What I am thankful for...

  A beekeeper from WEEMA's newly formed Gaecha beekeeping cooperative

A beekeeper from WEEMA's newly formed Gaecha beekeeping cooperative

I just returned a few days ago from my second trip to Ethiopia to visit WEEMA's projects. Even though the days were long, the trip left me inspired, energized, and filled with gratitude for WEEMA's work.
Below are just a few examples of the powerful changes I saw taking place in our community—changes that you made possible with your support.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing additional stories of inclusion, empowerment, and dignity, and how WEEMA is serving as a catalyst for igniting our community's highest potential.

Thank you for being an important part of our mission to create a more just and equitable world for all.

What I’m grateful for…

Hearing how empowering the Tunto women’s Self-Help Group has been for its members. Participation in the group has enabled the women to “feel like investors,” “enjoy more freedom of speech in the community,” and (my favorite) “be financially independent from their husbands, which increases the bonds of love.”

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Knowing that WEEMA’s Menstrual Health Management program has helped thirteen-year-old Gedonet think of her menstrual cycle as a “beautiful and natural thing,” and how the pads WEEMA provided have allowed her to "stop worrying... and enjoy school more."

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The passion that WEEMA's Education  Program Manager, Assefa Tadese, brings to his work, particularly when he talks about the importance of “inclusive education for an inclusive life...it makes me happy to see kids with disabilities have the chance to lift themselves out of poverty and become independent through education”

Happy Thanksgiving,

Amber Oberc
US Managing Director

Meet Ashenafi,WEEMA’s PMEAL Coordinator!

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We're excited to introduce you to Ashenafi Tadesse, WEEMA’s first Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (PMEAL) Coordinator! Ashenafi collects and analyzes data from WEEMA projects in order to measure our progress as we work towards project sustainability.

Ashenafi decided to join the WEEMA team last year because “WEEMA focuses on excellence in program execution in order to provide all forms of rights and dignity to the community at the grassroots level.”

The information collected and analyzed by Ashenafi helps ensure that WEEMA is using efficient and effective methods that incorporate community voices.  The results of the assessments are used to guide future projects.

We asked Ashenafi to answer some questions about his role, and why he is so passionate and enthusiastic about being part of the WEEMA team!

Can you describe your position in your own words - what does a PMEAL Coordinator do? Why is PMEAL so important?

“The PMEAL Coordinator set standards, indicators, and quality measures and helps guide the organization from starting line through to the finish. PMEAL tracks the organization’s performance, success, and failure in accordance with effectiveness, and efficiency, impact and sustainability. An organization without PMEAL doesn’t know what went well and what went wrong.”

What initiatives at WEEMA are you most excited about? How will you, as the PMEAL officer, help support these initiatives?

“We are excited to establish strong relationships with policy makers, planners and key actors at various levels to ensure the smooth execution of development initiatives that will transform the community by empowering local assets. This is an area that inspires me to exert my efforts towards such important initiatives.”

Based on your observations, what makes WEEMA’s programmatic approach different from other development organizations?

“WEEMA has a bottom-up approach; [we] hand the baton to the community to in order to help them develop their own sense of ownership."

What is your vision for WEEMA’s practice of “accountability”? How do you in your position as PMEAL Coordinator help WEEMA to ensure “accountability” with communities?

“WEEMA’s vision, mission, strategic objectives, and priorities need to be transparent and well understood by the communities. The communities must be well informed about WEEMA’s integrated decision-making processes.”

Give me an example of how you turn your data and analysis into action.

“...WEEMA International considers it’s strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats across all current and past projects through a process we call ‘'One Evaluation.’' As the PMEAL Coordinator, I  lay the groundwork for this evaluation and assist in organizing, leading, coordinating, reporting the results and learning."

Bringing WEEMA's Stories Into Focus

 Mary Olive filming at one of WEEMA’S Beekeeping Cooperative programs.

Mary Olive filming at one of WEEMA’S Beekeeping Cooperative programs.

As we announced earlier this summer, we've engaged Emmy award-winning director, producer, and cinematographer, Mary Olive Smith, to create a series of videos about WEEMA's programs and their impact within communities.

In October, Mary Olive traveled with the WEEMA team to Kembata-Tembaro to film stories highlighting some of WEEMA’s core values: inclusion of women and marginalized individuals, holistic development, and sustainable programs in partnership with local government.

