Action for Gender Equality Summit 2014

International Woman’s Day was last weekend and Peace Corps Ethiopia hosted its first ever “Action for Gender Equality” Summit in Addis Ababa.  This event, organized and planned by PCE’s Gender and Development Committee, brought around 40 students from all over the country to participate in a variety of activities, culminating in the “Women First 5K” run on Sunday.   I was lucky enough to be invited along to be the official photographer.  I spent the weekend taking way too many pictures and want to share a few of my favorites here, along with the stories behind them.  While I’m not a photojournalist, I can pretend sometimes!

But first, here is a nice quote from the Peace Corps Director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet:

“[…] I am honored to oversee an organization that sees the empowerment of women and girls as so central to its humanitarian mission. I encourage you to pause for a moment during this month to consider how the world is a better place when women and girls are living out their true potential.” Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Acting Peace Corps Director in the March Peace Corps Update.

Walk a Kilometer in Her Shoes Activity.  To kick off the Action for Gender and Equality Summit, two boys teams competed against each other completing a variety of traditional "female only" tasks which included walking in jelly shoes, chopping vegetables, hauling water, and serving others; all the while carrying a baby (the water balloon).

Walk a Kilometer in Her Shoes Activity. To kick off the Action for Gender and Equality Summit, two boys teams competed against each other completing a variety of traditional “female only” tasks which included walking in jelly shoes, chopping vegetables, hauling water, and serving others; all the while carrying a baby (the water balloon).

Walk a Kilometer in Her Shoes Activity

Walk a Kilometer in Her Shoes Activity

Walk a Kilometer in Her Shoes Activity

Walk a Kilometer in Her Shoes Activity

Walk a Kilometer in Her Shoes Activity

Walk a Kilometer in Her Shoes Activity

Each Peace Corps Volunteer brought at least 2 youth from their community to participate in this summit.  There were around 40 students and 20 Peace Corps Volunteers/facilitators coming from all four regions where we have volunteers: Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, and SNNPR.

Each Peace Corps Volunteer brought at least 2 youth from their community to participate in this summit. There were around 40 students and 20 Peace Corps Volunteers/facilitators coming from all four regions where we have volunteers: Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, and SNNPR.

The United States embassy and the Ambassador Patricia M. Haslach put their weight behind this event helping to promote the Summit.  Unfortunately the Ambassador couldn't attend in person, although she did make a personal video addressing the students.  Therefore, the Acting Ambassador, the Charge d'Affaires, Molly Phee, came to talk to the students and offered words of wisdom, encouragement, and advice from her career.

The United States embassy and the Ambassador Patricia M. Haslach put their weight behind this event helping to promote the Summit. Unfortunately the Ambassador couldn’t attend in person, although she did make a personal video addressing the students. Therefore, the Acting Ambassador, the Charge d’Affaires, Molly Phee, came to talk to the students and offered words of wisdom, encouragement, and advice from her career.

Yikaalo asks the "Deputy Chief of Mission" a question

Yikaalo asks the “Deputy Chief of Mission” a question

The students were encouraged to ask questions and delivered with a wide variety of intelligent questions which included everything from high level policy to personal anecdotes.

The students were encouraged to ask questions and delivered with a wide variety of intelligent questions which included everything from high level policy to personal anecdotes.

Here are some questions from one student.  The first one is adorable: "How many children do u have and if u have a girl child what do u do to make her to be like you?"

Here are some questions from one student. The first one is adorable: “How many children do u have and if u have a girl child what do u do to make her to be like you?”

We Are Strong Pinatas!  Students wrote down things that are preventing gender equality in Ethiopia on pinatas.

We Are Strong Pinatas! Students wrote down things that are preventing gender equality in Ethiopia on pinatas.

They also wrote down a response to the prompt: "I am a strong woman because..." or "I can help gender equality by..."

They also wrote down a response to the prompt: “I am a strong woman because…” or “I can help gender equality by…”

Students then took turns reading their statements aloud to their peers and then took  a whack at the pinata to symbolically smash gender inequality in Ethiopia.

