In the spirit of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) currently taking place at the U.N. in New York, this article illustrates the concrete successes of the SSpS in Ethiopia in promoting women empowerment and social inclusion of women and girls.
By Benigilda Ladia,SSpS
In Ethiopia, women are still considered less important in many aspects of life than their male counterparts. In addressing this pressing issue, the SSpS of Ethiopia focuses their ministry in promoting the integral development of women.
One of the communities of SSpS Region in Ethiopia is engaged in water project. It is a project making water available within the community to lessen the burden of women who are laboring daily to secure the water supply for the family. The Sisters, with the help of Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat water unit and some donors, were able to drill a water source just within the residential area of the village community in order for women and children to have nearer access to water and so that they need not travel on foot for three to four hours a day to obtain water. The time saved from fetching water can now be devoted to a time for rest after working on the household chores everyday. This same time can also now be used for community meetings, socialization and other activities which will enrich the women’s lives. Such has been the successful experience of the women in the region of the water project.
Many of the SSpS Communities also focus on promoting adolescent girls’ formal education by providing them school materials, reference books for their study, and a place to study afterschool. Ordinarily, girls have little or no access to places to study when they go home after school hours. The simple and unfortunate fact is that the girl children are less considered when it comes to formal education. They are the last priority to be sent for formal education in every family. Therefore, the Sisters and staff of the project facilitate on-going lobbying and education awareness for girls’ education, beginning first with their parents and their families, whose orientation are deeply rooted in a culture that girls need not bother with an education, for they are destined only to a domestic life of getting married and raising a family. Included in this activity is the signing of agreement with the parents of the girl child so that the opportunity to go to school and be given time to study at home will be assured.
Almost all of the SSpS communities also provide opportunities for women to have economic activities through the provision of initial capital for petty trading and animal husbandry. These enable women to have their own money to contribute to the well being of the family and not be solely dependent on their male counterparts. This is also an opportunity for the women to have business orientation which promotes their economic empowerment. As experienced by the different groups in the project, women are more effective in doing such trading activities. This certainly confirms that women have the inner potential to deal effectively in economic sphere through their innate quality of patience and ability to nurture positive relationships with others.