International Women’s Day - Be Bold for Change
Posted by Francesca Rutherford on Tuesday 7th March 2017
On Wednesday March 8th 2017, we honour this year’s International Women’s Day.
Recent events, all over the world, have taught us that now, more than ever, it is important to speak out for the empowerment of women and encourage them to lead positive change in global development.
Ethiopiaid works with trusted Ethiopian organisations to help their people to break the cycle of poverty. All of these partners – in various ways - seek to make life better for women. Many also have local, female project staff who work closely with women and girls to shape their programmes of intervention; to tailor activities to each woman’s specific needs, enabling them to realise their potential.
As important and inspiring as all of Ethiopiaid’s beneficiaries are, I wanted to use this post (and International Women’s Day) to celebrate the hard-work and achievements of two truly remarkable Ethiopian women: Maria Munir and Dr Mulu Muleta. I was lucky enough to meet Maria when I last visited Ethiopia (here she is below, pictured with Ethiopiaid's Chair of Trustees Alexandra Chapman)
Both Maria and Dr Mulu fearlessly lead their respective charitable organisations to be bold for change in their country.
Former High Court Judge, Maria Munir, co-founded the Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development (AWSAD). AWSAD began its work in 2003, after Maria and a small group of her fellow lawyers had been providing female survivors of gender-based violence with a pro bono legal advice service to bring their perpetrators to justice. They recognised however that once women had received legal support, they still worried about how to feed and provide shelter for themselves and their children. As a widow, Maria had a particular understanding of the difficulties of being a single mother.
In response AWSAD was established, providing a holistic service to help vulnerable women to recover and rebuild their lives – alongside legal advice, this included residency at a safe house, food, medical care and skills training for income generation. Maria explained:
“The basic services are there, so women have time to think about what they want in the future... services like counselling are there to support her to decide what she wants to do. The different components of the safe house allow women to become economically and socially empowered.”
Munir has been nationally recognised for providing legal aid to more than 8,000 women. She has travelled widely to promote women’s rights; encouraged participation of women in elections; advocated for the revision of the family and penal code and pension regulation and provided paralegal training across Ethiopia.
Dr Mulu Muleta (pictured in surgery, right) oversees the work of the Women’s Heath Alliance (WAHA) International Ethiopia. The organisation partners with three university teaching hospitals to run clinics across the following regions in Ethiopia: Adama, Jimma and Gondar. Alongside the training of the next generation of surgeons, the hospitals provide free obstetric fistula operations to some of Ethiopia’s most marginalised women; relieving them of pain, discomfort and stigma and providing follow up care and emotional support. Dr Mulu is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, who previously worked at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital. She was inspired to take up medicine after her mother was involved in a serious car accident when Mulu was a teenager. Her father was a farmer and worked hard to send her to school as he wanted her to fulfil her potential, Mulu told us:
“[My father] was very aware of the importance of girls’ education and overall of women’s emancipation”
Despite this support, Mulu was initially unsure as to whether she was capable:
“I didn’t know that a girl could be a doctor”
But she was more than capable. When she graduated from medical school, Mulu was just 23 years old: the youngest doctor in the country's history. In 2009, Mulu received an award from International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics in recognition of her lifetime services to women’s health.
Together, especially on International Women’s Day, we must join Maria and Mulu’s examples in tirelessly striving to ensure that women have a chance to fulfil their potential.
Ethiopiaid Fundraising Manager
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