We never hear about accomplished Ethiopian women, even though Ethiopia is a country of nearly 90 million people. Not because there aren't any, but because their stories haven't been recorded and few outside their own circles know anything about them. This project aims to change that by telling the stories of 70 remarkable Ethiopian women who are pioneers in their fields and have expanded opportunities for girls and women in their communities. We are producing a high quality coffee table book in which these amazing women tell their own stories, talk about their early years, the evolution of their interests and careers, their motivations, their dreams, their values and their advice to young women growing up today. Beautiful photographs by internationally renowned Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh bring their stories to life on the page.
For most girls growing up in Ethiopia today, going to school and staying in school is a struggle. Most never dare to think about a life that goes beyond home and family, or to pursue a career in the face of community pressure. Ethiopia's recent constitution, adopted in 1994, incorporates strong fundamental rights for women and a framework for overcoming longstanding inequality, but societal attitudes are changing slowly. We hope this book will accelerate the improvements in women's status - offering role models for young women that can inspire them to dream big and educating the larger Ethiopian and international public about women's accomplishments. In addition to the coffee table book, we will be distributing an Amharic language version of the book to libraries, schools and girls' clubs throughout Ethiopia to help inspire the next generation of accomplished women.
I've been working on this project from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, since the summer of 2011, in partnership with Saba GebreMedhin, the executive director of the Network of Ethiopian Women's Associations (an Ethiopian women's rights advocacy organization), and with Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh. In Saba's experience, if Ethiopian high school girls name any role models at all, they usually name women from western media, such as Oprah or Beyonce. Her work promoting women's leadership and building the voice and confidence of female secondary school students convinced her that the public needed to hear the stories of successful Ethiopian women.
A 17-member volunteer advisory committee of prominent women helped identify and select the women to be featured in the book. A team of female university student volunteers helped contact, interview and profile the women selected, drawing inspiration from amazing women in the process. In the first phase of our work, we created a website, Ethiopian Women Unleashed, where we are posting profiles of the more than 130 women we interviewed as we worked on making selections for the book, along with profiles of a few historical women.
For the book, we've selected women from all over Ethiopia in a wide range of fields including farming, business, the arts, activism, international diplomacy and various other professions. We've selected them because we thought their stories were particularly inspirational.
As of July 2013, we have interviewed most of the selected women and are working on finalizing their stories; about a third have been photographed. We plan to complete the design and layout for the manuscript by late fall, print the book by early 2014 and launch it at a special event on March 8, 2014 on International Women's Day in Addis Ababa.
We can complete the manuscript with our own funds and the continued help of lots of volunteers, but we need your help to cover the cost of printing and distribution. Please help us make this happen - and inspire yourself and your family in the process.
Risks and challenges
The main challenge in completing this project on schedule is finishing the photoshoots for the book. Since we've included women from many different backgrounds, some of the women being photographed live or work in rural settings or in smaller cities outside of Addis Ababa. It is important to us that the photographs highlight each of the women in the context of their work and it can be challenging to find the right combination of time, occasion and weather, but the final product will be wonderfully interesting. Please bear with us.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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