Ethiopia: In Ethiopia, Three Young Women Educate Classmates (March 2009)

On March 5, 2009, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa honored three female students, Bezawit Demessu, Yodit Tesfaye and Medhanit Bogale, who excelled at raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence (GBV) through their school's mini media — a media center on campus that students use to inform, educate and entertain follow classmates.

"We rely on leaders like you who have the courage to speak out about HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and gender-based violence," said Aberra Mekonnen, Chief of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Basic Education Services. "Today I would like to congratulate you all and ask you to continue to raise awareness of safe sex, and that violence against women and girls is unacceptable, that it harms development, and damages lives and opportunities."

The contest was developed by the U.S. Embassy and Ethiopia's AIDS Resource Center with support from the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AID Relief (PEPFAR.) Together they surveyed the 20 public high schools in the area that had mini media centers and created a venue for teachers to nominate students that used these centers to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS and GBV. After all 60 nominees were reviewed and scored, it was Demessu, Tesfaye and Bogale's courage and innovation that won them the awards from the U.S. Embassy.

Demessu, the first place winner, received an award for educating her schoolmates about HIV/AIDS and reproductive health through organized traditional coffee ceremonies and her school's mini media. In addition to raising awareness through her school's media outlets, Demessu also continually encouraged her schoolmates to get tested for HIV and accompanied them to test centers if asked. Tesfaye received the second place award for her efforts to raise funds to strengthen the HIV-related programming in her school and for empowering and encouraging fellow female students to participate in mini media. Third place winner Bogale received the award for her leadership in the revival of her school's mini media and her innovative and outstanding HIV-related mini media programs.

U.S. Embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission Deborah Malac praised the work of the three young ladies while presenting them with their awards.

"PEPFAR supports efforts to provide women with economic opportunities to empower them to avoid high-risk behaviors, seek and receive health care services, and care for their families," she said. "We admire the courage you have shown in your schools to avert the impact of HIV."

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