Women & Children

Transforming Passion into Action

The Minogelti Women's Cooperative leadership

The Minogelti Women’s Cooperative is achieving their goals with the help of Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation

Cross Cultural Journeys is a travel company passionate about understanding indigenous cultures around the world. Through their foundation, they have partnered with GTLI to empower the women of Minogelti kebele 1, Hamer Woreda 2, South Omo Zone (home of 16 ethnic groups) in the SW corner of Ethiopia.

Cross Cultural Journeys became acquainted with our initiatives when their group of adventurers visited GTLI’s remote field camp in February 2014. Several of the explorers became immediate supporters of GTLI’s orphan program and others decided to combine their resources to strengthen and increase the capacity of the Minogelti’s women cooperative – one of the most effective and sustainable methods to build the resiliency of an indigenous community.

Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation and GTLI partnership began in February of 2015 with three goals for the Minogelti Women’s Cooperative:

  •  increase the productive time of women
  •  begin changing the cultural norms in favor of female education
  • empower the women to advocate for themselves and their community

This project has been transformative for the women and the entire Minogelti community.

A grinding mill that had been installed a few years earlier–to relieve the women of several hours a day grinding grain by hand–had fallen into disrepair and was no longer functional. The Cooperative was unable to locate and engage a mechanic to maintain the mill.

Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation in collaboration with a generous private donor provided the funds to refurbish the mill and train the women to perform preventative maintenance, make minor repairs, and maintain an inventory of spare parts. The women have also learned how to weigh grain properly and record income and expenses daily. The women are now empowered to operate and maintain their grinding mill.

Coop members weighing grain

Coop members learn how to weigh grain and record transactions

A second significant investment by Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation was facilitating Integrated Functional Vocational Literacy classes (IFVL) for the community. Ten women enrolled and regularly attended, alongside men, to learn basic literacy and numeracy skills. Our IFVL schools include activities that reinforce healthy hygiene and sanitation, reproductive health, and nutrition behaviors. By including exercises that talk about diversifying diets and other skills, IFVL is able to positively influence a family’s nutrition at the same time women are gaining the skills to earn money to purchase food. And when men and women practice joint problem-solving in these activities, their respect for each other increases.

Through their successes in IFVL, cooperative members and their families are now eating eggs daily and earning income by selling them. One cooperative member sold enough eggs to buy a goat! The community is eager to have another IFVL program. This is a shift in favor of gender equality and a concrete demonstration of the benefits of education—the women are directly contributing to family food and household assets.

Another significant outcome for the community is the Cooperative management team is now able to communicate in Amharic, the national language. Coop Chairwoman Gulo Bola is able to use her mobile phone to communicate with government officials and the South Omo Zone Cooperative Union. Since limited officials speak the tribal language, or have the confidence to use a mobile phone, Gulo is able to facilitate logistics for the cooperative and advocate for the entire community.  Women Cooperative members are now treated as important community decision makers and advocates.


Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation’s investment in the Minogeti Women’s Cooperative has resulted in recognition nationally, regionally, and locally:

  • The government paid for Minogelti Women’s Coop Chair Gulo Bola to participate in the 2015 National Pastoralist Day in Afar (remote NE region of Ethiopia) where she was presented a trophy cup by Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalgn
  • The Southern Nations & Nationalities Peoples Region awarded the Cooperative a flat screen TV in appreciation of their accomplishments. Unfortunately, Minogelti does not have electricity so they will auction off the TV in the future!
  • South Omo Zone Women Affairs Office acknowledged their pioneering accomplishments with a large trophy cup.

By the numbers


The number of Women Cooperative members who earned their first profit sharing distribution in August 2016.


The number of goats the Cooperative has accumulated to trade for maize and sorghum


The coop paid Cooperative Union dues of $225 (5,000 birr) which gives them access to bulk purchasing and transportation, providing them an overall savings of $4,450 (98,000 birr) for products they sell: oil, soap, batteries, tea, biscuits, beads, razor blades, sorghum and maize.


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Marti MartindaleTransforming Passion into Action

Meet this amazing Dasenech role model

Gelte Mine

Gelte Mine, pictured with her daughter Kognang, is a 35-year-old Dasenech widow and mother of 7 children. When Gelte was asked how her family’s quality of life was affected by GTLI, she replied, “We eat much, much better and we no longer have diarrhea. I am now self-confident. I do not let the brothers of my dead husband control me. My eyes have been opened. I say, GTLI is mizap” (the highest compliment in Dasenech language).

