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Bizuhaye Terefe Goes Back to School

530 300 The Hunger Project Australia

Originally published by The Hunger Project Nederland.

In the North Shoha region of Ethiopia, The Hunger Project is actively working with the Her Choice alliance to end of child marriages and enabling girls to re-enrol in school. Often, these are girls who have dropped out of school after a child marriage or teenage pregnancy. The Hunger Project empowers girls so that they can finish their education and transform their situations for themselves and their children.

Bizuhaye Terefe, 19 years old, lives in the village of Wujiba with her aunt and five-year-old son, Abity. She has been going back to school for two years now.

Bizuhaye is happy that she can go back to school after she had to leave when she was just 13 years old.

“When I was 13, I was raped and then I got pregnant. That was a very nasty experience. I’m still sad about that,” Bizuhaye says. “Because I was expecting, I had to quit school — that’s how it works here. I was living with my grandmother at the time because my mother had died a year earlier. After Abity was born, I lived with grandma for a while, but she could no longer care for us. Fortunately my aunt, Genzeb, then took us in.”

Image credit: Johannes Ode

The Hunger Project started the Her Choice program in the region two years ago. They empower and run activities for girls who left school too early to give them the chance to go back to school. Like Bizuhaye, these girls are usually married early or pregnant.

“I was visited by the school director, asking if Bizuhaye wanted to come back to school. Of course I wanted to help her, but I had no money for pens, notebooks, uniform and other school supplies. The Hunger Project then took care of that so Bizuhaye could go back to school!” says Genzeb.

Bizuhaye says, “I really enjoy going back to school. My favourite subject is English. My dream is to become a pilot later, that seems great. I can therefore earn a lot of money and help my family. If I later become a pilot and my future husband has a busy job, I want to plan the arrival of even more children. I certainly want to have four children, but I want to be ready for it. Abity can then become a big brother. It will take a while before the time comes. First I want to finish high school and study. And my son will also go to school from next year. “

Breaking the Cycle in Bangladesh

530 300 The Hunger Project Australia

Bangladesh has an extreme child malnutrition rate.

After a devastating famine in 1974, there was an enormous flow of aid to Bangladesh that was required to sustain the country. Reliance on foreign aid has now created a mindset of dependancy for the government and people of Bangladesh.

Twenty-four million people live below the poverty line, the majority of which are women and children. A major factor that contributes to this is the severe subjugation of women and girls that exists in Bangladesh. Discrimination starts right at birth as the birth of a boy is favoured. Girls are breast-fed  for weeks less than boys. They are fed least and last in the family. Malnourished girls are then married off young and give birth to malnourished babies. The cycle continues.


How are we breaking this cycle?

Research shows, however, that when women are empowered, all of society benefits. When women have equal rights and earn an income, they reinvest that in things like health, nutrition and education for their families. This means that they are empowering themselves and generations to come to end their own hunger.

The Hunger Project has created initiatives that break the cycle of discrimination. We train women and men as Animators (local volunteer leaders) who are deeply engaged in bringing about real and lasting change across Bangladesh. We work at a grassroots level in select rural areas to deliver training and workshops. This includes Women’s Leadership training that provides intensive education in gender equality and legal/reproductive rights to at least two women per village.

These women then become a resource to all the women in their village, launching campaigns to stop domestic violence and child marriage for good, and educating others to transform their communities so women and girls can flourish.

Invest in a hunger-free Bangladesh today.

An Interview with Olivia Ruello, CEO of Business Chicks

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Olivia RuelloCEO of Business Chicks, Australia’s largest and most influential community for women, is a passionate and long-time supporter of The Hunger Project’s work 

At Business Chicks, they know that every woman has the capacity to do amazing things. Whether you run your own business or work in an office, they provide connection and support for women to propel themselves forward.  

Business Chicks have been one of our amazing partners since 2011. Together, we created The Business Chicks Leadership Immersion Program, an overseas trip where Business Chicks members travel with us to experience the incredible leadership and resilience of our village partners in our program countries.  

Their first ever Leadership Immersion Program in 2012 took them to Bangladesh. They were immersed in the culture and learnt leadership lessons from our village partners who are combating hunger in Bangladesh. Over the years, Business Chicks and The Hunger Project have built an amazing partnership, raising over $2 million, which has impacted the lives of women in Australia and in the communities we work in.  

Olivia Ruello shares why our partnership is such an important part of what the team at Business Chicks does every day.  

Interview with Olivia Ruello

What does the Business Chicks’ partnership with The Hunger Project mean to you? 

