Dear Ban Ki-moon...Are you listening to Ethiopian girls?

Girls in Ethiopia deserve to finish their education. Global leaders must make it happen

The Girl Declaration will give hundreds of girls in poverty the opportunity to talk about their hopes and dreams. We've asked organisations involved in the consultations to write open letters to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, explaining the challenges that girls in the developing world face. Here, Marie Deery from Girl Hub Ethiopia writes about girls in that country…

Dear Ban Ki-moon,

Girls in Ethiopia are overwhelmingly intelligent, thoughtful and insightful - so why are they getting a raw deal?

I recently spoke to girls in Legedadi, north east of Addis, as part of the Girl Effect girl consultations. One girl I met typified an all-too-common situation in the country.

She was 16 years old and the only girl of six siblings. She had to drop out of secondary school last year to help care for her younger brothers.

She told us she would do anything to be in school, learning alongside her friends. But she's needed at home.

Her mother supports the family single-handedly by selling vegetables in Addis, a two-hour bus ride away. This means the girl spends her days alone at home, away from the stimulation and safety that a social network of friends can provide.

The transformative power of happiness

What came across was just how important these networks are for girls, in school or otherwise. The girl told me about a community gym she goes to every week, where she learns karate and circus skills such as juggling and tightrope walking.

She can't afford the fee, so it's paid by the man who runs the gym because he knows she can't afford it. For now, this is her only outlet to have fun and spend time with her friends.

Everything about her changed when she spoke about her time in the gym. She was proud to tell us about the green belt she has earned and the pleasure she gets from spending time with friends.  

The transformative power of this kind of happiness was clear. Fun, play, imagination and coming together with friends were clearly hugely beneficial for this girl.

Leaders of tomorrow

Yet getting out of the home just once a week is not enough for this girl to reach her potential. More must be done for her - and thousands like her - to help her stay in school and plugged into that vital social network.   

That's why the post-2015 development goals need to prioritise keeping girls in secondary education during adolescence - a difficult time when many girls slip through the net.

They must also provide long-term, sustainable provision for girl-focused groups and safe spaces, so every girl has the means to reach their potential.

If only they could decide how the world should be run, I have no doubt it would be a safer, more caring, wholesome, loyal and selfless place to live.

To make them the leaders of tomorrow, we must give these girls what they've asked for.

You have the power to do this. Support the Girl Declaration to enable the girls I met - and millions more like them - to fly.

Yours sincerely,


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Find out more about Girl Hub's work in Ethiopia