Educational program encourages young Ethiopian girls to speak up and pursue their dreams


A group of young people having a conversation

With dropping grades, Adonayit, a Grade 12 science student at Bambasi Secondary School in the Benishangul Gumuz region of Ethiopia, admits she had little hope for her future.

The eldest child, she lives with her parents and four siblings, two brothers and two sisters. Adonayit hasn’t experienced difficult challenges at home, but she has suffered from low self-esteem and had problems applying herself to her schoolwork. Since her parents spend much of their time at work, she says the housework was often her responsibility, giving her little time to focus on her studies.

“I didn’t have plans for my future,” says the 18-year-old. “I used to be one of the students that disturbed the class and this affected my relationship with my teachers. I never expected to get good grades. I had no dreams for myself.”

When Adonayit began Grade 11, she joined Cuso International’s U-GIRLS 2 program, which provides young girls and women with resources, trainings, and a financial stipend so they can focus on their studies. Over the past year, 400 girls and women in the Benishangul Gumuz region have received support through U-GIRLS 2. The program works in partnership with the Benishangul Gumuz Regional Education Bureau and five secondary schools, along with the Institute of International Education.

The program also provides gender sensitivity training to families and community leaders, including teachers, with the overarching goal of changing attitudes and promoting equity by dismantling existing roadblocks to higher education for women.

Through U-GIRLS 2, Adonayit has received educational materials such as notebooks, bags, uniforms, and reference books ― the equipment and tools needed to commit to her education – and the monthly financial stipend.

Private tutorials have also helped her to improve her grades, and she and other students had the opportunity to visit a local university, “to help us understand what life looks like there,” says Adonayit, who was immediately inspired.

Equally important, Adonayit attended leadership and life skills trainings, workshops on reproductive health, and English language training, which have all made a profound impact on how she sees herself.

As a result of this new attitude and mindset, Adonayit has a stronger, more respectful relationship with her teachers. No longer a disruptive student, she is eager to learn, determined to succeed, and speaks up for herself.

The program has also had a positive impact on her family. Adonayit’s father participated in a training through U-GIRLS 2, and wanting to support her ambitions, he no longer asks her to do the bulk of the housework, insisting his sons now do their share of the chores.

“My self-confidence has improved,” says Adonayit. “I can now express myself in public, and the way I see things is different. I’m motivated to pursue my dreams and achieve them.”