The Learning Our Way Out (LOWO) program addresses the link between population and environmental degradation, poverty, and other related problems . Through the LOWO program, communities use informal discussions to explore the root causes of poverty and begin to come to their own conclusions about how family size can directly affect their own quality of life. This is the personal story of a participant in the program.
My named is Tseganesh Tulicha and I come from a remote, rural area in the Southern Region of Ethiopia. I worked for my people as a community conversation facilitator on family planning with IIRR and the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia. At first, my people didn’t like the idea of discussing family planning issues because they believed that children are like money kept in the bank – the more children you have, the more you benefit from them. Others even quoted the Bible as saying “Children are gifts from God, multiply and fill the earth.”
After IIRR gave us training on community conversation techniques and we began to educate our community using the techniques we learned, things began to change… a lot.
Towards the end of the project, IIRR gave all community facilitators 500 Birr (about $50). We didn’t spend the money, rather, we organized ourselves into a small saving and credit cooperative, opened bank accounts, and deposited the money. Members borrowed money from the cooperative and started small businesses. We now have more than 100 members in our community cooperative and more than half of them are women.
I come from a society that considers women commodities, created mainly to give birth. Women are mistreated by our society and for a long time I hated myself for being created female – so much so that I wished I were my father’s male horse instead.
Before the LOWO program, I was forced to stop going to school at grade 5 because I was abducted by a man who later became my husband and the father to my 5 children. I managed to resume my education and complete grade 12 after my participation in the LOWO project.
The LOWO project has changed my life and my way of thinking. Now, I am proud to be a woman and I am proud to see women enjoying equal rights with their male counterparts. I am also happy to be able to change the attitude of my community towards family planning and to be setting a good example.
A note from IIRR – We are so happy to hear from women like Tseganesh, who are able to change their lives and those of their friends and neighbors through the innovative LOWO program. If you are interested in supporting this program and others like it, please donate to IIRR online (http://www.iirr.org/).