‘Walking in her shoes’ – Bishop of Reading shares burden of Ethiopian women

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The Bishop of Reading Andrew Proud will be donned his sandals and hoisted a bundle of firewood as he walked through the shopping centre of Reading in the shoes of Ethiopian women living in poverty ahead of this year’s Christian Aid Week (May 10-16, 2015).

Bishop Andrew is joining Christian Aid in asking the British public to support women living in poverty around the world who are discriminated against from birth as part of Britain’s longest running house to house fundraising week.

Four times a week, in a remote corner of Ethiopia, Loko Jarso makes a back-breaking eight-hour trip to gather wood. With only thin flip-flops to protect her feet from thorns and rocks it’s a task she dreads, but she steels herself to do it because if she doesn’t her children will starve. To earn enough money to feed her children one small meal a day, she needs wood to sell.

Women and girls from Loko’s community are expected to fetch and carry wood and water to provide for their family. Denied a good education and the respect of their community, women are trapped in a life of poverty.

The Bishop of Reading Andrew Proud, formerly the Bishop of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa is putting on his flip-flops and ‘walking in Loko’s shoes’ through the streets of Reading to raise awareness of the difficulties many women face. He says:“All over Ethiopia, I’ve seen women just like Loko, collecting firewood to carry into the nearest town, to take to market, where they sell it to buy lentils and maybe a few onions to feed their family.

“They walk for hours each day, carrying their burdens in bare feet or flip flops made of car tyres. It is back-breaking work and these women often only live until their early forties.

“Anything we can do together to provide them with a different way, a better way to feed their families and to live longer has to be good. Please give generously, so Christian Aid can help them change their lives.”

Discrimination against women is one of the greatest injustices of our time and the statistics speak for themselves.  Globally, less than 20 per cent of landholders are women[i] and women do twice as much unpaid work as men[ii].

In many countries girls are treated like second-class citizens while boys are provided with opportunities for an education, work, food and even decision making at the expense of their sisters.

Almost as soon as girls are strong enough to walk many can spend hours fetching water and doing household chores.  Often forced into early marriages, they can also face the dangers of giving birth before their young bodies are ready.  Deprived of an education, later in life women have to rely on men for their financial security, with any hope of following their own dreams dashed, leaving them vulnerable to deprivation and violence.

Christian Aid believes this has to change – for the sake of everyone; for the sake of women, men, girls, boys, communities and societies warped by such an extreme imbalance of power.

In Ethiopia Christian Aid partner HUNDEE works with both women and men in poor rural communities to challenge violence against women and harmful traditional practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), to bring about lasting change and ensure women can live in dignity and are treated with respect.

HUNDEE encourages men to get more involved with household tasks, including looking after their children, and consult their wives about the decisions that affect them.

They also provide the poorest women in rural  communities with livestock, raising their status within society, because  when they have a cow they have a voice in community decision making, as well as a means to earn a living.

Loretta Minghella, Chief Executive of Christian Aid said: “We cannot end world poverty without addressing the fundamental issue of discrimination against women and girls.  The unequal distribution of power and opportunities between the sexes is at the heart of poverty, and we are working with both men and women in communities around the world to bring about change. We are working with partners like HUNDEE to break down the barriers and root out the injustices that hold women back, and give them a chance to stand on their own two feet.”

You can help to change the lives of women in places like Ethiopia this Christian Aid Week by donating online at www.caweek.org  calling 08080 006 006, or texting ‘WEEK to 78866 to give £5.


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