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AIDS: Women's Empowerment

Project Organization

EMPOWER Development and Funding Association, Ethiopia

Project Location

Ethiopia is unique among African nations in that, apart from a short stint of Italian occupation during World War 2, it has no history of colonial rule. One of the oldest nations of the world, and Africa’s second most populous nation (76.5 million), Ethiopia is also one of the world’s poorest nations. It is highly dependent on low-value primary crops, in particular coffee, and has suffered from repeated droughts and poor cultivation practices.

Project Description

The project was designed to help poor widows out of social and economic crisis by teaching them the skills and giving them the initial supplies necessary for them to engage in self-sustaining, income generating activities.

Project Rationale

According to the Ministry of Health, approximately 3.2 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, and over 1 million children have been orphaned by it. Young women are particularly vulnerable to the disease. In addition, women suffer from additional problems related to poverty and cultural influences such as female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, early marriage, and abduction. There is no official data on widows and the government has no specific strategies in place to address their plight outside of the programs which target all women in general.

Project Activities

Beneficiaries are selected with the help of government area administrators. Orientation and small scale business management training is conducted for the selected widows. Start-up capital is provided to assist the widows in starting their own business. Counseling and support services are offered once a business has started, as well as follow-up monitoring.

Project Impact

The project started by helping 5 widows and has expanded to helping 22. This means indirectly impacting over 100 persons, mostly children of the widows. Home visits show that standards of living are improving as a result of the project with basic needs being met on an on-going basis and some widows actually managing to start a savings account at a bank.