The transition to a sustainable, inclusive development would be sped up by ensuring that young people and women, particularly those who are most marginalized and disadvantaged, had access to decent work.
Half of Ethiopia’s population is made up of women, and 40% of them reside in rural areas. According to UN Women (2018), the number of women who participate in and benefit from industry and commerce is insignificant due to a lack of access to education, productive resources (e.g., land, credit, advisory services, training, and information), and opportunities. As elsewhere in Africa, women’s contribution to household food security is very significant.
Cognizant of these situations, Hailemariam & Roman Foundation has been implementing women economic Empowerment program interventions through direct and cross-cutting activities. The intervention contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of SDG 4: quality education, and SDG 5: gender equality, and SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth.
Wro. Elfinesh Dawud, 45 years old widow lives with her daughter in Dimeka town, Hamer Woreda of South Omo Zone, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS) of Ethiopia. Wro. Elfinesh is a member of the women’s group who prepares school meals for pupils at Dimeka Primary School supported by the Hailemariam & Roman Foundation (HRF) – School Meal programme.
Her history is typical of her fellow members of women’s group. Without the support from her husband or others, life was tough for Elfinesh who didn’t have enough to live on. She used to work as a daily laborer and did a petty trade – ‘making injera’ to get her family upkeep. She was making weekly income of 300 ETB. The Income from daily labor and petty trade was the main source to sustain her daughter and herself, which is barely enough even to feed them.
Wro. Elfinesh narrates the bygone bad days saying: “Our life was very subsistence that the income I used to generate was very minimal. We never had anything surpluses than our daily minimal meal to save some money or to buy school materials for my daughter.”
“…my illness exacerbated the misery to my daughter and to me. Things went worse from bad when I was sick. My doctor advised me to avoid being around the fire, so I was obliged to cease what I was doing and stay at home while looking for other options. As a result, I struggled to pay for house rent, feed us and afford my daughter’s schooling. I was able at least to feed my daughter and myself twice a day before but, after stooping my labor work because of my illness I could not able to feed us even once a day,” she adds.
‘’Then my daughter and I went hungry, Thus my only daughter withdrew from her school and started to move out in search of daily work while I stay home because of illness,” she says with a deep feeling of sadness.
It was in the middle of this situation that Hailemariam & Roman Foundation (HRF) started a school meal program in five pastoral primary schools of South Omo Zone to feed more than 2000 school children in partnership with China Foundation for Rural Development (CFRD) in order to increase school enrollment, improve attendance and enhance academic performance, and selected destitute women for meals preparation and created job opportunity to them.
A shade of light comes to Wro. Elfinesh face when she arrives on the point of “HRF” support in her narrative; “By the time my daughter and I were in the despondent situation, the HRF program (mean -School Meal Program) came to our woreda… One day a neighbor told me that I am selected by Kebele Beneficiaries Selection Committee for preparing meal to students in Dimeka primary school.
I joined Women Group; the program gave us orientation training on our responsibility, food preparation, food menu, and food hygiene and food distribution to the children.
Accordingly, we started the job. My duty was to prepare foods as per the training with my group members. Thanks God, I am happy that we feed more than 500 children last year and we have been feeding more than 600 children including my daughter on every school day in this academic year. “
Wro. Elfinesh explains the changes in her life due to the school meal program support – saying: “Then onward things start swirling fast. I started to earn more than 1000 ETB per week from food preparation work and use it to pay the house rent, to eat three times a day variety foods as per our preference, buy school materials and uniform to my daughter, buy clothing, spend for social issues and to save.
She added; “My daughter is regularly attending her school now, which she withdrew five years ago, my life is changed, my earning increased from 300 birr to 1000 birr per week and my saving increased from 10 birrs to 500 birrs per month. Presently my cumulative saving is more than 13,000 ETB.”
Hailemariam & Roman Foundation feeds more than 2000 children of pastoral community in five schools of South Omo Zone and helped the children to attend their school attentively. Besides the intervention created job opportunity for more than 25 destitute women like Wro. Elfinesh and improved their living.
“I want to increase my saving till it becomes adequate startup capital to my small business and then I will start a restaurant to make sustainable income to our living. My daughter is also wants to be a nurse by the time she completes her secondary school.” Wro. Elfinesh says.
“I would like to convey my gratitude to the Foundation and its staff who lend us hands in the dire time, especially to H.E. Roman for initiating this program and creating a job opportunity for us, encouraged us and changed our life. Once more, I wish her & her family many more blessings.”
Hailemariam & Roman Foundation
April 2023, Addis Ababa