Ethiopia: Bogaletch Gebre

My dream came true. I have managed to set up a social project that incorporates essential community services, such as a school, a library, a community resources center and a health advice center.

— Bogaletch Gebre

Bogaletch Gebre was the first woman from her village to receive higher education. In 1975 she set off to the United States after she won a Fulbright scholarship to study parasitology. Later, she secured another scholarship from the Israeli government to study microbiology and physiology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She was the first Ethiopian woman to teach in the Faculty of Science at Addis Ababa University. She strives to improve the conditions of women in rural areas and give them access to a better life.

Bogaletch Gebre was born in Zato, a small village in Ethiopia. The infrastructure in the region was very poor. There is no electricity, no running drinking water, no road network, and unemployment is at its highest, particularly among the youth. Bogaletch was raised in an area deeply embedded with cultural values, where taboos such as female genital circumcision were dominant. Women had no access to education and health services. The area was so primitive that no birth certificates were issued. Bogaletch strove to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, prevention of female genital circumcision, domestic violence and gender based discrimination. She dedicated her life to working for the enhancement of her community, and she has been involved in effectuating a sustainable change to her country, particularly during the Ethiopian famine in 1984. She believes that misunderstanding of cultural principles and social customs can sometimes make life harder and limit people's social development. In her view, it is the duty of social and political activists to bridge the information gap between the local communities and to help people make informed decisions regarding development. In 1997 Bogaletch returned to her birthplace and helped to found women’s integrated Community-Based Organizations, such as Kembatti Mentti Gezzimma-Topa (KMG) or the Kembatti Women Self-Help Center in Ethiopia. This center supports women’s right to identify their needs and to take initiatives towards the betterment of their communities. KMG uses transformational methodologies that enhance communities’ capacities through dialogue. She has also helped establish multi-purpose social projects, including the Women’s Center, a school, a library, a community resources center, and a health advice center. In her work she has confronted many challenges, such as political threat, bureaucracy and lack of modern amenities.

Kembatti Mentti Gezzimma-Topa (KMG)