Reaffirming our commitment to gender equality


WEEMA Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Reaffirming our commitment to gender equality

WEEMA is beginning work on a new effort over the next year to ensure that we ‘walk the talk’ in protecting women’s rights.

This summer, we received funding from InterAction’s project, From Pledge to Action, to develop a detailed policy and staff training to prevent and respond to a core gender equality issue - sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment. While such behavior is clearly prohibited in our staff handbook, we recognize that stronger safeguards, such as clearly defined reporting and grievance mechanisms, will provide fuller protections for the communities we serve, and all of our employees, including our 50-member Ethiopian team.

In the coming weeks we’ll be hiring a consultant with expertise on these issues to develop policies and procedures, as well as comprehensive training for our staff in Addis Ababa, Tembaro, and Mudula. 

The consultant will work closely with WEEMA’s Gender and Disability Mainstreaming Program Officer Samrawit Solomon, who is leading our internal and external gender equality programs. WEEMA created the gender position this year in concert with the launch of our new gender strategy, which includes safeguarding as a key priority. 

“This training effort is a critical step in fulfilling WEEMA’s deep commitment to gender equality across all aspects of work.  This includes not only our programmatic work such women’s Self-Help Groups, maternal health care, and menstrual hygiene education,  but our organizational policies and practices as well. Strong ‘safeguarding’ systems need to be in place,” said WEEMA founder Liz McGovern.

McGovern says the project is a great opportunity to show how a small nonprofit group, with a limited budget, can operationalize robust PSEA (Protection against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse) practices across an organization. 

“We look forward to sharing what we learn with other small NGOs as they try to tailor PSEA strategies in ways that are locally acceptable,” she said.


Samrawit Solomon - Opening Doors for Ethiopia’s Most Vulnerable

Staff Spotlight: Samrawit Solomon, WEEMA’s Gender and Disability Mainstreaming Program Officer

Staff Spotlight: Samrawit Solomon, WEEMA’s Gender and Disability Mainstreaming Program Officer

WEEMA Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Based on her experiences and interests, it isn’t surprising that Samrawit Solomon is leading WEEMA’s Gender and Disability Mainstreaming work.

Her first exposure to WEEMA was volunteering on its first Cataract Campaign in 2015, an annual effort to restore vision to hundreds of Ethiopians blinded by deterioration of the lens in their eyes. Growing up in the Oromia Region in southwest Ethiopia, she also saw firsthand the painful discrimination that disabled people experience, especially girls and women.

“Gender-based violence is common in Ethiopia and it’s especially common with women who are physically disabled,” the 31-year-old says. For example, she knew of a physically disabled woman in her hometown who was raped and became pregnant.  “She was too embarrassed and frightened to tell anyone.”

Such memories left an indelible impression on Samrawit, who grew up in Jimma, where educational and health services were sparse, clean running water was rare, and opportunities for girls and women were bleak.

Samrawit overcame these hurdles to graduate with a college degree in sociology and a master’s degree in business administration in Addis Ababa. She also has extensive work experience in community development and as a social worker. 

Her calling was always to help others – and when the opportunity came up to work at WEEMA she jumped at it. Earlier this year, she assumed her new post leading WEEMA’s Gender and Disability Mainstreaming work. She also became a first-time mother.

“All of WEEMA’s interventions are very crucial for the community, but, as a mother of a child, my biggest interest goes to health and to women’s empowerment as an independent and decision-making woman,” she says.

In her new position, she is responsible for ensuring that all of WEEMA’s projects – on clean water, medical care, education, and economic empowerment – are creating comparable opportunities for women and the disabled. That means building wheelchair-accessible ramps in new libraries. It means creating jobs for women in male-dominated occupations such as beekeeping. It means upgrading schools and training staff so that disabled students can attend and thrive.

Samrawit says the work can be challenging. But the rewards are far bigger.

“I love that WEEMA tends to work with the most deprived part of society,” she says. “I love that it has a holistic and community-led approach.”

Samrawit teaching primary school girls about gender equality

Samrawit teaching primary school girls about gender equality