Girls with Disabilities (GwD) are not attending primary-middle school in rural Ethiopia

May 31, 2021- WEEMA, an Ethiopian based NGO, is working with five BU MPH students, Jeremy Fryer-Biggs, Naba Husain, Rajbir Kaur, Shea Mathews, and Melanie Rocco, to change the lives of Girls with Disabilities (GwD) in Ethiopia by creating opportunities for inclusive education in primary-middle schools in rural Ethiopia.

WEEMA has been operating in the rural Tembaro District since 2011 and has been implementing its inclusive educational model in four local schools, Mudula, Keleta, Mazera, and Buho, to meet the needs of children with disabilities since 2019. The program has taken a multifaceted approach by offering a combination of assistive devices, emotional support, teacher training, and community outreach to not only increase access to school but to mitigate the stigma associated with disability.

Over the past two years WEEMA has enrolled 183 students in this initiative. Over time it has become clear that girls are attending school at a significantly lower rate than their male peers (only 38%). WEEMA used the insights gained from these current efforts to inspire a new program to better address this inequity and meet the needs of GwD.

Together with WEEMA the GH 744 Program Design Consultant Team developed a thorough proposal to obtain targeted funding to expand the Inclusive Education model and tailor it to the needs of GwD specifically. Included in this new initiative are funds targeted at additional recruitment of GwD in particular, additional community outreach to parents, political, and religious leaders to highlight the benefits of sending GwD to school, the creation of specialized safe spaces, recruitment of mentors, training of additional teachers, and the establishment of a menstrual hygiene program. All of these efforts are in support of the broader goal of boosting attendance of GwD in Ethiopean primary-middle schools so that they may live the quality and dignified lives they deserve.