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Listening to Girls’ Voices

Maria Antonia of Brazil

Maria Antônia in New York City.

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Oct. 11 is the International Day of the Girl Child, a day set aside by the United Nations to recognize girls’ rights and the special challenges they face. This year’s theme for the day is The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030, so ChildFund’s blog will focus this week on girls who are working to achieve great things now and in the future.   

Thinking about girls — especially those who are entering adolescence — reminded me of some favorite stories from past blog posts, featuring girls raising their voices to advocate for themselves and other young people. In March, Maria Antônia, a 14-year-old girl from Brazil, spoke about violence against children at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York. “It is very important to improve child-friendly services within the child protection network, so that children feel confident and safe,” she said. It was her first time in the United States, as well as the first time she’d seen snow.

In a post from 2014, this one from Indonesia, we met Stefanie and Irma, teenagers who were youth facilitators in a large, multi-age forum about dating violence, which has grown more prevalent there in recent years. It’s impressive how open children and youth can be about such sensitive issues, and it’s thanks to young people like Irma and Stefanie that Indonesian communities are making progress in stopping domestic violence.

Finally, in Ethiopia, four young women spoke out about children’s right to a complete education, during 2014’s Day of the African Child, an annual, Africa-wide event that marks the deaths of young protesters who marched for better educational access in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976. Eden, Helen, Aziza and Bemnet, all in their teens, addressed the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. You can read their words, which reflect the struggles they and other young people in their communities face.

At the U.N.’s Day of the Girl website, read about the special challenges girls face, including early marriage, gender-based violence and poor access to education and job opportunities. Also, if you’re on social media, use the hashtag #dayofthegirl to learn more and discuss these issues.

Happy 2008! (Yes, really.)

Today is the start of the new year in Ethiopia — 2008! It’s based on the Coptic calendar, and traditionally, girls don new dresses, carry flowers and sing songs, just as they’re doing here in a video from Alemtsehay Zergaw of ChildFund Ethiopia. Watch and enjoy!

Playing With What They Have

Photos from ChildFund’s offices in Bolivia, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mexico and Timor-Leste 

In the lobby of ChildFund’s international headquarters, we don’t have your typical office décor. Instead, we have a sparsely furnished Kenyan classroom, a world map mural with paper dolls holding hands, and homemade toys collected from around the world. A lot of the toys are made with what some people might call trash: used plastic bottles, twine and bits of rubber and metal. But the toys themselves are not junk and are often prized by the children who made and played with them.

In these pictures below, you’ll see the ingenuity and creativity of children who play with what they have — animals, traditional games and toys made from available materials.

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A Hop, Skip and Jump

In August, we’ll be focusing on play — here on the blog and on ChildFund’s social media — and what it means to children’s physical, mental and social development. We asked our staff in Asia, Africa and the Americas to share pictures and quotes from children about their favorite sports, games and toys. One thing that’s striking is that some games are common to many children, regardless of age group, country and continent. As you’d expect, many of the children ChildFund works with are fans of soccer, but you’ll also see them playing with marbles or jumping rope. Many make their own toys out of materials found around their homes and communities. It takes a lot to keep children from playing, even when they don’t have toy stores around the corner.

Below is a slideshow of photos from Brazil, Ecuador and Ethiopia, all of girls jumping rope, a skill that requires good balance, stamina and high energy. Stay tuned throughout this month for more play!


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“We Live for Our Children”: Creating Opportunity in Ethiopia

Ethiopia livelihood program

Adanech, with her 2-year-old son, Yohannes, is making a living by selling handmade textiles.

By Julien Anseau, Global Communications Manager

Adanech has never lacked ambition — just opportunity. Before ChildFund started working in her community, her family, like many others, scraped every day to make ends meet. Today, the Ethiopian mother owns a business, employs five people and is looking to grow her enterprise further. “More importantly, my children are healthy and in school,” she says.

Adanech first learned of ChildFund’s Yekokeb Berhan program a little over a year ago and signed up for training in business development and micro-enterprise. “Before, we had no money,” she says. “It was a real struggle to make just enough money to live. I had a small weaving business, and I wanted to learn how to make a success of it.” She became involved in a savings group and was able to access a small loan on favorable terms.

The PEPFAR/USAID-funded Yekokeb Berhan program has worked in Ethiopia since May 2011 to put in place a child-focused social welfare network that allows all children, including the most vulnerable, to thrive. Focusing on HIV-affected communities, Yekokeb Berhan aims to reach 500,000 highly vulnerable children throughout the country and is a collaboration among Pact, Family Health International (FHI360) and ChildFund International, along with many local partner organizations.

