The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

One Week in Adigrat

Author - Jean Bailey

The millennium has started in Ethiopia with lots of hope and good will. The excitement generated is still evident. During a recent visit to Ethiopia that included Addis Ababa, Awassa, Arba Minch, Hossana, Azezo, Gondar and Adigrat a ray of hope was everywhere so there is a lot to report. However, a small project in Adigrat that specifically focuses its activities on women and their empowerment is particularly dear to my heart so I will focus on that aspect of the trip.

The project is the Bruh Tesfa Youth Development Centre (BTYDC). It is located in northern Tigray at Ma'ale, Mewtsa Werqi in Kebele Buket off the Adigrat-Wukro road, at the periphery of Adigrat about 4 km from the town. BTYDC opened in 2007 in response to the critical situation of young people in Adigrat (a town of more than 100,000 population and growing). The philosophy of BTYDC is rooted in the conviction that the innovative and ground-breaking power of holistic education enables the young to be agents of social transformation and instruments of their own destiny and that of society as a whole. The educational style of BTYDC focuses on the belief that the resources of every person need to be stimulated, affirmed and supported in order to be fully utilised for the self and for the service of the other. This can be effectively achieved through confidence building, an atmosphere of love and friendship with an attitude of openness to all.

One specific element of the centre's work is the women's outreach project. In a world where women have less space and voice in society than men, the Society of the Missionaries of Africa in Adigrat is attempting to advance the empowerment of young women, especially those most disadvantaged. The outreach programme will mainly target girls dropping out of school, single mothers and young widows with a view to empowering them through literacy and economic activities aimed at making them self-reliant. The centre is endeavouring to provide informal education in addition to other programmes in order to enhance poverty alleviation, self reliance and good health. The main objective of the outreach programme is to support, strengthen and enable disadvantaged girls and young women to transform their life situations by effectively eradicating ignorance and poverty.

Specific objectives are:


• Giving young women an opening to life's windows through literacy, conscience raising and informal training programmes on matters such as health care, HIV/AIDS, hygiene, home economics, civics and economic emancipation


• Providing young women who are in greatest need or in situations characterised by abandonment, exploitation and lack of opportunity with opportunities to improve their life situations through various economic alternatives like self employment


• Empowering young women to stand before themselves, others and society with significant ideals and values, with dynamic and critical attitudes and with the capacity to make productive and realistic choices in their lives.

Project activities include:


• Adult literacy, both academic and economic


• Health and hygiene including HIV/AIDS awareness programmes


• Training in improved farming, fuel consumption and environmental care


• Gardening and animal husbandry especially vegetable growing and raising chickens, sheep, goats and cows


• Small scale business enterprises including making spices and pastry, sewing and embroidery, and hairdressing.

The project will directly benefit 180 girls dropping out of school, single mothers and young widows between the ages of 16 and 35 years old. The preparation is well underway and the first small group are already generating income and will be joined by 30 young women in January 2008; the number will gradually increase to 60 by September 2008. The average cost per woman over 3 years will be £130. The project will also indirectly benefit their family relations estimated at more than 1,500 people in and around Adigrat, most of who are women or children.

During my stay I met some very enterprising girls who had attended the extra tutorial classes the previous year. They had completed grade 12 in school and sat awaiting their results. They had started jam making and drying and grinding spices and sold them in the local market; some of the jam found its way to outlets in Addis Ababa. They were delighted to make some money and on top of it 5 of the 7 girls have achieved university places. The other two are now applying for a permanent stall in the market. Many orphaned children have gravitated to the new hostels (80 children in two houses) linked to this project and I spent a stimulating morning talking and answering the many questions from the children, most of whom had a horrific story to tell as they had travelled many miles to get there through war torn territory.

Although I have no official role with the project, if readers would like further information, or wish to consider volunteering to help or making donations, I am happy to provide information or contacts. Please contact me by email:

First Published in News File Spring 2008

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