Meet the young women who are bringing Girl Guiding to Ethiopia

Ethiopia is one of the few countries in the world where Girl Guiding or Girl Scouting doesn’t exist in a formal capacity or have a governing body. That is why over the past year, we’ve been working with four amazing young Ethiopian women who have stepped up as ‘Girl Guiding Champions’ and are working hard to develop the Movement in the East African country.

Last week two of the champions, Edda Zekarias and Loza Tsegaye, organised and hosted the country’s first ever Free Being Me body confidence training. It was an incredible week, where 20 volunteers trained as Free Being Me leaders and delivered the programme to over thirty girls and young women at a local school.

You can find out more about the week in the participants’ daily blog posts. Here, Edda and Loza talk to WAGGGS about their recent experiences.

Loza Tsegaye

Loza Tsegaye

Loza, from Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, was our very first Girl Guiding Champion and started the Ethiopia Girl Guiding Project

Tell us a little bit about your journey, how did it all start?

My journey started over a year ago when I was talking to my friend Nadine who works for a WAGGGS partner organisation. She was asking where she could find the right person to start Girl Guiding in Ethiopia, so I told her “I’m the right person!”. She connected me with Alphonsine Kabagabo, WAGGGS’ Africa Region Director, and we had some intense conversations for almost a year. For example, we looked at the laws in Ethiopia, at how to find the right offices, and generally how to grow the movement. After a year, Alphonsine came to Ethiopia and we started to find different stakeholders who could support our idea, both government and non-governmental organisations and movements such as the Yellow Movement. After our meeting we started the Ethiopian Guiding Project Team, which brings different movements together.

How did Free Being Me start here?

When we developed our plans, we wanted to choose the right WAGGGS toolkit to reach girls. We wanted a programme that touched on core and sensitive issues, so we decided to start with Free Being Me, which has a very positive message. We recruited 20 young women volunteers to take part in the four day Free Being Me ‘train the trainer’ programme. It’s been the most intensive and inspiring training that I’ve ever done and the feedback from the participants has been amazing! Our mission is to reach 50 girls in six months, but today we reached 34 in a local school – that’s already halfway. I hope that we’ll reach a lot of girls like this and that it will go nationwide.

How did you get in contact with the school that we went to today?

One of the volunteers took the initiative to meet the school coordinator. The school has extra-curricular club activities and they picked girls between 14-17 years old who have been actively participating in the club to take part. It’s been wonderful to find such a supportive and helpful school, particularly considering we gave them only five days’ notice.

Tell me about their lives and how Free Being Me might help them?

Most of the participants go to public schools, and most public school students are from low-income families. Free Being Me is about finding your own talent and potential, so we hope that it will help them throughout their lives.

What’s coming next, what are your next steps?

Next week we will continue the training at the school and then we will try to reach private schools. Next week we will reach 30 more students – we will train them to be Free Being Me Leaders and they will train their peers.

You’re wearing a WAGGGS scarf and a World Badge – can you tell us what happened today?

Today I took my Guiding Promise. It has been such an exciting experience to be selected as a WAGGGS Girl Guiding Champion and I feel so privileged to get recognition from you. It has really motivated me to work hard on developing the Movement in Ethiopia.

Edda ZekariasEdda Zekarias

Edda (far left), also from Addis Ababa, works for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and became a Girl Guiding Champion through her volunteer work with university students

Tell us about how you became a Girl Guiding Champion?

My journey started last year when I was approached by a young woman who had been helping with my volunteer programme at the university. She told me that WAGGGS’ membership development manager, Griet Onsea, and Alphonsine Kabagabo, Africa regional director, were coming to Addis and that we should meet with them because they were interested in working with girls.

Having grown up in Kenya, I’d done a bit of Girl Guiding, so everything clicked together and I thought “this is great, and it would also be an opportunity for me to be able to reach out to more girls”. So that’s why I jumped at the opportunity and since last September we’ve been working hard to build proposals and to develop the Movement in this country.

Since we started this journey, we’ve been involved in every step of the way and when we went to Nairobi in Kenya for a scoping visit in February, a lot of the girls couldn’t believe that we don’t have a Girl Guide association in Ethiopia.

And what about this week, what were your expectations for the Free Being Me training?

It’s gone beyond my expectations as Free Being Me is a completely new way of delivering content, especially for the participants. I monitored how they were learning, and the learning by doing approach was completely new for them and they had a lot of fun. The facilitators were really amazing and I know that the participants will be talking about this experience for a long time as it’s not something that you forget, it leaves you wanting to explore.

The volunteers were amazing today, delivering training to 34 girls. Tell us a little bit about them?

They are a mixture of people who are still studying and some who are working. Many of the ones who have finished university already work on gender issues, but most of them are university students who are members of girls’ organisations including the Yellow Movement, which focuses on gender-based violence at university.

What are your final thoughts on your experience this week?

There was so much enthusiasm during the training and going forward I think we’re going to create a very strong Movement. Getting these young women involved in the planning also gives them a sense of ownership, which will take us a long way. Now that we’re all on the same path and are creating our own vision of what we want, I think we’re ready…

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