Adanech took out a loan of 10,000 Birr (USD $500) to get started and has not looked back since. Now, after household expenses such as rent and food, staff wages and loan repayments, Adanech and her husband, Meteke, still have 3,000 Birr (USD $150) at the end of the month that they can save or invest in the business.

“Life is so much better now,” says Meteke. “We live for our children. We can send them to school. And they are healthy.” He adds, proudly, that their 9-year-old daughter, Bizuayhue, dreams of becoming a doctor and helping the family, and that 2-year-old Yohannes is “happy running around for now.”

Adanech’s community of Zenebework is one of the poorest in Addis Ababa. Most residents are migrants from poor rural areas, attracted to Ethiopia’s rapidly growing capital city by better job prospects. The city dump is nearby, and families scavenge for food and anything they can resell. The HIV infection rate is among the highest in the country, and a high proportion of children grow up in broken homes.

Yet Adanech is upbeat: “Life is also changing in the community. Life can change if you are given the opportunity. People here have never been scared of hard work. From the moment they wake to the moment they sleep, people here are working. They just need the opportunity to work smarter.”

 Zenebework, Addis Ababa

“People here have never been scared of hard work. From the moment they wake to the moment they sleep, people here are working. They just need the opportunity to work smarter.”

At 28, Adanech is full of ambition. “I am looking to hire five more employees and buy a singeing machine to make more elaborate patterns on my fabrics, which I would then sell at a higher profit. The machine costs 10,500 Birr [USD $510], which is a lot.” For now, she sells her textiles at the local market, but she aspires to sell to merchants at Merkato, Africa’s largest open-air market, and in Bole, an upscale area in Addis Ababa.

“Sometimes, all people need is an opportunity,” says Meteke, 31. “Before, we did not have the money to grow our business. No one would give us a loan other than loan sharks, who asked for 100 percent interest. Now our loan repayment, including interest, is 450 Birr [USD $22] every month, which is manageable.”

Yekokeb Berhan’s livelihood support is important, says Abraham, a program officer for ChildFund’s local partner called Love for Children and Family Development Charitable Organization, which implements the program. “Giving families opportunities to earn a decent living is the most sustainable approach to helping them meet the needs of their children.”

He adds, “Ethiopia is seeing rapid economic growth, which is great. But with growth comes increasing inequality. I am proud of being part of this program, because I can see the changes in the lives of children who would otherwise have been left behind.”

Learning About the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

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As Harvest Month comes to a close, some ChildFund employees took part in an Ethiopian tradition: the coffee ceremony. Many Ethiopians roast coffee beans and brew coffee three times over a fire, then serve it in small cups with a snack of nuts or popcorn. Our ceremony was a little less labor-intensive, using a coffee pot instead of a fire, but it was still highly social. Here are some pictures from our coffee ceremony and three more photos taken by Jake Lyell in Ethiopia.

How To Make Ethiopian Injera

Photos by Jake Lyell and words by Sara Woznicki, ChildFund Digital Marketing Specialist

This month, ChildFund is focusing on the harvest and traditional foods in the communities where we work, so check here often in October to find recipes and more. Today, we look at Ethiopia. The basis for Ethiopian cuisine is injera, a large flatbread that has a sponge-like texture similar to a pancake. Here’s more about injera and how it’s made:

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Day of the African Child 2014: Focus on Education

Day of the African ChildReporting by Tenagne Mekonnen, Africa Regional Communications Manager 

In 1976, thousands of black school children took to the streets of Soweto, South Africa. In a march stretching more than half a mile, they protested the inferior quality of their education and demanded their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down by security forces. In the two weeks of protest that followed, more than 100 people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured.

To honor the memory of those killed and the courage of all those who marched, the Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 since 1991, when it was first initiated by the Organization of African Unity (now known as the African Union). ChildFund takes part in the day, which draws attention to the lives of African children today. This year’s theme was A Child-Friendly, Quality, Free and Compulsory Education for All Children in Africa.

Below, we offer excerpts of speeches given by four young women enrolled in ChildFund Ethiopia’s programs, who spoke to the African Union in Addis Ababa on June 16.

Eden, age 16.

“Governments have the ability to give quality, free and compulsory education for all children in Africa by having a meeting with all African leaders and discuss the issues about what things can be done to create a better education system and prepare training for all African teachers.”

Helen, age 14.

“Even though formal schooling is important, this is not enough. Our families are the people that we see when we first open our eyes. And we learn a lot of things from them and most importantly from the society. If a child is to be educated, then the contribution of families, society and friends is very important. This is because they build us in a very faithful, good manner. This is what we are looking forward to, and I believe we are on our way.”

Aziza, age 15.

ChildFund Ethiopia teens

Young speakers enrolled in ChildFund Ethiopia’s programs.

