In recent years, the Southern Ethiopian tradition of Hirpha Debere had fallen into disuse. Hirpha Debere had been a way for people in the Gorodola region to assist less fortunate members of their community by transferring part of their livestock wealth to those in need during times of hardship.
Those who had received help in the past had the opportunity to pay it forward and provide help for others in the future. This traditional practice helped many in the region to support their families and overcome poverty.
The International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) teamed up with local NGO, Dubaf, to try to revive the tradition of Hirpha Debere and use livestock to empower disadvantaged girls. As part of IIRR’s Economic and Social Empowerment of Youth (ESEY) program, Dubaf purchased 70 young female goats. These goats were distributed to 35 disadvantage girls in seven pastoral associations. In addition to the two goats each girl was given by Dubaf and IIRR, as part of the arrangement the girls’ parents added one additional female goat to the mix. The goats each gave birth at least once, which enabled the girls to give a goat to another young girl.
Prior to her participation in the ESEY program, 16-year-old Rehima had been consigned to staying at home to do chores while her two brothers attended school. By selling the goats she received from Dubaf and IIRR, Rehima was able to open a small shop. Not only does this shop earn extra money for Rehima’s family, the money she raised by selling goats also enabled Rehima to return to school and pursue further education.
Managing livestock provides girls like Rehima with more than just money: it provides them with the opportunity to return to school, and it teaches them the skills they need to run a business or be community leaders. The Goats for Girls program is helping to build a future where girls in Southern Ethiopia own property and improve their economic standing—a future where these girls can be part of communities that recognize their value and importance as women.
IIRR programs are driven by the communities where they are implemented. Listening to members of the community and enacting community-driven programs is a core part of IIRR’s philosophy and has been a key to the success of many IIRR programs. With the Goats for Girls program, IIRR worked with a local partner to breathe new life into a centuries-old practice. IIRR draws on local knowledge and local practices to help empower communities.