For many young women in Ethiopia, opportunity is the missing link between poverty and prosperity. To address this gap, the University Preparation Camp for Ethiopian Young Women is committed to creating opportunities for young women and helping them achieve their ambitions of a university education and becoming leaders in their community. That is why the U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) with funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), chose to partner with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs and three Ethiopian universities on this inspiring project to identify successful strategies for preventing young women from dropping out of college.
Ethiopia has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. The main challenge for Ethiopia is to sustain this growth and link it to improved prosperity for its population. Education is a powerful tool for tackling this challenge. The world has become increasingly aware of the lack of resources and support available to help women pursue higher education or enter the workforce. And as Secretary Hilary Clinton has rightfully said, “A country cannot advance when half of its population (women) is left behind.”
I am proud to stand here today before these hopeful young women and to be part of the effort to help them achieve their dreams of becoming university graduates. Women have shown that they can transform societies rapidly when equipped with the advanced education and life skills necessary to fill leadership positions within their communities and countries. The experience of the first participants in this “prep camp” will serve as a model for future participants.
A pillar in Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan is, and I quote, “Enhancing expansion and quality of social development” and identifies higher education and adult education as key priorities. Ethiopia recognizes that young women face significant challenges within the education system and has set goals to improve their access and remove obstacles that impede them from succeeding in university.
Young women who successfully navigate the transition to university are already positive role models to others. Those who go on to complete their final year can serve as mentors to incoming university students.
Within the next three years, the University Preparation Camp will reach 2,250 female university students at the universities of Addis Ababa, Jimma and Adama Science and Technology University. It is envisioned that the University Preparation Camp will help prevent the drop out of female students.
I want to thank the implementing partners of this program: Education Development Center and Family Health International 360. I would also like to thank the partners who help make the program a reality: the U.S. Peace Corps and the faculty and staff of the three pioneering universities. Thank you all for committing to help women in university succeed, to take on difficult coursework, adjust socially, practice healthy behaviors, maintain personal safety, and find appropriate accommodation, transportation, and even economic opportunity.
Above all, I am pleased to be here today to personally extend congratulations to the first group of young women to complete the preparatory training and to encourage you as you embark on your higher education experience to support each other, to study in groups, classes, manage your time carefully, and be active in clubs on campus. The prep camp will provide you continued counseling in your first year of university and you should know you have the support and the encouragement of the American people. Seize the opportunity. It will be worth the sacrifice now for a bright future for yourselves, your families and communities, and ultimately for your country.
Last updated: September 18, 2013