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Images: Helping Ethiopia's daughters stay in school

Ethiopia, September 22, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Elfinesh Emiru is bringing change to one of southern Ethiopia's most isolated and impoverished areas. As a member of the Mercy Corps-supported local Women's Peace Center in her village of Wozeka, she's helping mend conflicts that have frayed relations with surrounding villages, while working with her neighbors to save money, pool resources and start small businesses that lift everyone's fortunes. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    One of the biggest reasons for positive change has been the work of Mercy Corps' PROSPER program to give women like Elfinesh a place of their own to meet and discuss ideas with colleagues. We helped them build this meeting hall, which serves many purposes for the women of Wozeka — all of which are helping the village grow into peace and prosperity. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Although they're better able to feed their families and keep their households healthy, one thing is still weighing on the minds of women like Elfinesh: their daughters' education. The new opportunities they've enjoyed through the PROSPER program have expanded their horizons, and they want their daughters to have even more chances to flourish. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    But sending children to school beyond the most basic level is a near-impossibility for women like Taych Mamo in the village of Holte. Most families in the area make less than $80 a year, while secondary school fees and supplies routinely add up to more than $125 a year. As a result, less than half of children from 5-18 attend school, and no more than one-third of students in secondary school are female. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    As a result, girls have to leave school as soon as possible in their young lives to help out with household chores — including, in many cases, more than 10 hours a day walking to find firewood and forage for livestock. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Young women spend long hours each day fetching water for their families. Early marriage is also a reality in this part of southern Ethiopia, with households offering their daughters at a young age to get the substantial dowry that comes before the wedding. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    But Mercy Corps is listening what mothers like Elfinesh and Taych are saying and, through the support of Melissa Waggener Zorkin and the Batonga Foundation, doing something about it. Through the new Empowering Ethiopian Girls for Peaceful Change program, we'll send at least 350 young women to secondary school through scholarships and household loans, offer job apprenticeships to graduates and expand vocational training opportunities for all women in the area. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    It is our hope that — through this new and exciting program — hundreds of young women will get the education they need to not only continue the important work of their grandmothers, mothers and older sisters, but also contribute new ideas that will help bring even more positive, lasting change to the villages they call home. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps

Starting today with a commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, Mercy Corps — with the generous support of Grammy Award-winning singer Angelique Kidjo and board member Melissa Waggener Zorkin — is launching a new program to help send at least 800 Ethiopian girls and young women to secondary school. Our new Empowering Ethiopian Girls for Peaceful Change initiative will give them the support they need to stay in school and graduate, as well as offering help in finding apprenticeships and vocational training, leading to more peaceful and prosperous villages in one of Ethiopia's most impoverished regions.