Hawi: “Drought is the biggest enemy of girls”

Thirteen-year-old Hawi from Ethiopia advocates for the rights of girls and women in her community. This is more necessary than ever: the hunger crisis in Ethiopia is pressing hard on the rights of girls and women. The drought raging in the east and south of the country makes it hopeless: “I see my future is bleak.”

As a member of a student club set up by Plan International at her school in the Oromia region, Hawi was introduced to equal rights for boys and girls. What she learned, she passed on to her family. Her mother was particularly inspired by Halima, who formed a women’s group in the village.

Hawaii (13)

desperate situation

“Before the drought, I often talked to families and the elderly in the community when girls left school,” Hawi says. “But I even stopped fighting for my rights, let alone theirs.”

Because of the drought I stopped fighting for my rights

women alone

“My daughter’s campaign for girls’ rights inspired me to bring the women of my village together,” says Halima, Hawi’s mother. “I created a small women’s group to combat violence against women. Since the drought, many women have become more vulnerable. Since their husbands left the village, they have to provide for their families themselves. They cannot feed their children because there is no food. They feel hopeless.”


Read also: Badra: “I don’t go to school anymore because I have to fetch water”

Drought is girls’ worst enemy.

Hawi says her school has closed and education for her and her classmates has stopped. “There is no hope for children, especially girls. Many girls have moved to cities because of the drought in the hope of finding work. For example, they now work in hotels. I have never suffered from dehydration, but now I realize that this is girls’ worst enemy. Dehydration makes Girls are homeless and lead to violence and abuse.”

Halima, a 30-year-old woman, stands next to one of her daughters.  In the background you see two huts, a child, a cow, a goat and a man.
Halima, 30, formed a group of women from her village

Miles walk to fetch water

Halima explains that women and girls should put themselves at risk. “Many of the water spots have dried up, so women and girls have to walk far to find water. We have to walk an average of ten kilometres. Many women go at night because they think there will be fewer people in the water spots. Often They are abused or attacked by wild animals.”


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Children run away from home

Cattle are the main source of income and food for the members of this herding community. But due to drought, cows and calves are dying quickly. Because of the increasing hunger, thousands of children are leaving their homes in search of water, pasture or help. It makes children vulnerable to violence or exploitation. Hawi’s brother is also considering leaving the village soon, Hawi says, “I advised him not to do that. But if the situation continues, he will leave us.”

Halima, a thirty-year-old woman, is standing and wheeling on a rope in front of a hut
Halima with the remaining calves

a period

Another problem with water shortage, Halima says, is that women and girls can’t take care of their menstrual health properly. Our children are always sick because the water is not clean. We don’t have water to wash ourselves. The lack of water has a significant impact on the health and hygiene of girls.”

The lack of water greatly affects the health and hygiene of girls

‘Drought robbed me of my rights’

One of the family’s calves is still alive and being cared for by Hawi: “The drought has taken away my rights. There is no food, no water, no way to keep my body healthy. I spend my time taking care of this calf, that’s all I have left. I even share my food with him, I like him very much.”

This is what Plan International does

At least 8.1 million people in Ethiopia have been affected by drought (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). Drought affects water and livelihoods, as well as nutrition, health, protection and education. Plan International provides clean water and sanitation, is committed to protecting children and provides school meals. We distribute special nutrient-rich pasta to young children suffering from severe malnutrition and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. In addition, we give money and vouchers to families, so they can purchase basic necessities such as food, soap and medicine.

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