Meet Merawit

This is the story of Merawit Metekia, a slip of a girl with an infectious smile and a whole lot of heart. Merawit has become an inspiration to her family, and living proof that when you educate a girl, the ripple benefits to families and communities can be invaluable.

Abba_day 1 Merawit Metekiya11At age 10, Merawit has just graduated from the Girls Gotta Run Foundation (GGRF) Athletic Scholar program in her home town of Sodo, Ethiopia. The three-year program was piloted at the Abba Pascal school for girls in Sodo in 2014, as an intervention initiative targeting adolescent girls at high risk of child marriage. Scholarships were provided to a first co-hort of 15 girls, who would train as runners, and undergo a life-skills course on important issues that affect their lives such as nutrition, healthy relationships, and financial literacy. The running team represents a ‘safe space’ where girls can focus on health and fitness, and get peer support to build their self-esteem, and ability to assert their right to choose when to marry. The scholarships help remove any financial burden the girls’ families may have, to keep them enrolled in school — US$600/year covers the cost of daily meals, uniforms, books and tutoring, access to school clubs/library, showers and hygiene supplies, and soap to wash clothes on the weekend. Also included is healthcare for the girls and their mothers, running gear, fees and transport to races during the year, and oversight by a coach and life-skills mentor.

Merawit and her 4 younger siblings live in a modest home about an hour’s walk from her school. Her father, Metekia Buche Selato, is an Orthodox Christian priest, and her mother, Roman Woldezelde, tends to their small home farm plot where they grow a little corn, coffee, false banana, and fruit, and raise chickens. Roman was married at 18 and had Merawit that same year. She stopped her education at Grade 8 to care for her family. Both she and her husband jumped at the chance to have Merawit become an athletic scholar. Metekia said he chose to put his daughters at Abba Pascal, a private school, despite barely being able to afford it. “We can’t afford private school but we have no choice because the government school does not create a positive environment for learning for girls. So we are very happy that Merawit has been selected for this program. She runs in the morning before school now, too.”

Merawit M running

Merawit at running practice with her schoolmates

“Merawit has changed a lot (since joining the GGRF program),” said Roman. “She listens to us, she has improved in her education. Before her average in school was not good but now, she does well. I remember that because of finance (problems), I made her drop out of her former school. Providing her lunch was my other challenge. Now this problem has been solved.” Furthermore said Roman, “she shares with me what she brings from the project like soap. She gets lunch, clothes, uniform, soap, plenty to share with her sisters.”

Merawit’s mother explained how her daughter’s participation in the GGRF program inspired her and her husband to further their education, helped their family afford to keep their children in school, and helped Merawit grow into a strong student and leader. “After Merawit joined this project, my husband got inspired to get new education (and completed college). I continued my education and we put (Merawit’s) sister into school. Merawit has been advising me to continue my education and she would say that by learning we will change our lives. She would encourage me.” Roman went back to school and has completed grades 9 and 10, and is currently in grade 11. This is a significant achievement – the 11th and 12th grade is the equivalent of pre-college studies in Ethiopia – only a very small percentage of women complete this level of education in the country.

“I hope to do well in school and if I succeed, I will change the life of my family. I hope bigger things for Merawit. After achieving her goal, I hope that she could in turn support others.” “Also,” she added, “before, our house was not painted, it did not have a ceiling, we had only wooden chairs, we did not have doors. Now, the house has been painted, the ceiling has been made and we bought new chairs. There have been many changes.”

Metekia says that people in their small farming community are also being inspired by Merawit — many have come to him at his church to say how she’s grown and changed. Her physical and mental growth has made her a role model for others to start running and focus on school, he said.

[Good for Girls has been a proud partner of GGRF since 2014, when we helped them pilot the Athletic Scholarship program in Sodo. With the generous support of our donors, we have continued to partner with them, helping to expand the program to Bekoji. From 15 in 2014, today there are 100 girls on athletic scholarships!]

Merawit and mum

Merawit and her mother Roman Woldezelde

[All pictures courtesy of Girls Gotta Run Foundation].

 

 

 

Our Annual Fundraiser 2017 is Live!!

picture courtesy of GGRF.

The Good for Girls Annual online fundraiser is live, and we hope you’ll consider a contribution!! No amount is too little, every penny counts when it comes to helping give disadvantaged girls a leg up.

Help us raise $5000 to support our program partnerships for 2018. Our grant support helps pilot or expand initiatives by small, on-the-ground organizations who work directly with girls and young women at risk.

Click here to donate!
(or copy/paste this link into your browser: https://www.crowdrise.com/good-for-girls-annual-fundraiser-2016)

What are you helping us to do?
Since 2014, we have partnered with the Girls Gotta Run Foundation in Ethiopia, where child marriage is a serious problem and girls are often taken out of school once they reach puberty. We have helped them pilot and expand initiatives that reach girls through athletics and a life skills program. Through scholarships, girls train as runners, and learn about issues that affect their lives such as nutrition, healthy relationships, and financial literacy. The running team represents a ‘safe space’ and peer-support group, and the scholarships help remove any financial burdens on the girls’ families so they can stay enrolled in school. We also support a Savings Group for the mothers of these girls (many of whom are single mothers) to provide a peer-learning environment where they can better their livelihood skills to support their families.

In 2017, the very first co-hort of 15 girls graduated from the 3-year program – all will be continuing their education, and all are no longer at risk of child marriage (read more here). From just 15 girls 3 years ago, today we help GGRF provide scholarships to 90 girls, and 35 of their mums.

