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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Aster transforms her life

International Women's Day - Celebrating Aster's success

If the experts at the World Economic Forum are correct, it will be 2133 before the global pay gap between men and women will finally be closed. That is 118 years: for many of us, long after we, and even our children, will be around to see it. Last year's prediction from the same experts was that gender parity would be achieved by 2095. As a global community, we would appear to be going backwards.

The implications are sobering. Development is not possible while half the population is left behind. Development is not possible when half the population has no voice. Indeed, quite the opposite: our experience is that true development is only possible when women around the world are given the opportunity and support they need to lead and to tackle the truly tough issues that are facing their families, their communities, and their countries.

What is lacking is not the knowledge or the will to tackle these issues. But when too many precious hours are spent fetching water, or coaxing food out of uncooperative soil, or caring for a child who is sick with diarrhea -- again -- there is no time and no energy to do more than survive. When societal norms dictate that women should have no voice, their ideas go unheard.

The problem is complex. The solution is, in so many ways, simple: when we deliberately invest in women amazing things happen.

For Aster Tsilo, a 35-year old mother of 2 boys and 3 girls who lives in southern Ethiopia, this investment took the form of a spring capping system in her village that delivered water steps from her home, and the chance to join a women's self-help group with her neighbours. With water on her doorstep, Aster suddenly had many more hours of free time each day. Through the self-help group, Aster accessed training, moral support, and two small loans of $13 and $26 to take advantage of those hours.

A year ago, Aster, like many women in her village, spent most of her day at home, cooking and cleaning, or fetching water. Now she runs a successful business buying and selling vegetables, butter, and other small items. She saves almost $1 a week. She has opened a personal savings account at the local bank. She feeds her family three times a day instead of only twice. The family dug a pit latrine. Most importantly, Aster's relationship with her husband has changed completely: decisions that used to be made by him unilaterally are now discussed and decided on jointly.

For Aster, for her daughters, for her sons: this is all transformative.

Aster is not alone. She is representative of 19 other women in her village who are also part of her self-help group, of hundreds of other women in southern Ethiopia who HOPE International Development Agency has worked with in recent years. She is representative of thousands of women around the world who gained the opportunity and support they needed to thrive through HOPE International Development Agency's support in 2015, and of the thousands more who will do so this year.

She is one step closer to the world closing the gap well before 2133. We are all the better for it.

Donate today and transform the lives of women and their families.