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What a boy can do, a girl can do too!

Both boys and girls can take a taekwondo class at the Jimma Village
Both boys and girls can take a taekwondo class at the Jimma Village

From a young age, children at our SOS Children’s Villages are taught the importance of gender equality. One Village in particular is celebrating both boys and girls and learning that both genders deserve equal rights, respect and opportunities.

In Jimma, Ethiopia, the families at the SOS Children’s Village are attempting to reverse gender inequality for the next generation. It is the hope of the SOS mothers that their children will grow up in a society free of stereotypes and barriers.

Empowering girls

Their parenting aligns with the Sustainable Development Agenda. In 2015, world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – 17 goals to reduce extreme poverty and injustice by 2030. Achieving gender equality is Goal Five and it seeks to end all discrimination and violence that occurs because of someone’s gender.

In 2014, the Gender Gap Index ranked Ethiopia extremely high at 127 out of 142 countries in gender disparities. The report measures the gaps between women and men across health, education, economy and politics.

Keren, 10, is one of the children growing up at the SOS Jimma Village in Ethiopia. She has been given the responsibility to monitor the cleanliness of the Village.

“I supervise my SOS brother's and sister's personal hygiene twice a week. I also ensure that the environment within the Village and its surroundings are clean, and its gardens are well cared for. I then prepare a report on my findings, and my team raises awareness among the other children,” Keren says.

Children gardening at Jimma Village in Ethiopia
Keren waters plants with other children from the Village

Staff-members at the Village are trying to empower girls like Keren to take on any role that interests them.  It is uncommon for women in Ethiopia to hold leadership positions. Traditional cultural practises such as female genital mutation and child marriage further reinforce gender inequality.

Keren explains that she is confident in her ability to lead and work with others even though many people in society may disagree. “As a female leader, my strongest quality is self-confidence. I am also transparent and open minded. I let others express themselves and I warmly welcome their opinion,” she says.

In 2015, the Jimma Village formed a gender club where children aged nine and up learn how to develop a healthy gender outlook. The club has 55 participants – 29 boys and 26 girls.

“The children are told openly about the existing stereotypes that make girls and women especially vulnerable to gender-based violence and discrimination. They are discouraged from conforming to the misconceptions,” says Mulualem Gurmessa, Village Director at SOS Children’s Villages Jimma.

Eliminating gender inequality at home 

To remove preconceptions of gender roles in the home, domestic work is not assigned according to gender. Aman, 10, explains that he knows that being a boy doesn’t excuse him from household chores.

“I began supporting my SOS mother with housework as soon as I arrived at the Village,” says Aman. “I started with cleaning tasks, washing dishes and gardening. As I grew up, my responsibilities increased to cooking. I also make coffee and shiro (a traditional Ethiopian sauce) both of which are traditionally regarded as female roles.”

SOS children cook in the kitchen at SOS Children's Villages Jimma in Ethiopia
Aman helping his siblings prepare the family's afternoon snack

Gudetu, Aman’s SOS mother, explains that having the children help with housework can give them the sense of being part of a team, and it teaches them the importance of completing an assigned task.  

“Children do household chores throughout the week before and after school. Making their beds and arranging their cloths in their respective wardrobes are their everyday activities, whereas house cleaning and gardening are mainly done during weekends,” she says.

Gender roles are strictly defined in Ethiopia. There is an attitude that a woman’s place is in the home, while men belong in the public-sphere to earn money for their family. Girls in Ethiopia are typically raised with a more home-centred education to learn how to run the home.  

“I think boys and girls are more alike than they are different,” says Aman. “That is why I consider housework a responsibility just like any other."

SOS Children's Villages has beenw working in Ethiopia since 1974. Your support can make a lasting difference to a vulnerable child. Donate today.