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Jill Biden’s Africa Visit Places Emphasis on Women’s Rights, Immigration, Education


Jill Biden, left, greets a graduate on stage at the Girls Can Code project graduation ceremony at the Colonel John C. Robinson American Center at the National Archive and Library Agency (NALA), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 17, 2016.

Jill Biden, left, greets a graduate on stage at the Girls Can Code project graduation ceremony at the Colonel John C. Robinson American Center at the National Archive and Library Agency (NALA), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 17, 2016.

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, is focusing on women’s rights, immigration and education during a visit to three African countries: Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger.

During her first stop in Ethiopia, Biden visited a transit center in the capital for refugees at the International Organization for Migration (IOM). There, she met with officials at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and learned more about the refugee screening process for those seeking resettlement in the U.S.

One of the refugees accepted for resettlement is Sembetu Buratu, an Eritrean mother of a four-year-old girl, who left her home country to help her family.

“I didn’t work, so my brothers used to assist me; when they left the country, [security forces] tried to arrest me so I escaped,” she said, speaking through an interpreter in her native language Tigrigna.

Buratu has been in the center for four days, and will be resettled in Atlanta.

“I want my daughter to grow up in good conditions, and I also want to help my family. I am very happy,” she said.

Another refugee, Filsan Abdullahi Hassan of Somalia, said she fled attacks from the terror group al-Shabab.

Over the last 10 years, the U.S. has resettled 30,000 refugees from Ethiopia, according to Lori Seymour, IOM’s head of operations in Africa.

This year, the U.S. will accept 85,000 refugees from all over the world; about 30 percent come from Africa.

FILE - Jill Biden, second left, the wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, shakes the hand of a former child soldier in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 5, 2014. Jill Biden is currently on her fifth trip to Africa.

FILE - Jill Biden, second left, the wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, shakes the hand of a former child soldier in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 5, 2014. Jill Biden is currently on her fifth trip to Africa.

Biden is placing a particular emphasis on women’s rights and education during her travels. In an event at a high-tech center in Addis Ababa funded by the U.S. Embassy, she handed out certificates to girls who completed computer training after a yearlong scholarship through the Girls Can Code initiative, a program aimed at teaching girls computer-programming skills.

During the graduation ceremony, Biden said that because of the success of the pilot program, there were plans to expand Girls Can Code to four new cities.

“This means an additional 200 female students will soon have access to the same classes and lessons that you have had so that they can reach their full potential,” she said.

About 40 high school students were selected for a first-of-its-kind training in leadership and coding, according to one of the graduates from Addis Ketema high school who spoke to VOA’s Horn of Africa Service. The girls were selected for their scholastic achievements.

On Sunday evening, Biden met with female members of Ethiopia’s parliament and cabinet, as well as entrepreneurs and other members of the Ethiopian community.

This is Biden’s fifth visit to Africa. Her next stop is Malawi.

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    Salem Solomon

    Salem Solomon is a journalist and web producer at Voice of America’s Horn of Africa Service, where she reports in English, Amharic and Tigrigna. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Poynter.org, Reuters and The Tampa Bay Times. Salem researches trends in analytics and digital journalism, and her data-driven work has been featured in VOA’s special projects collection.

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