Celebration of International Women's Day 2012 at Machakel Epicenter in Ethiopia

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International Women's Day (IWD) was celebrated by THP-Ethiopia at Machakel Epicenter with the presence of partners from the Fetan Lewut Saving and Credit Cooperative (SACCO) and other community members of the epicenter. The epicenter was chosen for the celebration with the objective of promoting gender equality among the community members since the society is more of traditional one where the perception towards women needs great attention to accelerate development. 

Based on the UN 2012 International Women's Day theme: "Empowering Rural Women: End Hunger and Poverty," which is also one of The Hunger Project's fundamental principles, the celebration consisted of speeches, poems, experience sharing and discussion, all of which emphasized importance of gender equality for enhancing women's development. 

The Head of the District's Women's, Children and Youth Affairs Office was the guest of honor and made a speech regarding the importance of IWD in recognizing the role of women at all levels. In her speech, she encouraged women to change their perception towards themselves and their communities to attain the nation's five-year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP). 

Taking this opportunity, The Fetan Lewut SACCO chairperson and manager briefed the participants of the event about the objective of their SACCO, its performance since formation, as well as the benefits the SACCO partners have achieved so far. In their speech, various committee members of Fetan Lewt informed the surrounding community members that the SACCO is one of the greatest opportunities for the community members, especially for women who have limited access to such opportunities. In addition, they notified the community that the SACCO is working towards increasing the number of women members and thus invited them to join the SACCO.      

SACCO members prepared and presented poems that encourage and recognize women's role and participation at all levels of life, with particular focus on the importance of promoting a culture of saving and women's economic empowerment for improving family livelihoods to end hunger. The poems also noted the negative impact of harmful traditional practices and declared an end to such practices for better health and life of women. 

The occasion was also used as an experience-sharing forum. Prior to the celebration, an experience-sharing visit was organized by The Hunger Project-Ethiopia's Microfinance Program (MFP) to Awramba community, a model community where gender equality is practiced and where hard work, peace and love are considered the center of their philosophy of life. The visitors’ group was drawn from Machakel Epicenter and Fetan Lewut SACCO committees, accompanied by the head of the District's Women's, Children and Youth Affairs Office, as well as MFP staff members.

Using the opportunity as a forum for sharing what they have seen and learned from the community, the group members explained the lifestyle of the community as a whole that specially focused on equality they witnessed among women and men members in work division and rights. One of the slogans the community displayed on the wall of their meeting hall reads as follows: "Doing a women's job does not change my sex; it changes my ignorance."  

They discussed the community's well-rounded development program activities — an incorporation of children's education systems, elders’ care, income-generating activities and provision of necessary services — and how such activities changed the community's perception and practice towards advancement.  At this stage, the community can be considered as a model place where gender equality is witnessed and the components and procedures they follow, in most cases, are consistent with THP's objectives and vision.

Participants of the celebration were impressed by the community's lifestyle and promised to disseminate the information to their respective community members to learn from the Awramba community.     

In total, over 150 community members attended the event.

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