Every child deserves to be heard. Unfortunately, this was never the case for Hayimanot. She was brought up in a community where girls were denied the right to express themselves and explore their full potential. Today, Hayimanot is empowered and she can now speak confidently for herself and other girls, thanks to the She Leads Programme.
Hayimanot’s parents separated when she was ten years old. After their separation, her mother became the sole provider for the family. She earned up to €6 per month from washing and cooking meals for other people. They managed to have one or two meals a day (most of it was not balanced), from the little money she made. Hayimanot’s high school education was interrupted from time to time, since she had to help her mother with work.
Hayimanot lived in Dukem town with her mother and sister in a tiny single room house. Her father lived outside town. They hardly heard from him since he cut communication with them. Even though Hayimanot’s mother worked hard to provide for them, lack of access to water and sanitary materials was a daily struggle. In their community, it is very rare for girls to freely express themselves. Also, girls and women lack the freedom to explore their full potential and achieve their dreams.
For a long time, Hiyamont’s voice didn’t matter until she joined the She Leads programme. In July 2021, she was identified through the Women and Children Affairs Office and the Kabele Administration. She was selected during the identification process of girls and young women, both from and out of school. Hayimanot attended different trainings including par law (equality laws), how to use the internet to gain knowledge about gender based violence (GBV), how to speak in public, how to use social media platforms properly and advocate through them, watching GBV films, writing drama scripts, poems, sport computation, networking, decision making, assertiveness skills and learning from motivational speakers. She practised public speaking before her peers, learnt how to actualise her dreams and be a voice for the voiceless. Through practice, she was able to build her confidence and she can now boldly express her ideas and perspectives.
The She Leads Programme offered her a safe space where she found her voice. “I have realised that I can speak out for myself, say no if the community denies me my rights and neglects me. I am a girl who can lead and change my life, that of other girls and young women in my community and the country at large,” she said. Towards the end of October 2022, through the She Leads programme, Hayimanot got an opportunity to share her experience with a like-minded girls and young women (GYW) group in the area called Siiqqee —a women's development association that empowers girls and women from vulnerable households in Sebeta, south of Addis Ababa. During the experience, the girls´ efforts helped her learn that economic independence and access to resources is a gateway to gender parity.
After the knowledge sharing visit, Hayimanot shared with her colleagues the lessons she had learnt. At home, she started preparing and selling sandwiches with her colleague. The business earned them about one euro per day. Feeling happy and empowered, she said, “I and the GYW with me have a dream to be big women entrepreneurs to equalise the balance that is dominated by our counterparts.” She also added that, “ if you have access to resources, you can be heard; you can gain sound influence. I would like to thank She Leads for opening my eyes.” Hayimanot wants to become a judge. She hopes to be a girls and young women rights activist to change the social norms in her community. She’s determined to achieve this dream in spite of any challenges she might face.