Students then took turns reading their statements aloud to their peers and then took a whack at the pinata to symbolically smash gender inequality in Ethiopia.

Smash Gender Inequality in Ethiopia

Smash Gender Inequality in Ethiopia

We Are Strong

Gender 101:  This session introduced students to the difference between gender and sex and how gender roles influence society.  Students placed cards under male or female (or in the middle) based on different criteria in an exercise designed to explore gender roles in Ethiopia.

Gender 101: This session introduced students to the difference between gender and sex and how gender roles influence society. Students placed cards under male or female (or in the middle) based on different criteria in an exercise designed to explore gender roles in Ethiopia.

Selome Taddesse, came to speak to the students about social activism and her highly successful career.  The session was in Amharic, so I was a bit lost, but the kids were enthralled with her story of success as a woman in Ethiopia.

Selome Taddesse, came to speak to the students about social activism and her highly successful career. The session was in Amharic, so I was a bit lost, but the kids were enthralled with her story of success as a woman in Ethiopia.

Selome Taddesse

Selome Taddesse

Asking Selome Taddesse a question.

Asking Selome Taddesse a question.

Giving Selome Taddesse a thank you "Kilo"

Giving Selome Taddesse a thank you “Kilo”

Grassroots Soccer: Team Handball.  Students participated in one session, called Team Handball, from the GRS Peace Corps Skillz curriculum, that many of us are implementing in sites all around Ethiopia.  The key message of the session is to encourage healthy communication skills.  Plus it's a lot of fun.  Breanne and counterpart, Atota, lead the students through a discussion after the game focused on communication skills.

Grassroots Soccer: Team Handball. Students participated in one session, called Team Handball, from the GRS Peace Corps Skillz curriculum, that many of us are implementing in sites all around Ethiopia. The key message of the session is to encourage healthy communication skills. Plus it’s a lot of fun.

Grassroots Soccer: Team Handball.

Grassroots Soccer: Team Handball

Grassroots Soccer: Team Handball.

Grassroots Soccer: Team Handball

Breanne and counterpart, Atota, lead the students through a discussion after the game focused on communication skills.

Breanne and counterpart, Atota, lead the students through a discussion after the game focused on communication skills.

Michael leads students in a Skillz Cheer after the game and discussion.

Michael leads students in a Skillz Cheer after the game and discussion.

In the afternoon, we visited Addis Ababa University for a campus tour.

In the afternoon, we visited Addis Ababa University for a campus tour.

In the afternoon, we visited Addis Ababa University for a campus tour.

In the afternoon, we visited Addis Ababa University for a campus tour.

After the tour current University students lead a question and answer session about college life and their personal experiences leading up to their college education.

After the tour current University students lead a question and answer session about college life and their personal experiences leading up to their college education.

Listening to Q&A with current University students at Addis Ababa University.

Listening to Q&A with current University students at Addis Ababa University.

Students being lead through a guided visualization about their future in preparation for the "life tree" activity.

Students being lead through a guided visualization about their future in preparation for the “life tree” activity.

In the evening, all the students created "life trees" that depicted their short and long term goals.  They also wrote down potential obstacles and ways of overcoming those obstacles.

In the evening, all the students created “life trees” that depicted their short and long term goals. They also wrote down potential obstacles and ways of overcoming those obstacles.

Life Tree Activity

Life Tree Activity

Life Tree Activity

Life Tree Activity

Gifti is going to become a doctor, after completing her schooling at Jimma University.

Gifti is going to become a doctor, after completing her schooling at Jimma University.

Life Tree Activity

Life Tree Activity

Abrahm (right) wrote that he is going to be a hacker in the future and that one of his potential obstacles is the FBI.  A kid's gotta dream right?

Abrahm (right) wrote that he is going to be a hacker in the future and that one of his potential obstacles is the FBI. A kid’s gotta dream right?

On race day, girls and boys painted Ethiopian colors as they prepared for the big event.

On race day, girls and boys painted Ethiopian colors as they prepared for the big event.

On race day, girls and boys painted Ethiopian colors as they prepared for the big event.

On race day, girls and boys painted Ethiopian colors as they prepared for the big event.

