Empowering Women in East Africa
As often the most vulnerable members of society – and yet the ones who have the most potential to affect real change – women are at the centre of Vita’s vision. We work with women – from single mothers to small farmers – to improve their health, quality of life, and livelihoods.
From becoming community leaders in our fuel-efficient cookstove programmes, increasing their crop yields to support themselves, to being released from the drudgery of hours spent collecting clean water, these are just some of the women driving change in East Africa.
Erasho Bokotow, a small farmer and the primary breadwinner for her seven children, stands amongst her crops in South Omo, Ethiopia. Erasho turned to farming to eke out a living when her livestock dwindled. Crops were to be Erasho and her family’s salvation. However, Erasho’s ability to earn a living from her farming was threatened by limited access to good quality seed, water and a resultant plague of pests and diseases.
Ejigayehu Shelin is a busy mother of five. In 2019, Ejigayehu became one of twelve women to join Vita’s fuel-efficient cook stove cooperative. Vita has developed improved stoves that have an enclosed flame that make them significantly safer and more fuel-efficient, reducing firewood consumption by 50%. However, the true impact for Ejigayehu has been becoming a member of Vita’s Woyra Shara Women Fuel-Efficient Cook Stove Producer Cooperative.
Women’s Savings and Investment Coop
Nothing invigorates a community like a successful enterprise, and the women of the small village of Doko Yoyeri, high in the African Ridge Mountains of Southern Ethiopia, are beginning to realise this for themselves. They have worked closely with Vita, the Sisters of Mercy and the Irish Embassy in Ethiopia to set up a Women’s Saving and Credit Co-operative that teaches them how best to engage in business and improve their standards of living.
Tozene Nada was born in the mountains of the Great Rift Valley in southern Ethiopia. Despite the steep and hilly countryside and its characteristic high altitudes, Tozene’s homeland was abundant and fertile. However, the strains of having to support, feed, and nourish an ever-growing population began to take its toll on this once bountiful land, resulting in overworked soil and smaller yields for farmers like Tozene. Running the two–hectare family farm, alone, Tozene was struggling.
Meet Lula, a remarkable dairy farmer from Adigheda, a small village about two hours west of Eritrea’s capital, Asmara. Five years ago Lula was desperate; newly-divorced with no source of income, not enough food, and a seemingly hopeless future. But now Lula is so highly regarded in her village for her skills and work ethic that the village administrator has bestowed on her his highest compliment – he says she “works harder than a man!”
In a tiny village on the outskirts of Arba Minch, Burtikan, a single mother, had been shunned by her community and thus severed from any means of earning income or providing for her family when her husband left for Addis Ababa and never came back. Burtikan first became involved with Vita ten years ago, when a small pottery co-operative we established gave her a vital skill, independence, a livelihood and, crucially, respect.
Before joining Vita’s improved cookstove project, Worknesh was using the traditional three stone stoves cooking for meal preparation and heat.She usually collected this firewood from a local forest, thus contributing to deforestation. This daily task would see Worknesh spending more than half a day, undertaking a four hour journey, to collect her firewood.