capacitating, district, zone and regional decision-makers and disseminating activities to other regions. Thus, the overall objective of both projects is to ensure girls in target area (MoretinaJiru Woreda) attend and complete primary education, through presenting mitigation strategies of school dropouts. In doing so, the main approaches are capacity building, facilitation, linkages, cooperation and participation of actors and chain supporters.

In achieving the intended objectives, the projects have identified and tried to ensure retention and reduce school dropouts and irregularities of girl students in target schools and create positive attitude and raise awareness of parents and community towards girl’s education. As a result, through strong cooperation between schools, government and community members, the project (in first phase) tackled a range of barriers which kept girls from going to school or caused them to dropout. And significantly more girls now go to and stay in school and support for girls’ education has increased within the wider community. Therefore, the intended projects have directly benefited more than 2000 girls student in ten target schools In addition, Hiwot Ethiopia implemented a project entitled “Education for Change: Build the capacity of Girls to end child marriage, decrease early pregnancy and closely spaced child bearing projects funded by the Davide and Lucile Packard Foundation, Wereledkindern and Amplifychange”. As part of its effort to help secondary school girls’ receive the quality education they need and enhance their education, the project aimed to improve the situation of girls by cancelling child marriage arrangements and enhancing community support to combat child marriage though mobilization and advocacy.

Indeed, because villages are too far apart from one another, Hiwot Ethiopia has mobilized key stakeholders and the community in the target area and successfully created four “Girls’ Safe Houses” near high schools at four woredas of North Showa Zone in Amhara region. Thereby, at least 96 girls have been able to live in the houses while they attend high school, eliminating the daily trek to school. The project also provided support and companionship for the girls, including books and educational materials. The girls received monthly stipends as well as reproductive health information and supplies like sanitary pads so they do not miss classes when they are menstruating. As a result of such interventions, a dramatic reduction of school dropout, increased community and government support to end child marriage.

When sixteen year old Addisu( not her real name) finished eighth grade at her village school in the Mortna Jiru woreda 9district) of Northshewa zone of Amhara region, she wanted to go to high school, but the closest one was several miles away. Her parents, struggling to raise five other children, could not afford to rent her room near the school, and the long walk each day could be unsafe. Addisu’s parents contemplated arranging a marriage for her instead of sending her to school. Although Addisu desperately wanted to continue her education,” I had lost hope due to such difficulties,” she said.

For Addisu, the hurdles to continuing school beyond eighth grade seemed insurmountable. She credits the safe house with making it possible for her to graduate from high school. “I had lost hope, but my hope is restored.” she said. Due to the safe house support, Hiwot Ethiopia has seen dramatic reduction in dropouts and reduction of child marriaage. Most importantly, the girls have developed the self-confidence and maturity to make informed decisions regarding their future.

Thanks to the safe house, Addisu was among the top students in her class, and is using her good fortune to help others. She has worked as a peer educator to share sexual reproductive health information with other girls. “I developed confidence to face challenges and to protect myself from peer pressure”. I am grateful to Hiwot Ethiopia for changing my life and enabling me to see my bright future.” She said.