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Mary, the Gender Defender, helps apply face paint on race day.

Mary, the Gender Defender, helps apply face paint on race day.

And that's me, Mr. Photoman.

And that’s me, Mr. Photoman.

Peace Corps Ethiopia's Gender and Development (GAD) committee has been working on this summit since completing the run last year.  It's taken months of planning and coordinating to pull it off.  But they did it!  By the way, I wrote about last year's run on this blog.

Peace Corps Ethiopia’s Gender and Development (GAD) committee has been working on this summit since completing the run last year. It’s taken months of planning and coordinating to pull it off. But they did it! By the way, I wrote about last year’s run on this blog.

And they're off!!!

And they’re off!!!

The boys made signs to show their support for the women.  They came to the race to cheer on the women at a few different cheering stations that we set up along the route.  As I wrote last year, this is a HUGE deal in Ethiopia.  In America, it's common to see supporters cheering and encouraging runners but it's way less common here, especially when all the runners are women and don't belong to the elite celebrity running club of famous runners.  The boys did their best and did a hell of a job showing other spectators that men can support women too.

The boys made signs to show their support for the women. They came to the race to cheer on the women at a few different cheering stations that we set up along the route. As I wrote last year, this is a HUGE deal in Ethiopia. In America, it’s common to see supporters cheering and encouraging runners but it’s way less common here, especially when all the runners are women and don’t belong to the elite celebrity running club of famous runners. The boys did their best and did a hell of a job showing other spectators that men can support women too.

More cheering from the boys

More cheering from the boys

AGE_Summit_Day2_51

The girls were full of energy and enthusiasm for the whole race.  Chanting, singing, and dancing the whole way.  "Everywhere we go.  People wanna know.  Who we are.  So we tell them.  We are girls.  MIGHTY MIGHTY GIRLS!"

The girls were full of energy and enthusiasm for the whole race. Chanting, singing, and dancing the whole way. “Everywhere we go. People wanna know. Who we are. So we tell them. We are girls. MIGHTY MIGHTY GIRLS!”

AGE_Summit_Day2_57

AGE_Summit_Day2_64

Getting support from one of the boys cheering stations

Getting support from one of the boys cheering stations

Some of the boys at one of the cheering stations.

Some of the boys at one of the cheering stations.

The girls showed their thanks for the cheering stations by spraying the boys with water.  Wait, that's not equality!!!?

The girls showed their thanks for the cheering stations by spraying the boys with water. Wait, that’s not equality!!!?

Out team among the crowd.  This year over 7,000 women and girls participated in the race.  Read more about it here.

Our team among the crowd. This year over 7,000 women and girls participated in the race. Read more about it here.

YES!

YES!

Don't mess with the Gender Defender or there will be hell to pay.

Don’t mess with the Gender Defender or there will be hell to pay.

AGE_Summit_Day2_158

Some of the boys at one of the cheering stations.

Some of the boys at one of the cheering stations.

Another one of our cheering stations.

Another one of our cheering stations.

This is Peace Corps Ethiopia's Country Director Greg Engle cheering on the women.  But what I really like about this picture is the guy standing next to him.  I have no idea who this is.  And that's the point.  This is some guy who was passing by and decided to join in and support these women and girls who were running the race.  Maybe we made it look so fun that he couldn't resist?  Regardless, we need more guys like this, more "positive deviants" to help make gender equality a reality in Ethiopia.

This is Peace Corps Ethiopia’s Country Director Greg Engle cheering on the women. But what I really like about this picture is the guy standing next to him. I have no idea who this is. And that’s the point. This is some guy who was passing by and decided to join in and support these women and girls who were running the race. Maybe we made it look so fun that he couldn’t resist? Regardless, we need more guys like this, more “positive deviants” to help make gender equality a reality in Ethiopia.

The female PCVs took turns leading cheers throughout the whole race.  They tirelessly lead these girls to the finish line one call and response at a time.

The female PCVs took turns leading cheers throughout the whole race. They tirelessly lead these girls to the finish line one call and response at a time.

