Women's Self Help Groups: the next steps

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We are excited to announce that WEEMA will begin to register Women's Self Help Groups as legal entities starting this year!

Recognizing women as agents of change, we currently work with 2,200 women in rural Ethiopia who comprise 112 Women's Self Help Groups. Each Self Help Group consists of 20 women and meets weekly to save money, make loans, learn from each other, and provide social support.  

In order to strengthen this work, we will begin to register these groups as legal entities.  Legal registration extends rights such as access to courts, linkage to micro-finance institutions and the ability to create unions.  In addition, WEEMA will organize cluster level associations which are self-governing institutions that can provide leadership, group coordination and political influence.

To learn more about this work and receive regular updates, follow us on social media (FacebookInstagram and Twitter) and sign up for our newsletters.  

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Assefa and his passion for inclusive education

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Assefa, WEEMA's Education Program Manager, is passionate about inclusive education. He believes that "education is irreplaceable" and will build WEEMA programs to support education for all children.  He brings years of previous experience in inclusive education and will definitely put his knowledge, skills and commitment to good use!

"Our aim is to include all children with disabilities- those with hearing impairments, visual disabilities, and physical impairments. There are a number of children who are not given a chance to go to school because of their disability. These children have the capacity to read, to write, to speak or  communicate but because of a disability they don't get the chance," Assefa explains.

Creating inclusive environments means addressing the stigmas of disabilities and creating friendly school environments that accommodate every child. One method to support children with hearing impairments, for example, is building "print-rich" classrooms that contain a diversity of education materials and teaching aids that help children grasp lessons simply by seeing those words and concepts in their classroom.

WEEMA is committed to creating and strengthening inclusive programs and can't wait to see the launch of these innovative projects under the guidance of staff like Assefa!

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."