Dumey School has seen a roll explosion over the past three years: with 466 previously out-of-school children signing up to learn.

Excitingly – in an area of Ethiopia with unequal gender roles – almost half of the new students are girls.

“We are very much happy about the growth in the number of children we managed to enroll within such a short period,” says Abdulahi Roba, Chairperson of Dumey School. “The number of girls enrolled in our school is also encouraging, but we have to work much more.”

Championing female education in Ethiopia is not easy: traditional attitudes often devalue women’s place in society and harmful practices, like early marriage, gets in the way of education.

The imagine1day Girl Fund is changing that.

“The main problem is that most parents are not yet committed to sending their girls to school and, as a result, girls’ participation is too low,” says Abdulahi. “The response from both the community and parents is not to the level we expect it.”

Dumey School and imagine1day formed a school Girls Club in 2015, equipped with supplies and leadership training.

Seada, 14, from Dumey School.

Seada, 14, from Dumey School.

Seada Redwan, 14, is the current Girls Club chairperson. “We meet every two weeks. We talk about the problem of girls’ school dropout and factors affecting girls in our community, especially the issue of early marriage. Our teacher coordinator facilitates the discussion and helps us think about what we can do in our school to mitigate the impact of such harmful traditional practices,” explains Seada.

One tactic the 63 registered club members came up with was to create handicrafts at each meeting. The income from the sale of these handicrafts is used to support girls from the most needy families, helping them stay in school.

Seada is one of just nine girls in her Grade 6 class. She knows she is fortunate to have parents who supported her education, and is determined to make the most of it: “I want to grow up and become successful in my education. My ambition is to become an engineer.”

She is also determined that more girls get the education she had: a determination that is coming true. Last year, the number of Grade 1 girls enrolled was its highest ever – at 58 – and almost on parity with boys.