In rural Ethiopia, child marriage and stigma around menstruation can prevent girls from continuing their education. According to UNICEF, many girls drop out before they reach high school, with only 25% attending by ninth and tenth grade. Derartu, in eighth grade, is on the cusp of heading to high school and is seeing this trend in her community of Oda Bultum, Oromia.

Derartu smiling

Derartu leads her school’s girls’ club—a safe, supportive space for students to gain confidence and stay in school. The club distributes sanitary pads and creates a space for the girls to talk about menstruation openly. They also advocate against child marriage and gender-based violence. Derartu said, “We stop any sort of abuse, we report it and work closely with the local women’s association.”

Derartu and her friends came up with a plan to set aside some of the money Glimmer invests in girls’ clubs to establish a small business that sells coffee and tea. The proceeds will allow the girls’ club to continue long after Derartu and her friends graduate—ensuring that more girls will receive support to continue their education.

Derartu’s girls’ club is thriving. This year, they doubled their membership and saw an increase in school attendance. Last year only one girl from Derartu’s school took the exam to continue past the eighth grade. But through the girls’ club’s efforts this year, nine girls—including Derartu—registered for the exam.

Glimmer staff standing together with girls' club participants

Glimmer staff visits Derartu and her friends in girls’ club.

Derartu dreams of becoming a doctor and saves the money she earns from working at a snack stall after school to one day attend university. She hopes that her story will empower other girls to use their voice and stay in school. Out of her seven sisters, Derartu was the first to demand an education. Now, Derartu is teaching her younger sister what she’s learning so that she can follow in her footsteps.