We're looking forward to sharing these videos with you soon, but in the meantime, we've asked Mary Olive to share some of her reflections on her trip: 

"This trip was my 13th time filming in Africa, but in all my travels I’ve never witnessed such an impactful program, lifting up an entire community on so many levels. What stood out to me most is how WEEMA gives people the resources they need to find their own solutions to the challenges of poverty."

 Mary Olive filming WEEMA's mHealth project

Mary Olive filming WEEMA's mHealth project

“Part of the excitement of making documentaries is not knowing exactly what to expect, but my trip to film WEEMA’s work was incredibly satisfying. Our plans to capture the experiences and voices of people in ten different WEEMA initiatives seemed ambitious. But from our first day of filming to our last, every person we interviewed and every scene we captured told the story of how people’s lives were improving -- not by what they were receiving but instead through the active role they were playing to bring about change.

My favorite shoot took place with the Masino women’s self-help group. After filming the dancing and group meeting, we followed the women to the hillsides and watched as they worked together weeding their crops. They were self-empowered, proud and hopeful. The cool air and lush and verdant landscapes added to the sense of hope I felt. I could envision returning in 30 years and smiling at the transformation I would see."

Community-Led Development

 WEEMA’s team discussing program planning with a local disability association

WEEMA’s team discussing program planning with a local disability association

One of the things that sets WEEMA apart from so many other NGOs is our commitment to working in Alliance with our community.

We know that the only sustainable and responsible way to make lasting, positive change is by partnering with governments and community groups to support and strengthen existing systems and infrastructure. Not only is community-led development a proven best practice, but it is also at the heart of our mission, vision, and values.

This is why WEEMA is a proud member of the Movement for Community-Led Development. This growing movement unites a broad range of international development organizations dedicated to the belief that co-implementation of community-led solutions is a powerful means for achieving critical sustainable development goals.

The reasons for our participation are twofold: to learn and share our experiences with other members, and to play an active role in promoting the widespread adoption of Community-Led Development.

To learn more, please visit the Movement for Community-Led Development’swebsite.

Investing in Women

As we slipped and slid down the muddy hill, we were greeted by a swirl of color and an exuberant outburst of song as the Masino women’s Self-Help Group danced toward us, clapping and singing “WEEMA, WEEMA, ket ororo” (WEEMA, WEEMA, we welcome you). The group's vitality was emblematic of the kind of positive energy that is unleashed when you invest in women.
WEEMA believes in women's ability to lift their families and their communities out of poverty, which is why WEEMA social workers provide training and ongoing support to 110 women's Self-Help Groups in the Mudula area.

Each group of twenty women receives training on subjects ranging from leadership and conflict resolution to financial record keeping and business planning, and even reproductive health and family planning.

 The Masino group discussing interest payments at their weekly meeting

The Masino group discussing interest payments at their weekly meeting

Women in the Self-Help Groups not only gain new business skills, but they also emerge with a newfound sense of self-esteem and the confidence to advocate for their rights. Radia, Masino's leader, noted the changes she’s seen in the women since the group began:

“We have strong self-esteem, strong self-confidence, and we advocate for the rights of women and ourselves.
We speak in public and are bold enough to go to court to chase abusers and those that are violating the rules.

These big changes are happening because of our Self-Help Group.”

 Radia - Masino’s Group Leader

Radia - Masino’s Group Leader

The Masino Self-Help Group has an impressive track record of business success, and their savings and investments have grown significantly since we last profiled them. The group was recently recognized by the national government for their performance and were awarded an irrigation hose and generator as a prize. The group’s achievements would be remarkable in any context but are especially impressive when you consider that these women were selected to join, only from the poorest households.

“Before [joining the Self-Help Groups] our children died of malnutrition and hunger and we were very dependent. We always looked to the government to help us. But now we can support ourselves, feed our children, and now we can even help and support others.”

The women’s business success is also translating into greater gender equality in the home. “We are now able to get the respect of our husbands because we generate money. When we go to the market, we can buy what the family needs without asking our husbands. And we will be sure to transfer this strategy to the next generation,” says Radia. Indeed, Radia’s husband stood in the background smiling with quiet pride as his wife spoke, and has been a loyal supporter of the group’s efforts.