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Empowering Generations

 Sara training the students
 Sara, right, trains a student.

International Women’s Day was born early in the 20th century in the trenches of the fledgling women’s rights movement. One hundred years later, March 8 is a day when thousands of events are held worldwide to celebrate the contributions of women throughout history. These events highlight women’s present situation and inspire further efforts to improve women’s future.

Each year, the U.N. designates a theme that countries and organizations worldwide may adopt. This year, that theme is “equal access to education, training and science and technology: pathway to decent work for women.”

At ChildFund, we work to ensure that all children and youth we serve have access to those opportunities. In developing countries, helping girls access education requires extra effort because it is more the exception than the norm. Integral to that work is raising communities’ awareness of the benefits of educating girls and young women — one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against generational poverty.

Breaking the cycle

Tigist and Sara see its impact every day in ChildFund Ethiopia’s Addis Beauty Salon Training Center, where they once were students and are now teachers. “It is undeniable that women have a great role in the development of their country,” says Tigist, 24 and the mother of a 1-year-old. “They are capable of carrying out their dual responsibility both in the house and the workplace.”

Sara agrees. Not long ago, divorce left the 33-year-old mother in poverty, but the training and support she has received made it possible for her to afford food and school for her five children. Now she looks toward giving back: “My wish is to be more effective by running my own business jointly with my friend Tigist — and creating job opportunities for others as well.”

Both feel honored by International Women’s Day’s recognition of women’s achievement, especially because of their ownership in their own development. And so do the women in other livelihood initiatives by ChildFund Ethiopia. “A number of women were empowered in family support programs and were able to start individual and group businesses,” says ChildFund program officer Sophia Chanyalew. “The North Shoa women’s dairy farm group was provided dairy cows, and they established a marketing center to sell their product. Another women’s group received training in weaving and spinning as well as startup capital and tools. They changed their lives through their business.”

It is undeniable that women have a great role in the development of their country. They are capable of carrying out their dual responsibility both in the houe and the workplace. 
 - Tigist, 24 

Changing the future

This kind of change is generational: The benefits of education may have come to these women in adulthood, but their children will grow up knowing its power. Especially their daughters.

An educated girl, who is more empowered and thus more self-aware, will make considered choices about relationships, health, work, family and community. Rather than being merely a link in a generational chain of poverty, she will become a force multiplier.

Even if she lives in the poorest slums of Ethiopia … or in war-torn Afghanistan or Angola. Even if she was promised before birth to be married before adolescence. Even if her school was nearly destroyed.

Each educated woman increases the possibility that one day, every day will be International Women’s Day.