» Zeyneb, 15, lights up her Ethiopian village and wins education prize
10.06.2016 - Education Sector

Zeyneb, 15, lights up her Ethiopian village and wins education prize

©UNESCOZeynab, second from left, with schoolfriends

A young Ethiopian girl who fought off social pressure and poverty to stay in school supported by a UNESCO project won the top award in a science invention competition.

Zeyneb, 15, won the award with three inventions, a mobile charger that works by solar light, an incubator and an instrument that can identify rotten eggs.  

“There is a problem of electricity in our town and there are times we stayed without it for a week. I think my invention of this charger can be a solution. My dream is to be an engineer and assist my poor family and society. I have a mother who supports me and above all a school that encourages me,” she said.  

Zeyneb, 15, is the second of three children provided for by her single mother who makes and sells ‘injera’ (local bread). She helps her mother at home and selling the bread as well as attending Mohammed Hanfrey Secondary school in the Afar region of Ethiopia.  

Remarkable changes 
Women and girls in Ethiopia continue to suffer from gender inequality through low economic status, disparity within families, harmful traditional practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation and gender-based violence.  

Within the context of government-led changes, UNESCO-IICBA launched the project Retaining girls in Lower Secondary Schools and Increasing their Learning Outcomes for four regions of the country, Afar, Benishangul Gumuz, Gambella and Somali. It aims to reduce the dropout rate of girls in 6 pilot schools by 20 per cent.  

The project addresses the challenges girls face in school, at home and in their communities through capacity-building of teachers and school staff on gender mainstreaming and setting up of income generation activities. It has brought about remarkable changes in the lives of young women like Zeyneb who was helped financially with her uniform, exercise books and sanitary pads.    

She was also encouraged to take part the 6th National Science, Technology and Mathematics competition as part of a community promotion project.  

Silencing complaints   
Zeyneb’s award has helped to silence the opposition.  

“Before I got this award neighbours used to complain about me spending time on learning rather than helping my mom in the house or earning money. Now they mention my name as a good model for their children and encourage their daughters to study.”  

And she had a message for other girls and women in her village.  

“I wish the girls and women of my village and region could live in a society where all barriers or girls are eradicated. If we girls can get a little support from our family, schools and community, we will perform as good as the boys.”

UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa
Women’s and Girls’ Education


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