In July this year, we began partnering with an organization in Singapore called Daughters of Tomorrow, which helps underprivileged women seek out livelihood opportunities and build financially independent and resilient families (read more here).

In the women’s back-to-work journeys, the burden of care often falls on their older children. Girls, typically, end up having to help look after younger siblings, while their mums look for work to make ends meet. These teenage girls therefore have to miss out on opportunities after school such as enrichment courses, school excursions, sports and other extra-curricular development. Many give up on their dreams to pursue sports or the arts from a young age, because of the practical needs at home. Some girls also end up having to quit school altogether to work to help the family out financially.

Good for Girls and DOT are piloting a “Care Fund” that women can dip into to pay for babysitting and other care-related needs to free up their older daughters’ time. The fund is also meant to be a resource to provide small amounts to cover basic costs of after-school activities (such as fees, transport, equipment rental, etc), which girls usually cannot afford.

Picture courtesy of DOT.

First Cohort of Athletic Scholars Graduates!

Three years ago, we embarked on a partnership with the Girls Gotta Run Foundation (GGRF) to help them pilot a girls’ Athletic Scholarship program in Sodo, Ethiopia. 15 adolescent girls from the Abba Pascal Girls School were recruited to join a running team, where they would train together three times a week after school, and then participate in a life skills program on Saturdays.

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Photo courtesy of Girls Gotta Run Foundation

This year, all 15 girls graduated from the program. All are continuing with their education, and all are no longer at risk of early marriage. Three of the girls have actually opted to continue into the 11th and 12th grade which is the equivalent of pre-college studies in Ethiopia – only a very small percentage of women complete this level of education in the country.

Importantly, the girls’ much improved self confidence, their academic successes and their maturity as individuals have shown their families and communities the immense benefits available to girls and their families, if they stay in school.

Child Marriage

Each of the girls, much like many of their peers, was at risk of child (or early) marriage – a problem that is endemic throughout Ethiopia. Girls as young as 10, are taken out of school and married off, usually to much older men. Once this happens, their education is completely stalled, they are isolated from friends and family, and expected to start having children (even while still being children themselves, and often at great risk to their health). What this amounts to is a cruel stunting of any and all opportunities to develop their intellect and abilities, and realize their potential as they grow into adults. Child marriage is a very complex, socio-economic and cultural challenge that affects many countries. In Ethiopia, although the government has outlawed marriage before the age of 18, the practice continues largely due to traditional norms, poverty and fear of violence. [Read more about child marriage here and here.]

The Athletic Scholarship Program

Running, Ethiopia’s national sport and culturally acceptable for both men and women to practice, is being used as an ‘entry-point’ to work with disadvantaged girls. It offers a culturally relevant, low cost, high impact means of creating safe spaces for girls to develop self confidence, identify role models (such as Ethiopia’s female running champions), form a peer support network, and identify and reach personal goals. The running team the girls join is complemented by a life skills curriculum which includes topics such as nutrition, family planning, financial literacy, health and healthy relationships, and leadership.

21273111_10155619565217866_2023923382193651677_o The GGRF team meets extensively with the families of each girl – and sometimes community leaders as well – to obtain consent, discuss the goals of the program and answer any concerns. A US$600 scholarship is then provided to each girl for a year. This covers a daily healthy meal and snacks after practice, uniforms, school fees and all school supplies, athletic gear, soap, laundry detergent and feminine hygiene products, healthcare for each girl and her mother, and funds to cover mandatory annual academic tests. The scholarships also cover the salaries of an athletics coach and life skills mentor who facilitates the curriculum.

In their second year, the girls act as peer educators to the new cohort of younger girls joining the program. Getting them to teach the life skills curriculum (alongside an adult mentor) offers a way for them to gain leadership experience, and reinforce the important concepts in the curriculum. In turn, the incoming students benefit from the oversight of a female mentor as well as a group of female peers.

In their final year, the girls focus on building their financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills, and further developing their leadership qualities.

Today, the entire Athletic Scholarship Program has expanded to 55 girls in Sodo (in one school) and 35 girls (in two schools) in another region Bekoji, where the program has also involved the girls’ mothers by setting up Savings Groups. In these groups, the women, most of whom run micro-businesses, have obtained business skills training, and started savings and micro-credit schemes to help each other expand their businesses or start new ones.

 

The Second Good for Girls Charity Ride at SoulCycle

unnamedRemember how much fun we had last year? Well we’re doing it again, so come ride with us for a good cause!

We’re partnering with SoulCycle – the maestros of re-invented indoor cycling – to do a charity ride: an exhilarating, heart-pumping 45-minute indoor cycling workout. It’s like being at a club, but you’re cycling instead of dancing!

All proceeds will benefit partnerships supported by Project Good for Girls.

So grab a few friends and come sweat it out with us!

(and P.S if you can’t make it but would like to donate a bike, that would of course be awesome.)

When: Wed, Sept 27th 2017 at 7.00pm. (Refreshments will be served after the ride.)

Where: SoulCycle West Village, 126 Leroy Street, NYC.

To Reserve a Bike: A minimum $65 donation via Crowdrise is required to reserve a bike. A reservation email with your name and bike number will serve as your ticket and must be presented on the day of the ride. Tickets include clip-in shoe rental, water, and post-ride reception. Any questions, please email projectgoodforgirls@gmail.com.

Important to Note: Please arrive between 6.15-6.45pm, the ride will start promptly at 7.00pm. Riders must be at least 4’11” and at least 12 years old to ride. For any rider under 18, a parent or guardian will need to sign a waiver in person.