Getting girls in school is one thing, keeping them there is another.

Like mothers around the world, Elifinesh’s greatest wish is to create a better future for her children. As a mother of three daughters, Elifinesh knew that the ticket to a better life was education but this was easier said than done.

After her husband was laid-off, Elifinesh suddenly found herself the sole provider for six people. Her youngest daughter, Marta, was preparing to begin Kindergarten, but it was difficult to afford the tuition, uniforms, and books necessary to enroll her.  Her second eldest, Banchaeyu, was already attending public school as a third grader, but risked sacrificing her free hours on the labor market to bring additional income to the household.

This is where Seeds of Africa comes in. After Elifinesh heard about the organization, Banchaeyu began attending Seeds’ after school program and Marta soon joined kindergarten as a full-time student. In addition to having school fees, uniforms, books and medical care covered for her girls, Elifinesh also receives monthly food supplies to cover the cost of having her daughters attend school rather than work like more than 50% of children in Ethiopia do (World Bank, 2010).

Unsurprisingly, girls often bear the brunt of household responsibilities.  

Elifinesh beams when she speaks of the changes she’s seen in both her daughters, and how they regularly help their friends with studying and homework.  Seeds recognizes that access to education is not enough. In order to prepare its students to become leaders and productive global citizens, it embraces a ‘progressive’ project-based curriculum emphasizing critical thinking, problem-solving and the love of learning. Elifinesh’s daughters will emerge ready to take on the world.

Seeds of Africa is committed to serve women like Elifinesh. Another critical aspect of the program is the integration of microloans to families whose children maintain high levels of school attendance. These loans are used to start or expand a business. After successfully completing the adult literacy courses and entrepreneurship training providing by Seeds of Africa’s Community Development Program, Elifinesh is currently preparing for her third microloan. With the first loan, she started an injera baking business, and soon expanded it by purchasing a modern oven.  Since then, her business has steadily grown and she is diversifying her activities and preparing to begin a sheep fattening business.

Elifinesh shares, “I believe I will be a better business woman, and I will continue to strive to change the lives of not just myself but of my family too.”

The impact of having a powerful female role model for girls like Banchaeyu and Martha cannot be overstated. When asked what she loves about her mother Banchaeyu does not hesitate, “I love my mother’s advice. She offers me everything she can even though she does not have a lot.”

Life for girls and women in Ethiopia is not easy. But, it’s not all bad news thanks to our friends at Seeds of Africa. They’re working in Adama, Ethiopia to remove the barriers that prevent youth from completing school and achieving their potential. By offering free early-childhood and primary education, after-school tutorial classes, and income generating programs for students’ mothers, Seeds of Africa provides holistic, community-centered solutions to poverty and educational inequity.

And their success stories, like Elifinesh’s, are worth celebrating.

Thank you to Maggie Sands, Director of Community Development, and Elizabeth Moran, Education Program Manager, from Seeds of Africa for sharing these words on the transformative power of education.