Prior to GTLI’s work with Gelte’s community, the lives of the women and girls were determined by traditional standards, values, and rules of conduct. Women were valued only for bride-price, labor, and number of offspring; females had no representation in the household or community; women were denied freedoms of speech, influence, and education; women owned no assets and had no authority over household assets or finances; and women and girls accepted violent and abusive disciplinary behavior. Other cultural practices that adversely affect Dasenech females include female genital cutting and early forced marriages.

Gelte reports that her life and the lives of other village women started to improve when they learned that women should be equal to men through their participation with men in GTLI’s Integrated Functional Vocational Literacy classes. She said, “I gained the confidence to refuse my husband’s brothers. They used to force me and my children to wait until after they ate all our food. We were always hungry. Now, I no longer wait for the men to eat—we eat together. Also, my children and I only drink filtered river water. We are so happy that the diarrhea has gone away.”

Gelte defied very stringent cultural mores when she decided to start using modern contraceptives after participating in GTLI’s Community-Based Learning in Action Healthy Children. She does not want to have a baby by the brothers of her (dead) husband! Gelte managed to save $100 when she was employed as a Community Health Promoter for a GTLI Emergency WASH project. This exceptional role model is now the cashier of the women’s cooperative and a member of the Community Empowerment Committee.

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Marti MartindaleMeet this amazing Dasenech role model

A blue hat special welcome!

Guerenarema, Dasenech participants in a GTLI project

A warm welcome for GTLI by the Dasenech people of Guerenarema, South Omo Zone, Ethiopia

The people of Guerenarema welcomed us in July with this heartwarming celebration! We were there to check up on the progress our Women’s Strengthening project, and we were greeted with overwhelming enthusiasm from both the women and men of the community.

The people are thrilled that they have learned to read and write Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia. This simple skill is an important step in improving their long term survival. They are better able to negotiate with merchants and communicate effectively with government officials in charge of providing them important services.

Two years ago Guerenarema was at the bottom of a long list of Dasenech communities unable to adapt to their rapidly changing environment. They had access to clean water, because they had participated in our WASH project in 2014-2015. But they had no school, no health facility, and no community-based microenterprise of any kind. Access to food was not dependable, and the people were barely subsisting. Their community was often in conflict with the adjacent Hamer people, because they were forced to compete for scarce grazing land and water for their livestock.

With the help of our funding partner Boeing Global Corporate Citizenship, we began a Women’s Strengthening project with the goal of improving economic empowerment and stability in this area.

The first step in this project was to provide more than 50 men and women our Integrated Functional Vocational Literacy classes. IFVL provides basic literacy and numeracy for adults while at the same time introducing new skills for food production and consumption, including chicken farming and gardening. You can see how proud they are by the messages they wrote on their hats!

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Marti MartindaleA blue hat special welcome!

The kids are growing and need new shoes!



Left to right are Aregesh, Zenabaw, Hilu, and Negataw

Our Hamar family of children are thriving; they are all doing well in school, and the two children who came to us malnourished (Temesgen and Zenabaw) are now healthy and growing. Our little Aregesh is still struggling with ear problems. She had surgery last fall on her right ear and this week she will “go under the knife” for her left ear. She is so sweet and uncomplaining.

Hilu, our oldest girl, is now in 3rd grade. She loves her little “sisters” and often reads to them. Negataw, pictured on the far right, looks more like Halle Berry every year! Berge, our second oldest girl, was off playing with a friend and missed this story time.


Left to right, top row: Ronni, Yuan, Kore, Musi; bottom row: Achemi, Temesgen and Lucas

Our boys take our breath away – so full of energy and love. Just imagine–Kore, Ronni and Muse between 12-15 years, Yuan around 10 years old, whirlwind Achemi, around 7 years old, Tesmesgen (somewhere between 6-8 years old) and little Lucas, probably 4 years old–all living in the same compound with our 5 girls, their caretaker, their cook, and Netsanet, GTLI’s field coordinator! And, by the way, this same small compound in Turmi is also our field office. Cozy but safe. Many of our male staff, particularly Netsanet, Tariku (Finance/Admin officer) and Yehualashet (Project Officer) have become the kids’ surrogate fathers.

