Blazing the trail for better food in Ethiopia

Written by Heather Barnabe, Program Officer, CARE Canada

We are very fortunate at CARE to have moments of profound inspiration.

In early July, on a hot, dry day in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, I met Asha Abdurehman, a woman who will bravely blaze a trail for other women in her community, acting as a voice of empowerment for female participation in CARE Canada’s latest food and nutrition project in this country.

Undertaken with the support of the Canadian government, the Food Sufficiency for Farmers (FSF) project aims to ensure consistent access to food for women, men, girls and boys in Ethiopia.

To do so, CARE will work with more than 42,000 men and women to provide better access to markets, create new income-generating activities and conduct training that will help participants earn more money, so they can afford healthy and nutritious food.

I had travelled to Dire Dawa to take part in a workshop to help introduce this project. Attendees included various stakeholders such as CARE staff, local government officials and community representatives.

CARE’s extensive experience has shown that malnutrition and food shortages affect women differently than men. To address this, our project designers have developed a special gender strategy to ensure women are able to participate fully at all levels of the FSF project.

I was therefore particularly pleased when Asha, a local female community leader, spoke up during my presentation about this very strategy.

Representing women’s affairs in her community, Asha’s feedback to encourage the participation of women in the project was detailed and insightful. Listening to an English translation of her Oromo language, I scribbled furiously to catch everything she was saying.

Asha discussed many of the cultural and social sensitivities that our team should be aware of in connecting with the women in her community and highlighted important tools we could use to reach highly vulnerable women. For example, employing female entrepreneurs to speak to women at CARE’s village savings and loan association meetings would be a great way to teach the participants about successful ways to earn an income.

Over the next few years, Asha’s role in this project will be to encourage women to participate throughout the region. She will also help teach women about their education, economic and political rights.

As an educated woman and leader in her community, other women at the workshop clearly believed her when she said this project would bring long-term benefits.

In chatting with Asha at the end of the workshop, I found out that we are the same age. I tell her I think she looks much younger than me. She agrees.

I laugh and then realize that this woman, who does not look much older than a university student, will be a powerful voice of change for women in her region.

As a woman who uses her education, excellent interpersonal skills and knowledge of the region to better the lives of others, she will be a significant player in a project that will work to help feed thousands of families in her country.

Consider me profoundly inspired.

Learn more about CARE’s work to empower women and girls through savings and loans.

Your support enables CARE to help women like Asha lift themselves out of poverty.