AGE_Summit_Day2_155

About to cross the finish line after completing the 5k!

About to cross the finish line after completing the 5k!

This is Maureen, Greg's wife, and former PCV.  She was right in there with our team, full of energy and support the whole way.

This is Maureen, Greg’s wife, and former PCV. She was right in there with our team, full of energy and support the whole way.

GAD members leading a celebratory cheer after finishing the race.  I believe this is the "Anbassa" Kilo (lion cheer).  rawr.

GAD members leading a celebratory cheer after finishing the race. I believe this is the “Anbassa” Kilo (lion cheer). rawr.

Proud women with their finishing medals!

Proud women with their finishing medals!

Lauren and her Adwa girls came by bus all the way from Tigray, practically in Eritrea, to participate in the event.  That's two solid days on the bus for a total of around 20 hours of busing to get here.  And yes, that's only one way.

Lauren and her Adwa girls came by bus all the way from Tigray, practically in Eritrea, to participate in the event. That’s two solid days on the bus for a total of around 20 hours of busing to get here. And yes, that’s only one way.

AGE_Summit_Day2_159

Winner winner chicken dinner!

Winner winner chicken dinner!

Here is the classic Peace Corps photo.  Someone put this in a brochure already.  Smiling kids, engaging and creative activity, Peace Corps logo, and a dashing PCV, Ryan, leading them to brighter futures!  Propaganda at its finest.

Here is the classic Peace Corps photo. Someone put this in a brochure already. Smiling kids, engaging and creative activity, Peace Corps logo, and a dashing PCV, Ryan, leading them to brighter futures! Propaganda at its finest.

This game, similar to the board game Life, was developed in Ethiopia by Peace Corps Volunteers to teach youth about family planning and its consequences.  Hats off to Lisa Wong and others involved in this game's creation.  "You have to go to Addis Ababa to take your children to the hospital because they have a bacterial infection from drinking contaminated water.  Pay 1 Bunala per child..."

This game, similar to the board game Life, was developed in Ethiopia by Peace Corps Volunteers to teach youth about family planning and its consequences. Hats off to Lisa Wong and others involved in this game’s creation. “You have to go to Addis Ababa to take your children to the hospital because they have a bacterial infection from drinking contaminated water. Pay 1 Bunala per child…”

AGE_Summit_Day2_129

After hearing from several strong and accomplished women, Peace Corps Ethiopia's Country Director Greg Engle took the floor to offer a male perspective on gender equality in Ethiopia.

After hearing from several strong and accomplished women, Peace Corps Ethiopia’s Country Director Greg Engle took the floor to offer a male perspective on gender equality in Ethiopia.

Michael and Atota lead the boys through a discussion about healthy relationships.

Michael and Atota lead the boys through a discussion about healthy relationships.

And yes, there were condom demonstrations and time to practice for boys and girls.

And yes, there were condom demonstrations and time to practice for boys and girls.

Sally hugging one of the students she brought from Bonga after finishing the race.

Sally hugging one of the students she brought from Bonga after finishing the race.

About copelaf

photographer, writer, engineer, eater, traveler, and - occasionally - a thinker.
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3 Responses to Action for Gender Equality Summit 2014

  1. Pingback: International Woman’s Day – A 5K Celebration | Wanderings and Wonderings

  2. Pamela Long says:

    What an amazing and giving group of fine young Peace Corp. Volunteers!! You have made a dramatic change and for most….. it is a turning point in the lives of these young African people! This is a heartwarming and soul stirring photo journal account showing the great work that is being done in Africa thanks to all of you!! Thank you to my caring granddaughter, Breanne Lott, and all of the other fine volunteer’s who commit over two years and more, to reach out,, teach, and to help make such monumental changes in the world!!

    God Bless all of you for your unselfish support, love, and time given for such a wonderful cause. This is what we should be seeing on “World News”, things of merit like what these young leaders have done to make such positive changes, instead of all the negative and bad press we see on television!! A special thank you to Forrest for all of his awesome photos that tells a beautiful story!

  3. Pingback: Action for Gender Equality Summit – 2015u | Forrest Copeland

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