by Joe McCarthy
Morning comes early in Ethiopia. The bright African sun takes its royal place against a big, azure blue sky. We leave Dangila promptly at 7:30 a.m. having traveled 400KM from Addis Ababa in the past three days.
Streams of people walk along the edge of the road, guiding their goats, sheep, cattle and mules to market. A parade of humanity reminiscent of Biblical times creates a Moses –like image in my mind. Wearing nothing on their feet, women carry massive bundles on their backs, men balance long eucalyptus branches on their shoulders, and children shadow their parents as if tied to an invisible bilical cord.
The steady stream of people march to a silent cacophony of eternal and internal drum beats, unheard by the visitors from America. Life in Ethiopia has a unique rhythm. Literally, we have entered a time capsule and gone back in time.
On the road to Injibara, we see a huge group of people in a field. Most are draped in white. Horses ornately decorated with red and gold regalia graze, heads bowed, as if in mourning. Our driver, Zarian, tell us it is a funeral of a wealthy man, possibly military. We stop at the side of the road and view this ancient, Ethiopian, funeral ceremony. The dancing, gyrations of the people suddenly stop; a funeral wail, a piercing ululululu sweeps across the field. We linger a short time more. The ululations continue to echo in my ears as we resume our journey toward Injibara.
In the past three days, the specter of Aids/HIV and its prevention plays a central part in our visit to the Amhara Region of Ethiopia. It is only three decades since HIV/AIDS started in Ethiopia but in this short time its impact has been massive. We are talking not about an epidemic of AIDS, but a pandemic of AIDS cannibalizing the social fabric of the Ethiopian community. HOPe made a commitment to APA and CVM to support a major initiative to educate, train, and empower the most vulnerable people in the Ethiopian community, namely women, House Maids, orphans and street children.
The major mission of this initiative is to foster the development of competent women movements, capable to confront the spread of HIV virus and the consequences of the AIDS pandemic, through an increased awareness and self-protection of women rights, in a coordinated manner with appropriate and long term sustainable strategies. HOPe, as an organization, felt that we should visit Ethiopia to execute our due diligence responsibilities to monitor the expenditure of a sizable amount of money.
Today we visited three aspects of this initiative:
·The training of 7th and 8th grade girls in respect to AIDS/HIV prevention by older peers who have been trained as peer counselors. We witnessed the use of drama, music and classroom instruction to promote AIDS awareness and prevent its spread. This training has provided awareness for 6, 685 girls as of 2010.
·Housemaids, considered by their owners, in many instances as serfs, if not slaves, are considered by many in Ethiopia as chattel. Today, as a result of the efforts of APA/CVM and HOPe, Associations of Housemaids, have been empowered to stand up for their rights and are now legally recognized by the government. We met with a number of housemaids who expressed their appreciation for the training they have received.
·Rural women with AIDS/HIV have been organized, receive training in business techniques, AIDS/HIV prevention, receive a sum of money and have successfully started their own businesses.
I had the privilege of being invited to this women’s home in a town called Charro, (which in Amharic means “The rain is coming.” In short, I have been extremely impressed at the magnitude, breadth, and scope of the work that is being done. A great investment by HOPe in a most ambitions, impactful, and successful initiative.
In the past four days, we have shared a geography and a landscape of memories not soon forgotten. The magic and mystical web spun by our Ethiopian journey lay claim to our hearts!!
Photo 1 courtesy John Spooner via Flickr