Have you ever wondered why you are so fortunate as to be born into an affluent society, where you have personal freedom and resources to pursue your dreams and livelihood ? That’s what Dr. Nancy and Jami Peebles wondered after talking about Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment Initiative. Having counted their blessings, they realized how important it is for those of us who are fortunate to help those who are not.
Jami joined Kara Edson, the program director, and 13 other women on a trip to Ethiopia in February to meet the women who benefitted from the program. Jami says that it struck her when she got off the plane how different it is in Ethiopia. She was not prepared to see how people live with nearly nothing.
This conversation begins with Kara telling her personal story of growing up in Pakistan before the War on Terror and the friends she made there. She was impressed about the plight of women who depend on their husbands for livelihood and status. If they lose their husband or the trust of their husband, they become marginalized and even disowned by their families.
She vowed to change that and devote her life’s work to empowering women around the world. Six months after she went to work for Convoy, they received a grant from USAID to begin the Women’s Empowerment Initiative.
Ethiopian Women’s Empowerment Program Overview
Of the hundreds of thousands of women who need help, the Ethiopian government helps Convoy identify the poorest of the poor. They live and support their families on $11 per month; they are illiterate; they are mothers, either single or married, and many are HIV-positive. Each attends 10 weeks of training. They are taught to read, manage finances and skills to operate a business. When they graduate from the program, they are given a micro-loan to begin their business. The Convoy staff in Ethiopia follows-up with them to make sure they are making good choices to sustain their business. Their initial goal of 96 women has grown to 1,200 women in 4 years. Some women are hiring other women for their businesses. They are forming networks to help one another and become mentors for others. They call each other their “sisters” and feel the unity of sisterhood that we can all relate to.
What Can We Do to Help?
The cost from beginning to end is $750 per woman. But Kara says that even though dollars are needed, they really need for people to spread awareness of the plight of women around the world. She urges everyone to talk about it with your friends and with your government leaders. Because these women have no voice of their own, they need for the women of the world to speak for them and tell their stories. The success rate of the Convoy Women’s Empowerment Program is 96%. They plan to add 700 more women to the Ethiopian program in the next year and to add more countries as well.
Find out more about Ethiopia and Convoy of Hope’s Women Empowerment Program at www.convoyofhope.org.