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Marti MartindaleThe kids are growing and need new shoes!

We have a winner here!

Functional literacy class for Women Cooperative members in Guerearema

Women Cooperative members in Guerearema are learning to read and write

When GTLI first piloted Integrated Functional Vocational Literacy (IFVL), attendance averaged 15 people, with only three regular attendees. Lessons were simple learning exercises. Now, five years later, each of the 12 lessons are organized into six discrete learning activities that reinforce healthy hygiene and sanitation, reproductive health, and nutrition behaviors.  In Gueranerama Dasenech, 51 adults (37 women and 14 men) have already attended 32 out of 72 learning activities and their commitment continues to grow! When men and women practice joint problem-solving in school, their respect for each other increases, which starts shifting norms in favor of gender equality. It’s transformative—and Gueranerama adults are raising the bar!

The Gueranerama Women’s Cooperative is also ahead of the pack in earning money. These amazing women have established an executive committee, a management committee, and a credit committee, with more than half of the 24 members actively participating in co-op management. The cooperative is licensed with the local government office, and during the past few months they have been able to deposit 4,095 birr (approximately $190) in profits into their Omo Micro Finance account. This may not seem like much but when the average household income is less than $1/day, it’s a fortune.

The women have been busy selling local drink and coffee chaff while they wait for the completion of the new rural trading center and the inauguration of their new grinding mill. Soon, more than 170 very vulnerable households will be able to purchase food and commodities locally (instead of walking for two days) and to save 2-3 hours per day using the grinding mill rather than grinding grain by hand.

Less than two years ago, Gueranerama Dasenech had no access to water, no literate adults, and poor linkage to health services. Women spent 100% of their time fetching water, manually grinding grain, walking for days to purchase sorghum, and were often victims of violent abuse. Thanks to four projects funded by different donors, 204 lives have been transformed:

  • USAID/Ethiopia’s project constructed a new water well
  • JSI’s APC project last year stimulated demand for reproductive health and family planning
  • JSI’s APC project this year has provided 48 households with a total of 288 moringa seedlings
  • Boeing Global Corporate Citizenship’s project is teaching IFVL, constructing a rural trading center, and installing a grinding mill

And, best of all, the people of Gueranerama are truly helping themselves. They contributed 11,340 birr as cost share (approximately $528) in May alone by fetching water for construction and participating in other activities.

Our aim is to equip South Omo pastoralists so that within five years, they will have the ability—the health, livelihood options, and leadership skills—to thrive. It looks like Gueranerama may well be our first success story in resilience. Fingers Crossed!

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Marti MartindaleWe have a winner here!

Empowering women

Guerenarema Woman2 traditional maize grinding

Guerenarema woman grinding grain by hand

A Dasenech woman grinds by hand the grain that she will use to prepare her family’s meal. This is a task she spends 2 to 3 hours on, every day. Despite her work load, she is finding the time to participate in our women’s strengthening project now underway in the Guerenarema community.

Our project seeks to improve economic empowerment and stability for the women in this underserved community, where there are no schools, no health facilities, and no community-based organizations promoting microenterprise. We are not focusing only on the women, however. A group of men and women are coming together twice a week to learn to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. And in the process, they learn to make decisions together.

In these traditional communities, women do bulk do the bulk of the physical work—fetching water, carrying heavy loads, grinding grain. When we work with communities to empower women, they learn how to form a cooperative to operate a grinding mill and rural trading center. The cooperative will save hours of productive time each day for all of the women in the community. Time that would otherwise be spending grinding grain by hand or walking miles to the nearest trading center.

Our experience with women cooperatives has shown us that as they contribute to the overall economic vitality of the community, they also improve status of the women as valued community members. The women gain productive time, and they gain a voice in matters that affect their well-being and their families’ well-being.


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Marti MartindaleEmpowering women

Field stories

Amarech Benki smAmarech Benki is a 37 year-old BenaTsemay woman and the mother of nine children. Her two oldest children are married and her youngest is 18 months old.

