Statement by Elleni Muluneh, a founding member of the Ethiopian Teenagers' Forum
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In our country today, the fact that girls are not receiving the same education opportunities as boys is creating numerous problems for our development efforts. In the past, not enough attention was paid to the education of girls. When I say this, I do not mean that all girls have not gone to school. However, too many of them have not benefited from such opportunities.
The fact that girls are not getting an education has become a major factor contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS. The family is the main actor influencing the spread as well as control of such problems. It is parents who set the foundation that will determine the path that a child’s future development will take. Very often parents choose to send their sons to school leaving their daughters at home. Even if they send their daughters to school, they do not expect that their daughters will get anywhere. The major reason for girls performing poorly or dropping out of school is the heavy workload they are made to endure within their homes, combined with the inferior status and poor reception they receive from the public at large.
Girls are one of the most vulnerable groups facing the brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. A major reason for this is that they never get the opportunity to discuss these issues freely and openly with their families within their homes. The fact that they cannot get an education limits their capacity to make appropriate decisions regarding their own lives. It also prevents them from being self-sufficient.
At the present time, efforts are underway in Ethiopia and other developing countries to try and solve these problems. These efforts must start by addressing the root causes of the problems and by ensuring that everyone properly understands the situation that we are in now, as determined by studies conducted by both government and non-governmental experts. Efforts must be made to ensure that all segments of society, from top to bottom, use the information that is available to assume responsibility for solving their own problems.
The easiest solution to all of these problems is to foster the development of strong female students. If we want to be sure that we will not be weeping tomorrow because we have not been able to solve our problems today, we must give girls the opportunity to go to school now. That is the only way we can bring about sustainable change.
Having the opportunity to get an education does not just mean being able to go to school. It means being able to change ones own life and the life of the country. Our sisters are critical in this regard, so we should not deny them the right to make the decisions that affect their own lives as well as that of their country.