Previously, women here were obliged to stay in a distant forest alone during menstruation
ActionAid groups in the Southern Nation Nationalities and People’s Region are opening the eyes of poor women and men to poverty and the related problems.
Members of the Ermo Kebele STAR group, one of the three formed in the woreda of Decha, an administrative district of Ethiopia managed by a local government, are already fighting the ill effects of polygamy and women’s isolation during their menstrual periods.
Located around 480km south of Addis Ababa, Ermo is one of the peasant’s enclaves in the Decha district.
“Men in the group no longer marry more than one woman and women are no longer forced to stay away from home during their menstrual period,” said Almaz Desalegn, 42, Vice Chairwoman of the group of 25, 17 of whom are women.
“The discussions opened our eyes not only to harmful traditional practices such as early marriage and abduction but also on how we should work to overcome chronic poverty.”
“We were also taught about the benefits of saving and have started to save from our meagre income. Members of the group have already started producing vegetable on a piece of land provided by the chair of the group.”
Previously, women in the area were traditionally obliged to stay in a solitary shade in a distant forest during menstruation.
The group formed about two years ago and since then, have met every week to discuss health and economic issues.
Members are mostly poor women, some of which are widows, and men who have no land or oxen to plough their plots.
Group members support each other in the repairing of houses belonging to elderly and sick people and the providing of various other services.
Ato Hailemariam Agu, 62 is the chairman of the group and has donated his land.
“I myself am not economically better, but I offered my plot as I believe that we can work and grow together with the training and support from ActionAid” he said.
The group recently requested a plot of land from the local administration to produce more vegetables.
“The Kebele has already promised to give us the land and we are enthusiastic to work harder and change our lives,” Ato commented.
“I am relieved from the worry I experienced anytime my wife stayed out in the wilderness during menstruation as it was risky for the women.”
Both group members stress that they need office and credit facilities to coordinate the work and to keep on producing vegetables and engage in other productive ventures.