Executive Director Tsehai Wodajo recently returned from Ethiopia where she established the first permanent REAL office in Addis Ababa and also finalized our official status as a non-governmental organization in Ethiopia. These are two significant accomplishments for REAL as we deepen our presence in Ethiopia and become a well-known presence for the education of Ethiopian girls.
Having a permanent office in the capital city increases our in-country visibility and also gives the girls, particularly REAL graduates, a place to check in when they are in Addis Ababa, and for those who are already there. Our more visible presence there also makes it easier for us to benefit from connections with other NGOs who support women and children as we work together toward common goals.
Communication between Tsehai, girls Program Manager Seble Habtamu, and the site committees and mentors will also be easier and more efficient. The office was furnished with the assistance of REAL graduate Elbethel Bekele (pictured here). Elbethel, from our Entoto site, has graduated from university as civil engineer, and now has her own business as an interior designer.
Tsehai also met with Dr. Ergogie Tesfaye, Ethiopian Minister of Women and Social Affairs, a cabinet level position. Dr. Ergogie originally is from Hosanna, Ethiopia, which has been a REAL site since 2006. She completed her secondary education there and was delighted to hear that REAL is so active in Hosanna. The connection with Minister Ergogie will greatly expand our contacts in other areas of Ethiopia and enhance our ability to open new sites.
REAL Mentor's Title Change
REAL mentors at each site have been key to the success of the girls they meet with and to establishing REAL as a positive, effective presence in the local communities. As we expand, we are changing their title to "Girls Program Coordinator" to describe more accurately their responsibilities and the reach of their support and influence with the girls. We currently have 7 mini libraries at seven sites and planning to have space in all locations so REAL girls have other spaces where they can learn and study together.
REAL continues to be a frugal organization, and an example of what can be achieved with direct investment in local communities. Our support for each girl continues to be only US$30 a month ($1 a day!) which includes money for her family, for her school needs, and the savings in her individual bank account.
Decisions regarding REAL's on-going development and expansion will continue to be directed by Tsehai and the REAL Board in the United States and Canada, but with frequent feedback from Seble, the Girls' Program Coordinators, the committees at each site and, of course, the girls themselves, particularly the graduates.
We are so proud of the girls' many accomplishments and excited as we begin plans to celebrate our 20th year of supporting the education of girls and young women in Ethiopia. Stay tuned!