A shining example of a woman's work
December 1, 2009
Elizabeth McKee Gore, the UN Foundation’s executive director of global partnerships, just wrapped up an extensive trip to Ethiopia, which brought her from rural villages to urban centers to everywhere in between. And while it’s hard to re-create such a dynamic trip in words, Elizabeth is doing exactly that with a blog series on her incredible experiences.
Elizabeth’s on-the-ground stories capture just how far the work of the UN Foundation and its UN partners reaches, whether in health or education, refugees or adolescent girls, peacekeeping or clean water. Take a minute to read these posts, and learn how the United Nations Foundation is creating a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world. (Read the fifth post here.)
It was a pleasure to visit Sesuagno Mola, who lives in a small village one hour outside of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Hosted by the Berhane Hewan project aimed at ending child marriage, we visited women who were married young and are now part of a non-formal, UN Population Fund (UNFPA)-sponsored education project for married girls.
With a 5-year-old son clutching her side and holding a newborn baby girl, Sesuagno graciously welcomed me into her home. She Sesuagno was excited to show off what she learned through the program’s vocational training, including methods to improve her home.
From a Western perspective, a home with no doors, corrugated metal roof, dirt floors, and a wood burning stove might not seem like an improvement, but as she went through the detailed changes, I was impressed. Sesuagno had built wooden shelves to keep her food off the ground. She also created a new style of stove that burns wood longer and emits smoke out of the back of the stove, instead of in her face, which would often make her “cough and cough.” Sesuagno also showed me her new hygiene techniques, including encouraging her children to wash their hands.
After the tour, Sesuagno and I sat and talked about her life. She was married at five years old. When she was married, she had to leave her family and was not allowed to go to school. She had her first child when she was 14.
However, at this point in the story, she smiled and told me that life is different now. When the Berhane Hewan program was brought to her town, she assumed it was only for the girls who were not yet married. But she was excited to hear that young married girls could also participate.
Sesuagno received permission from her husband’s family to join the program, but only because they cooked injera -- the bread used in Ethiopian cooking -- during the classes, and she could sell this for extra income. In the program, she learned basic literacy, information about family planning, gardening skills, and instructions on how to improve her home.
She said it was from the program that she learned that she could wait to have her next child. She beamed with pride when she said that she and her husband jointly decided to wait another five years before having their next child. Sesuagno is a shining example of the great work happening with Berhane Hewan, UNFPA, and the UN Foundation.
To support more girls like Sesuagno, visit the UN Foundation's Girl Up campaign.