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US, Ethiopia Partner to Empower Women

FILE - Women and children holding their pink tickets queue for the evening meal at the Dollo Ado transit center in Ethiopia, October 26, 2011. (VOA P. Heinlein)

The U.S. is awarding $15,000 grants to five U.S. universities that are partnering with Ethiopian schools on research and development projects.

The initiative by the State Department and the Department of Education is designed to strengthen the skills of faculty and administrators in both countries. One grant, awarded to the University of Maryland and Ethiopia’s Debre Birhan University, will be used to train Ethiopian women on how to grow crops, as part of an effort to address food insecurity.

Through classroom instruction and work on “demonstration farms,” the University of Maryland will provide training on how to grow food throughout the year, with the goal of improving food security.

University technical advisor Becky Ramsing says they hope to help women in Ethiopia who may have had limited access to training opportunities.

“If you give the woman the resources, those resources will go directly to the family. When women are given added income or are able to raise more food, that directly relates to the children and the education and nutrition of the child," said Ramsing.

She says the goal is to train staff members at Debre Birhan University who will then teach women in useful techniques such as growing food in small spaces.

“Some of these women do not have access to land. How can we do container gardening and vertical gardening, livestocks like small poultry," she asked.

Tsigemariam Bashe, a program facilitator and dean at Debre Birhan, says an overall goal is empowerment.

“Empowering women is empowering the whole population or empowering the society," said Bashe.

Debre Birham facilitator Hailu Terefe says only men are traditionally taught farming in some parts of the country.

“There is cultural differences in Ethiopia. All of the regions do not have the same culture. There are regions that women are not allowed to go for the agricultural practices," said Terefe.

Tsigemariam Bashe hopes the women who are trained will in turn assist other women.

“I hope that in the near future the women in the project will become the community educator," said Bashe.

The other U.S. university grant recipients are Brown, Bowling Green State, Ball State and the University of North Texas Libraries.