In the Amhara area of northern Ethiopia half of adolescent girls are married by the age fifteen. Sesuagno Mola, for example, a young woman growing up in the region, was married at the age of five and was only fourteen when she had her first child.
In the United States most adolescent girls lead very different lives than girls in Ethiopia or elsewhere in the developing world. Most are not married and raising families. And most— unlike the 600 million girls growing up in developing countries all around the world— have access to education, basic health care, clean drinking water, and proper nutrition. In order to help connect these two very different groups of young girls, the United Nations Foundation (UNF) recently started the Girl Up campaign.
Since 1998, UNF has raised funds to support United Nations (UN) run programs and causes around the world. Through Girl Up, girls in the United States can find information about, and provide monetary donations to, projects that help girls in developing countries gain access to education, healthcare, clean water, food, and more. This additional funding for development programs targeted towards young girls is especially important because, according to Girl Up, the majority of current global development funding does not reach girls. (See Panelists Call for Women’s Important Role in Alleviating Global Hunger to be Reflected in Agriculture Funding and Women Farmers: An Untapped Solution to Global Hunger )
“One of the things I think is important for girls in the US to know is that not every girl living in every country has the same opportunities that [they] do,” says Girl Up Campaign Director Kim Perry in a promotional video on the organization’s website. Girl Up also provides tool kits that include photos and video so that girls can inform their family, friends, and peers about the importance of supporting international development programs that focus on empowering girls.
Thanks to funding from the Girl Up campaign—Sesuagno, along with other girls in the Amhara region, is receiving education and support from the Berhane Hewan project. Berhane Hewan is working to delay marriage and support adolescent girls in the area by promoting education. The project offers basic literacy classes, information about family planning, agricultural training, instructions on how to improve daily household chores, and money saving tips. Berhane Hewan also provides incentives to families—such as a sheep —to encourage them to send their daughters to school. In addition, the organization offers similar opportunities for girls who are already married.
Berhane Hewan training, for example, provided Sesuagno with the skills to build a more efficient cooking stove for her kitchen. The stove burns longer and with less fuel, and emits smoke out the back instead of the front— reducing the time Sesuagno spends collecting firewood and the risk of diseases caused by smoke inhalation. (See Building a Methane-Fueled Fire and Got Biogas? )
For more on innovations that are engaging people in the United States to alleviate global hunger and poverty, and on the importance of supporting women farmers, see Creating a Roadmap for Environmentally Sustainable Meat Production, Dishing Up New Ideas in Davos: What a Greenmarket Chef has to do with Hunger, Feeding Communities by Focusing on Women, Farming on the Urban Fringe, Building a Methane Fueled Fire, Women Entrepreneurs: Adding Value, Women Farmers Are Key to Halving Global Hunger by 2015, For Many Women, Improved Access to Water is About More than Having Something to Drink, and Reducing the Things They Carry.