The CAFOD/SCIAF/Trocaire Joint Ethiopia Office works in partnership with local non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Some of these NGOs are large, while others are very small. The Borana Pastoralist Girls’ Education Association is a small one, but it deserves to have its voice heard.
The Borana region is in southern Ethiopia near the Kenyan border, and it has been in the news over the last couple weeks because of a simmering ethnic conflict between the local population and settlers from Ethiopia’s Somali region. Somali people have been displaced by the ongoing fighting in Ethiopia’s there, and have sought a new life in the Borana region. The people of Moyale, Borana are resentful of having to give up valuable grazing land for their livestock to the newcomers, and this has led to violent disputes. Last week, the Federal Police were brought in to calm the situation, but it remains tense and off limits to travel. The Borana lifestyle was difficult without the added violence.
The pastoralist lifestyle of the Borana region is fraught with challenges: inconsistent rainfall patterns and drought, fluctuating prices of commodities, and lack of value chain infrastructure. These struggles leave most of the region’s people eking out a living with subsistence farming. Like other Ethiopian communities, the Borana pastoralists are victims of poverty, HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases. Despite the Ethiopian government’s prioritisation of remote regions such as Borana, the effort made so far in supporting pastoralist girls’ education is inadequate. Marginalised sections of the population face the additional challenge of having to survive in the region without the traditional support of family. Orphaned pastoralist girls in the Borana lowlands must the region’s harsh challenges on their own.
Pastoralist girls in Ethiopia’s Borana region have a low rate of education enrolment. In order to complete school, these girls must not only pay for tuition and medical care, but must also find a way to live within a reasonable proximity of the school. If marginalised female students do not have extended family living in a town, there is little opportunity for them to attend school. The caregivers and extended families of girls in the Borana region usually lack the resources to pay for education beyond the primary level, and this limits the opportunities these girls have to break out of a cycle of poverty. There is low awareness of this problem within the community, at least partly because most community members are already affected by economic problems of their own. A substantial number of households are eating two or fewer meals per day. As a result, marginalised females in the region are highly likely to drop out of school. Education is the only way for Borana’s pastoralist girls to break out of this cycle of poverty. A top priority for the Borana Pastoralist Girls’ Education Association is to re-enroll girls who have dropped out of school for financial reasons.
The Borana Pastoralist Girls Education Association (BPGEA) aims to tackle the challenges faced by pastoralist girls in graduating from secondary school. The BPGEA aims to promote pastoralist girls education in rural Borana, provide access to education in the region for marginalised girls, and to protect them from exploitative labour. The BPGEA plans to expand its support by providing lodging and bedding for pastoralist girls attending secondary school, and it is doing so with the assistance of a small grant provided by the CAFOD/SCIAF/Trocaire Joint Ethiopia Office for the purchase of beds and linen.
The BPGEA is a relatively new organisation, and was formed in 2011. It has been certified by the federal government’s Charities and Services Association. The initial project aim for the BPGEA is to assist fifteen marginalised girls from remote areas whose families cannot afford to pay for school. In some cases this marginalisation has come about because the girl is orphaned, but girls whose caregivers suffer from a disability or who live in abject poverty also qualify for support. The BPGEA has plans to expand its services after the initial fifteen students graduate, and it hopes to continue supporting the girls’ post-secondary educations, so that they may graduate to better lives.