It’s one of the most important things we do at Business Chicks. For me personally, it is the work I feel most proud of. When you step foot in countries in which The Hunger Project work and witness first-hand the impact this work has on families, communities and more broadly in society, it’s impossible to not be inspired to do more. The Hunger Project Australia are a true partner in every sense of the word. The relationship is built on trust, shared values and a vision to see women really stepping into their power and playing a bigger game in the world.

Why is it important to the Business Chicks community to be involved in social causes? 

I think it’s important that we all play a small part as global citizens in impacting change and driving more equity in the world. It would be a missed opportunity to not mobilise the community to give back, whether that be on a very small scale or a much larger one. We all have something that we can contribute, whether it be time, money, expertise. We find in our community an abundance of generosity and many members wanting to give back and have a voice in important issues.

Why do you think that empowering women is key to creating change? 

Empower a woman and you create generational change. Women invest in their families and communities and are amazing at inspiring others to do the same. We work collectively to drive initiatives. Women are strong and resilient and fierce in the face of adversity.

Can you tell us about one inspirational leader you’ve met on a Business Chicks Leadership Immersion Program, what you learnt from her and how you have applied this back in your life?

I remember the first time I went to India with The Hunger Project. We were in a small village called Lahora, in Rajasthan. I met the village leader — her name was Badam Devi. She was an illiterate agricultural worker from a marginalised community who lowered her veil when she spoke. Against chronic corruption within the bureaucracy, as well as centuries-old patriarchy and gender inequality, Badam Devi had a vision for her community. She had built a succession plan for her tenure through the sponsorship of younger women in her village, she was courageous and determined, and she had followship like nothing I had ever witnessed. She took risks and fought hard for the rights of women and girls in her community.

I witnessed the rawest form of leadership I had ever encountered. In meeting Badam Devi I knew that anything was possible for me in my life. I knew I could do better, that I could be better, and that I had an opportunity to unlock my own leadership in a real and tangible way. It changed me and transformed my mindset from one of limitation to one of expansive abundance. I became more confident to try things and determined to keep going when things sometimes get tough. She has been a constant source of inspiration in my life.

Tell us about one outstanding moment for you where something magical happened for the Business Chicks members.

Gosh there are so many, this year was the first time I’ve gone on a Business Chicks Leadership Immersion Program. I think the most powerful moments come in the quiet conversations, on the train or around a dinner table, where there is a real breakthrough in self worth, or possibility, or something that has been holding that woman back. There were dozens of these moments in India this year.

Looking back over the years, what has the partnership created that makes your heart sing?

Hundreds of meaningful connections, lifelong friendships, an abundance of possibility and lives transformed both in Australia for our members and overseas in the countries in which the more than $2m that we have raised has gone. We’ve seen our members quit jobs that were making them unhappy, start businesses, leave marriages, commit to becoming global investors of The Hunger Project, support other causes, stand up for their rights, and support others to do the same. It’s a privilege for Business Chicks to play a small part in that.

Meet Razia: Protesting Child Marriage

530 300 The Hunger Project Australia

In Bangladesh, boys are typically valued more than girls. Girls are often pulled out of school at a young age to be married off. They aren’t able to earn an income for themselves or have a say in family decisions. They are made to look after their siblings and families, do the household chores and other manual labour instead.  

After being forced to marry at 15 years old (three years before the legal age of 18), Razia was denied an education and was forced to stay at home and provide for her new husband and start a family. No one protested her marriage. Like other girls her age who were being married, Razia soon gave birth to a boy and a girl.   

“I thought child marriage was my fate,” she says. 

She couldn’t see a way to break out of the cycle of poverty and stop own daughter from becoming a victim of child marriage just like she had been. 

The Hunger Project runs programs such as Women’s Leadership Workshops in rural communities in Bangladesh. These workshops empower women with knowledge and skills they can use to develop their own businesses to transform their situation, lift their families out of poverty, and enable other women in their village to do the same

After receiving training from The Hunger Project, Razia began a new enterprise from home — sewing — which has brought in an income. She also started a women’s self-help group to help other women save money to reinvest in their family on important things like education.  

Razia now works from home earning her own income. As she earned more income, her confidence grew. She looked to use her newfound influence to shift the perspective on local issues close to her heart, and now protests against child marriage in her village.  

I’ve learned how to raise poultry and livestock, and sew. Because of this, I now have enough savings to easily support the health and education of my children. I’ve also been able to send my own daughter to The Hunger Project’s Youth Leadership Training. Now she collaborates with other young people around here to create a harmonious society free from child marriage.  

In addition, I’ve set up my own compost plant to produce organic fertiliser for my home garden. I’ve now encouraged 20 other women in my neighbourhood to set up their own organic compost plants too.” 

The women’s group have written a list of children who have dropped out of school in the village. They are working to support them to return to studying.   

“Now, I work to protest against child marriage and make people aware of its consequences,” Razia says.