Our goal is to give all Ethiopian children access to quality education, but that doesn’t mean we solely impact kids. Meet Makida, a mother so inspired by her community’s new school, she returned to study herself.

The story of Makida Adam, a mother in the Meda Welabu region, begins like too many others in Ethiopia: She was forced to quit school after entering into an early marriage. In Ethiopia, 16 percent of girls are married before the age of 15, and 41 percent will be married before 18. In rural communities, those number are even higher and, for most, that means an end to any future education.

Makida Adem

Makida Adam, who has returned to study after quitting school due to an early marriage.

Makida, though, was inspired by the construction of Gobele Sharyn Primary School, a five-classroom school that we opened in October 2014. She saw a chance to gain the education that was denied to her, and grabbed it with passion.

She re-enrolled and this year graduated to Grade Five, an achievement she had never thought possible.

But Makida was not finished. In September she launched a campaign to enroll other mothers and now 19 mothers are joining her at school. She worked tirelessly with the PTA to encourage each and every girl in her community to get an education. Her passion has been a key factor in the number of girls enrolled increasing from 65 in the inaugural year to 176 girls for the 2015/16 academic year.

“There is a cultural influence on girl’s education. We are responsible to break it. I have to be one of the community members to overcome this traditional problem by first being in school myself and creating awareness among parents about the value of girl’s education,” said Makida. “Educating girls is educating the whole community.”

Encouraging women to attend school, and their husbands in supporting them, is not easy in Ethiopia. Cultural traditions continue to value a woman’s role at home over the value of education. With inspiring figures like Makida, we can change this.

Gobele Sharyn Primary School is named after Sharyn Mandel, a teacher for 30 years who put her heart and soul into education. Upon being diagnosed with cancer in 2013, Sharyn imparted her final wish to her sons; to provide quality education for children who lacked the opportunity and, in particular, build a school in an area where the educational opportunities would benefit girls.

As we see, her legacy is not just benefiting girls, but all women.