Prior participating in GTLI’s Reproductive Health project, Amarech had no understanding of basic sanitation and hygiene. She now feels strongly that she could have prevented the death of one of her children with the understanding that she now has of healthy hygiene and sanitation behavior. She has become a strong advocate of pit latrine usage, hand washing, and clean compounds. Amarech wants to help her community.

“A friend and I regularly visit households on Sundays to check and see who is using their pit latrine and if it needs maintenance. We identified two households that were not using their latrines and told them they had to use them. The families said, “No!” We told them that when they defecate on the ground during the rainy season their feces gets into our water well, and we all get sick. We gave them a choice – start using their latrines or we were going to report them to the whole community!”

Amarech is happy that she and her family now have more to eat. Before participating in the program, her family’s diet consisted of maize and occasional meat when her husband’s wild animal hunt was successful. As part of this GTLI program she received four chickens when she graduated from Integrated Functional Vocational Literacy school (IFVL). She learned well, and she now has 30 chickens. She sold one chicken recently for funds to purchase an exercise book for her son. She has also given 20 eggs to five households to help them start raising chickens. Her husband received vegetable seeds and agricultural tools when he graduated from IFVL. Their family’s diet now consists of eggs, sweet potatoes, vegetables, chickens, and meat, which they buy with their egg money.

Women in Amarech’s community usually have at least 10 children. She and her husband decided that in order to make their family happy and healthy she needed to use Family Planning. They agreed that Depo was the best option for them and so Amarech, a fearless pioneer, became a new acceptor of modern contraceptives.

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Marti MartindaleField stories

GTLI Presents at ICFP Conference

Lori Pappas, GTLI Founder and Executive Director, was thrilled to share results from GTLI family planning initiatives at the fourth International Conference on Family Planning that took place in January in Nusa Dua, Indonesia. The conference drew researchers, implementers, policymakers, advocates, and representatives of local and international organizations.

Lori Pappas at 4th annual ICFP conference

Lori Pappas at 4th annual ICFP conference presenting results of GTLI family planning initiatives

After her presentation Lori said, “The ICFP conference gave me an excellent opportunity to share our experiences and learn from other organizations striving to help the vulnerable poor have healthier families. Since it is an international conference, we were exposed to best practices from all over the world. And it was a great chance to meet face-to-face with our key Family Planning/Reproductive Health implementing partner, JSI.”

Lori really enjoyed hanging out with people striving to make the world a healthier place, particularly for women and children.

For more about the ICFP, visit the conference website.

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Marti MartindaleGTLI Presents at ICFP Conference

Why Is Galo Joyful?


Galo Arigma celebrates learning how to read and write

Galo Arigma’s life and the lives of her friends in the community of Stimba have improved dramatically this year.

Galo and 25 of her friends who attended a GTLI school in the BeneTsemay region of Ethiopia have learned to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. They are celebrating this achievement and are beginning to teach their children. Can you see the pride in her face, and in the faces of her friends behind her? She wrote the sign she is wearing. It says,  “I have learned about personal hygiene and sanitation, and I now wash my hands before eating.”

So simple. And so profound.

Because of their participation in a GTLI project, Galo’s community now has clean water and practices basic sanitation and hygiene. And their health is improving. They learned about family planning and are embracing the idea that fewer children means healthier mothers and children, strengthening their community.

This is just the beginning of Galo’s community learning how to help themselves.

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Marti MartindaleWhy Is Galo Joyful?

Our Incredible Supporters

Bonnie Wolff

Bonnie Wolff showcasing GTLI’s work in support of women and children in the South Omo Zone, Ethiopia

We are so lucky to have friends who support the work that we do. Bonnie Wolff is one of these friends. She donates her time and talents to encourage others to learn about GTLI.

Bonnie makes beautiful wool mittens and seeks out craft fairs where she displays her work. She also spreads the story of GTLI: how our efforts to care for orphaned and abandoned children and our projects to improve the lives of women depend on the donations of individuals who care.

Lori Pappas, GTLI Founder and Executive Director, loves Bonnie’s handcrafted mittens. Lori lives in Ethiopia now, so the few days during the year that she visits Minnesota, she is certain to have a pair handy. She gets by Minnesota weather with a little help from her friends!

Lori with Bonnie's wool mittens

Lori Pappas loves Bonnie Wolff’s handcrafted mittens

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Marti MartindaleOur Incredible Supporters