Women all around the world are highly disadvantaged in accessing opportunities. Low economic development of countries, deeply-rooted ‘harmful’ societal attitudes and intertwined religious and cultural values however, make African women susceptible to peculiar challenges. On the other hand, there are many African values, cultures and institutions that recognize the fundamental role women play and recognize them for it. One example being the Siiqqee institution, an indigenous institution based in Ethiopia that shows a strong culture of support and solidarity between women in the challenges they face. Siiqqee Scholars is an association of willing volunteers, that aims to build up on such positive values to tackle the peculiar challenges faced by Ethiopian girls and young women. It is an initiative formed on the basis of sisterhood, support and solidarity.
In the 21st century, education is the most important tool to change the fate of a society to the better. Siqqee Scholars, while it acknowledges the role education plays to empower women, recognizes the many obstacles that prevent female students from becoming fully empowered women upon graduation. Therefore, we provide the missing tools to ensure female graduates are fully equipped, in all aspects, by the time they leave their learning institutions.
The first program Siiqqee Scholars runs is its annual pad paradise campaign. The high cost and inaccessibility of sanitary pads has been one of the major reasons that girls and young women miss schools for 4-7 days every month, directly affecting their standing in their classes. In order to mitigate this challenge, Siiqqee Scholars runs an annual pad raising campaign. A campaign in collaboration with different organizations to ensure the provision of free sanitary pads for female students in universities and selected high schools. In the 2017/18 Academic Year, Siiqqee Scholars has provided a year long supply of sanitary pads which will help 700 female students. Our goal is to see an Ethiopia that has a policy addressing the provision of sanitary pads, for free and/or very minimum cost.
Realizing ones potential requires much more than economic assistance; we also run/plan to run skills building courses and initiate support groups for female students. The English Language Classes which will start running in the 2018/2019 academic year aims to help female students become eloquent in the English language – the medium of instruction in universities across Ethiopia. Siiqqee Scholars believes this will help the students not only to capture their courses well but also make them competitive in the job market, later on. Siiqqee Scholars also have a peer-to-peer mentorship sessions whereby students have been matched in a group of five students based on interest and focus area. Siiqqee Scholars provides the platform for them to come together to lend a hand in sisterhood. Siiqqee Scholars also host experience sharing sessions whereby influential figures share their life experiences with secondary and tertiary educational institutions to inspire the younger generation. In addition we run a bi-weekly safe space program where female students come together in safe environment and initiate conversations about issues, problems and solutions they deem proper.
In the future our initiative hopes among other things, to make Siiqqee Scholars a national women’s right movement that encompasses mentorship and solidarity, not only among students but to all women to support and inspire one another. We also aspire to take part in national policy advocacy by undertaking necessary research.
How does the organization define African Feminisms?
To us African feminism is movement designed to tackle day to day problems of the African woman by methods and strategies that incorporate diversity and rich African norms and values. It is a solidarity movement that is inclusive to all African women and that enables us to rely on one another, help one another and become our own sheroes. African feminism is a movement that utilizes available resource to bring about magnified result. It is a place where we, African women feel empowered to be ourselves and most importantly to work on the growth of ourselves and our communities.
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