Shattering Barriers for Girls

Chaltu on the far left and Amena on the far right.

We recently posted an article about the incredible success of Ethiopian students benefiting from Food for the Hungry's Child Sponsorship program. The story focused on Amena Kebede, a boy who went from last in his class to the very top in just one short year, thanks to the support and encouragement he received from his sponsor family and local FH staff. 

But many of you noticed a girl on the periphery—the only girl in the photo and on the list of students who topped their peers last year. We asked our partners in Sasiga, Ethiopia to tell us a little more about this wonder-girl who pulled herself from 53rd to 2nd place.

This is an incredible achievement. After all, girls in Sasiga face huge obstacles when it comes to getting an education. 

They face cultural stigma—traditionally, boys are given preference when it comes to formal education while girls are kept home to learn how to be a wife and a mother. They face biological challenges—when a girl reaches puberty, she misses school every time she has her period, meaning teenage girls can miss up to one week of school every month. They face the burden of poverty—girls are responsible to help their mothers collect water from far away sources, cook, clean, care for younger siblings, and help cultivate home gardens. 

As a girl, Chaltu had a steep hill to climb when it came to getting an education. She struggled through Grade 1 and only managed to score 46 percent, just shy of the 50 percent needed to pass. She was devastated. 

But Chaltu didn't let this setback stop her. Instead, she hunkered down and worked even harder. 

The school director, Meseret Negash, started extra tutorial classes for lower scoring students which really boosted her learning comprehension. FH's community-level staff, Yoseph, regularly affirmed her hard work, took the time to help her improve her performance, and encouraged her to use past mistakes as learning opportunities. 

Perhaps most incredibly, Chaltu's father Abera spent long hours helping her study. It's not too common in Sasiga for a father to have a Grade 7 education, much less to commit so much personal time and energy to see his daughter succeed. Her parents even sought out additional learning materials to support her education. 

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Chaltu's steely determination to improve was central to her success, but so was her "village". 

Chaltu's community—teachers, administrators, FH volunteers, parents—rallied around her to break down the barriers that stood between her and success. By giving practical and emotional support, by shattering cultural norms, and by defying poverty, Chaltu's community is helping her realize her dream of getting an education. 

Here's to more girls like Chaltu!




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Food for the Hungry: Shattering Barriers for Girls
Shattering Barriers for Girls
Food for the Hungry
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