Ethiopian educational program opens Fatuma’s door to medical school


Ethiopian educational program opens Fatuma’s door to medical school -U GIRLS 2

When 18-year-old Fatuma walked across a high school graduation stage this spring, it brought her one step closer to her ultimate goal: becoming a doctor.

It’s a dream that once seemed far-off, growing up in Ethiopia’s Benishangul Gumuz Regional State (BGR) which is fraught with ethnic conflict and development challenges. Fatuma’s family has no regular income. Her mother is blind, and she does not know her father.

Then Fatuma joined Cuso International’s U-GIRLS 2 program, which supports schoolgirls to continue their secondary school studies by providing resources, training, and a financial stipend. The support comes on both the academic and personal side. This means subject-specific tutorials and leadership training can help them with their marks and at the same time, mentorship programs and financial assistance can set them up for success no matter their circumstances at home.

Ethiopian educational program opens Fatuma’s door to medical school -U GIRLS 2 - Cuso InternationalU-GIRLS 2 is changing the lives of local girls. For some, it means they’re able to stop working side jobs, and focus on school full-time. For others, it’s been a motivating factor to continue studying rather than drop out and enter an early marriage.

On graduation day, Fatuma knew exactly who she wanted to be there: her mother, who lives 50 km away and has had her own hard path in life, particularly because of her vision loss.

“I invited her to share this happiness today. Even if she doesn’t see it—she can hear it,” Fatuma says. “My mom is really, really happy for all the things that have happened.”

Seeing her mother struggle is what motivates Fatuma to pursue her dream of medical school. She wants to do something good for people like her mom, who have been affected by preventable disease.

“My life’s wish is that one day I will be able to help those kinds of people in the community.”

There are still many steps between high school graduation and earning a medical degree, so for now, Fatuma will take a breath to take in all she’s accomplished so far.

“I’m enjoying the moment,” she says.

Since the project began in 2019, U-GIRLS 2 has directly supported more than 400 girls and women aged 15-25 to attend, remain, and succeed in their education. It targets seven secondary schools across BGR in partnership with the Benishangul Gumuz Regional Education Bureau and the Institute of International Education. Cuso International expects more than 90 per cent of these direct beneficiaries will attend university after the project.

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