Poverty in Medebay Zana ran deep. But so did the potential for progress.

In partnership with the IKEA Foundation, Glimmer is halfway through a five-year focus on this remote Ethiopian community. Once-struggling families are transforming their daily lives and laying the foundation for a future full of prosperity.

Medebay Zana is isolated at the top of the rocky Tigray region. 20,000 families call the community home.

When Glimmer began work in a poverty-trapped Medebay Zana, families there lacked even the most essential services. Surviving was hard on even the best of days — and almost impossible on the worst.

Scarcity of clean water led to disease. Unpredictable weather and few income-generating skills meant food shortages and poor nutrition. Inadequate health care meant many women delivered babies at home in unsafe conditions, putting their health and the health of their babies at risk.

The average family of five was barely surviving on less than a dollar a day. Living on so little, there was no way to cope with drought, flooding, disease and other unexpected – and potentially life-threatening – shocks.

“My husband and I used to farm near our house, but we were always waiting on the rain as we do not have access to water for farming. We were not really successful, and our small profit was quickly spent on our daily expenses.”

— Abrehet, a 48-year-old mother of six

“I had to hustle to make sure my family had something to eat in the house.”

— Milaw, Abrehet’s husband

“My husband and I used to farm near our house, but we were always waiting on the rain as we do not have access to water for farming. We were not really successful, and our small profit was quickly spent on our daily expenses.”

— Abrehet, a 48-year-old mother of six

Like much of rural Ethiopia, women had limited opportunities to earn their own income.

“I was struggling and financially dependent on my husband’s salary. We have six children, so it wasn’t really enough. We used to struggle to meet our children’s needs.”

— Zeid, a 40-year-old married mother of six

Girls had limited opportunities to attend school. Genet, an exceptional student and leader among her peers, attended primary school in her village. With no secondary school within walking distance of her home, she was at risk of dropping out and faced even higher chances of becoming a wife and a mother before she turned 18.

“I never thought that I would be able to continue my education after grade 8.”

— Genet, in 8th grade

How Glimmer supports thriving communities.

To support struggling families in Medebay Zana and other communities across rural Ethiopia, Glimmer brings together income-generating opportunities and improved access to health care and education. By growing household stability and meeting essential needs, families become healthier and more resilient today — and can stay that way for generations to come.

Glimmer's Integrated Approach

Clean Water
Child &
Maternal Health
For Girls
Family Safety Nets
Financial Services
Food Security
Income Growth

Remarkable Results in Medebay Zana.

At the midway mark of Glimmer's five-year project in Medebay Zana, the community's transformation is exceeding every expectation.

It’s a fact: families with reliable income are more stable and resilient. They can send their children to school, make healthy lifestyle choices and weather the inevitable shocks of rural life that used to keep them entrenched in poverty.

82% Increase in Family Income

Glimmer-funded business loans provide upfront capital to farmers in Medebay Zana so they can tap into the community’s great potential for agricultural growth. The loans come with the extensive livelihood trainings and hands-on technical assistance needed to build a business that’s as sustainable as it is successful.

The opportunity to take a loan and learn important financial skills is especially empowering for women, like Abrehet and Zeid, who gain confidence and a future-brightening independence.

Abreget and her family

Abrehet with her husband, Milaw, and two of her six children, daughters Meyli and Selam. Abrehet’s family used a loan to increase their income, accessed clean water and new schools, and received health training through Glimmer’s program.

With enough income, Medebay Zana families can do even more than provide basic essentials, like food, to their children. They can invest in boosting their businesses and set money aside for both little and big emergencies.

Zeid used her loan for a dairy cow. She milks 16 liters per day and is on track to pay off her loan while creating a financial safety net at the same time.

“After I started milking the cow, my husband saw the progress of the business and became very supportive. I no longer have to wait for his salary, and I even save money for our family.”

— Zeid, at her home in Medebay Zana

Dairy products

Zeid is a member of a local dairy cooperative that Glimmer strengthened through capacity-building activities, such as providing refrigerators, cream extractors and butter makers. This equipment means she and other cooperative members can produce better quality dairy products more efficiently.

32% Decrease in Kids Missing School

When harvests and family income increase, children don’t have to miss school to work. Closer access to schools and girls’ clubs means girls can stay in school past the age of menstruation.

“The school gives us pads. Because there is a shower and restroom, we do not need to be absent from school. In primary school, we used to skip school because we would fear having stains on our clothes and being mocked by the boys. But now the boys' understanding has improved.”

— Genet, age 17 and in the 11th grade

When Glimmer built a new secondary school close to her home, Genet didn’t have to leave her education behind. She serves as a leader of her school’s girls’ club, which educates both boys and girls on menstruation, girls’ empowerment and the importance of staying in school.

Genet recently scored an exemplary 3.00 on her national exams and says, “I want to score high grades and become a doctor.”

188% Increase in Skilled Delivery

With new Glimmer health clinics and training around the importance of skilled health care for pregnant mothers, women get the specialized care they need, and babies have a healthier start at life.

“I am so glad I can teach my community about vaccinations, health center follow-ups and nutrition. It gives me a great satisfaction to see healthy babies.”

— Abrehet, who was trained as a health outreach volunteer

What's Next For Medebay Zana?

Medebay Zana has the potential to end poverty in every form, across every one of its villages. Glimmer will continue to support this vibrant community through the second half of this sustainable project by distributing loans, strengthening local financial cooperatives and making improvements to health and education programs.

That means more families will be able to grow their financial resources and provide better lives for their children. More people will gain access to lifesaving health services and opportunities in education. And more women will be empowered to make their own financial decisions — inspiring each other and the next generation of boys and girls.

Inspiring each other and the next generation of boys and girls