“Once upon a time, there were two young ladies. They were best friends, and they grew up in the same place. One of the girls has an interest to learn and study. Even when she was a child, she always asked questions. She loves asking and knowing different things. Even though the girl always wants to learn, her mother doesn’t have enough money to send her to school. So, because of their economic status, she spent her time helping her mom.

“The other girl never wants to go to school. She hates to study, but her family was rich. Even though she went to school, when she visits her smart friend, she brings her homework for her to do.

“When they grew up, both didn’t have happy endings. The rich girl has an unhappy ending because she didn’t study, and she was not strong. What about the smart girl? She was a smart, intelligent and hard-working girl, but she had an unhappy life because she didn’t have opportunities to learn. How did I know about the girl? Because she was my mother!

“She supports me, although she doesn’t have much money; she makes sure to buy me school materials and other essential things. By her strong heart, I haven’t any inferiority. Rather, I always worked hard to be an intelligent and smart girl, but the secret behind me is my dearest mother.”

Bemnet, age 14.

“Disabled children are not being educated; they might not be in a position to fight for their right to be educated. We need to fight for their right and give them educational materials. To give disabled children an education, government and family have a main role. If we provide a free and quality education for children, they can easily get self-confidence and a good education, which enables them to be successful and responsible citizens.”

ChildFund Sweden Takes Strong Stance on Child Protection

By Carolina Ehrnrooth, Secretary General, Barnfonden (ChildFund Sweden)

To commemorate ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we invited the leaders of each of the 12 ChildFund Alliance member groups to reflect on the past and future of their own organizations and the Alliance. Today, we hear from Sweden.

75th ChildFund logoSofia, 14, has a friendly smile and an air of confidence. She is the chairperson of the student parliament in her school in central Ethiopia. When she grows up, she hopes to be a doctor. But a year ago this dream was about to disappear.

Sofia’s stepfather and her mother wanted to send her to Saudi Arabia or another foreign country to work. They felt her income was needed to support the family, and this had a higher priority than her education. But Sofia managed to hold her ground. She had learned about the importance of education and the dangers connected with child migration in her youth club in school.

Sofia of Ethiopia


Sofia spoke to her siblings and her teacher, who in turn spoke to her parents — and managed to change their minds. It was a close call because her stepfather had already arranged a false identity card stating her age as 18, and an application for a passport was the next step.

The situation could have turned out differently had Sofia’s school not been taking part in a three-year project working against harmful traditional practices (HTP). Barnfonden is supporting the project, working through ChildFund Ethiopia and a local partner organization.

Carolina Ehrnrooth

Carolina Ehrnrooth (center) at a school in Ethiopia.

Hundreds of village leaders, health workers, local officials, religious leaders and school headmasters are part of this project, which is aimed at changing attitudes and behaviors through information and education. The goal is to reach 20,000 children and youths, to increase their knowledge and awareness of the consequences of HTP, a broad definition that includes female circumcision, child marriage, heavy and dangerous child labor and child migration. The project is based in central Ethiopia, with many sponsored children.

Since Barnfonden was started 22 years ago by BØRNEfonden (ChildFund Denmark), we have managed to increase our support to children in need every year. We have developed from being mainly a sponsorship charity to a broader organization that has diverse fundraising sources and many activities that help children in need.

Cambodian girls

Barnfonden began working in Cambodia in 2009.

With the help of the ChildFund Alliance, we have started advocacy efforts and raised our voice in the national arena for the causes of child protection and prevention of child violence. Today, we have 25,000 sponsors supporting 27,000 children in 25 countries. With the help of our sponsors, children in need are provided with education, better health care and the means and training to make a living on their own as adults.

To our delight, we also see an increase in funding from institutions and corporate partners, making it possible for us to support projects like the work against harmful traditional practices in Ethiopia. Our ultimate goal is to help even more children and families.

In everything we do, we remind ourselves about the children and families we are working for. And we remain grateful to our faithful sponsors, other supporters and corporate partners.

Important Dates in Barnfonden’s History

2005: Supported more than 20,000 sponsored children

2005: Started a dedicated project in Rajastan, India, in partnership with ChildFund International

2007: Received accreditation as the first member organization of ChildFund Alliance

2009: Started a partnership with ChildFund Australia and its programs in Cambodia

2011: Launched a designated project in Selingue, Mali, in partnership with BØRNEfonden

2011: Celebrated our 20th anniversary

2012: Began a project against harmful traditional practices (HTP) with ChildFund Ethiopia

2013: Supported a children’s rights project in Myanmar (Burma) in partnership with ChildFund Australia

2013: Currently supporting 27,000 sponsored children

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