Women & Children

What’s in a Name?

Worku in class

Worku in a GTLI Integrated Functional Vocational Literacy class

Worku learning to write her name

Worku learning to write her name

Where we work in Ethiopia, in the South Omo Zone, tribal traditions do not value education, and education for women, especially, is frowned upon.

But how do you vote, how do you access government health services, and how do you negotiate fair prices at market if you can’t read, write, or count?

When communities ask us to work with them, we offer integrated literacy and livelihood classes for men and women. This is life changing for the women as they acquire the skills, know-how, and confidence to negotiate with men and engage in a small business.

Their new ability to self-advocate then leads to better social standing: the women are recognized for their new knowledge and skills, and they participate more in community decision-making and governance.

What’s in a name? A whole new world of opportunity!

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Marti MartindaleWhat’s in a Name?

GLTI Presents at APHA Meeting

apha-logoLori Pappas participated in the 143rd APHA Annual Meeting October 31st through November 2nd, 2015 in Chicago. Lori presented on a panel looking at the importance of community involvement for health outcomes.

Lori shared GTLI’s experience working with the Dasenech and BenaTsemay women in Southwest Ethiopia. She highlighted the importance of educating and empowering women in order to elevate their status within their communities. The goal of GTLI’s holistic integrated approach was to blend traditional wisdom with modern thinking, transforming the cultural belief that large families equate to wealth into healthy families equate wealth.

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Marti MartindaleGLTI Presents at APHA Meeting

UN Adopts New Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goals_E_Final data-lazy-sizes

At the end of September, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and a set of bold new Sustainable Development Goals, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed as a transformative vision for a better world.  Click on the graphic above to read more about the goals that drive our work at GTLI.


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Marti MartindaleUN Adopts New Sustainable Development Goals

Paying it Forward: Traditional Tribal Values Support Sustainability

New chicken farmer in Gurdo shares eggs with neighbor

One of the ways we help communities is by introducing new and healthy foods into their diets. Chickens and eggs are not a traditional food for the Hamar people in Ethiopia, but they are a great source of protein.

This spring in the Hamar community of Gurdo, 12 women and 11 men together completed our functional literacy course where, in addition to learning to read and write, they learned how to raise chickens and prepare nutritious meals for their families using eggs and chickens. When they completed their schooling, they all received chickens and the supplies they needed to begin tending their own flocks.

We’re already seeing numerous benefits. The Hamar culture is communal and collaborative, so when families have a surplus of eggs or chickens, they pay it forward naturally, sharing their new resources to better the entire community. By this summer, 11 of the Gurdo families we are working with shared their surplus eggs and chickens with 21 additional families, a dramatic return on a modest investment! The fact that the Hamar people are predisposed to share with the rest of their community means that we when we introduce a new food and new income source to a small group of people, it does not take long for the larger community to catch on. They help each other improve their food security and create new income generating opportunities.

Another benefit is the involvement of women in the classrooms and sharing their new skills with their community. In a traditionally gender segregated culture, providing a path for men and women to work together is the key to unlocking the voice of the women. It provides a safe environment where men and women begin to discover the value of joint decision-making and problem solving.

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Marti MartindalePaying it Forward: Traditional Tribal Values Support Sustainability

GTLI Presenting at PHE Conference in Kisumu, Kenya


PHE ConferenceGTLI Executive Director Lori Pappas is presenting at the Population, Health and Environment (PHE) Regional Conference September 9-10, 2015 at the Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu Kenya.

Her paper, titled Integration + Innovation Transformed Adverse Gender and Cultural Norms, highlights the GTLI family planning and reproductive health initiative in the BenaTsemay and Dasenech communities. This innovative approach transformed the cultural belief that large families mean wealth into healthy families mean wealth, by leveraging their traditional desire to have enough children to work. Read more here.

Hosted by the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) in collaboration with the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat, EAC Partner States, National PHE Networks, PHE Ethiopia Consortium and PHE Madagascar Network, the conference is intended to increase the awareness of and support for integrated solutions to population and environmental challenges in Africa.

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Marti MartindaleGTLI Presenting at PHE Conference in Kisumu, Kenya

These Women Have a Problem

GTLI Intergrated Vocaitonal Functional Literacy class

Wonga Bayno women learning to write and read

The women of the Wonga Bayno and Minogelti communities in the Hamar region of the South Omo Zone, Ethiopia have inspired us from the day we first met them. They work long hours to provide water and food for their families, and they want to do so much more.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem. When all of a woman’s time and energy is spent hauling water by foot and grinding grain by hand, that is all she is valued for. Under those conditions how can she help her community climb out the endless reliance on emergency water and food aid?

In July more than 80 women registered for our adult Integrated Functional Vocational Literacy (IFVL) classes in Wonga Bayno and Minogelti. And this tremendous response from the women even though they were still walking long distances for water while waiting for their local wells to be repaired.

With our Economic Empowerment of Women projects we are helping to create and support women cooperatives that operate grinding mills and trading centers, giving all of the women in those communities more productive time.

Wonga Bayno women's cooperative trading center

Practicing using the scale at the trading center

The women in our IFVL classes are learning that they can solve problems. They are learning tangible skills to earn money and raise food, and they are gaining the confidence to advocate for themselves, their families, and their communities.

By working together these women are beginning to transform their communities.

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Marti MartindaleThese Women Have a Problem

Hamar women visit Minnesota

Rotary District 5580 Conference in Duluth

Our wonderful Duluth 25 Rotary friends helped two of our star Hamar women, Dobi Oyita and Gulo Bola, travel to Minnesota be surprise guest speakers at the District 5580 Duluth Conference in May. Gulo and Dobi shared stories of their lives and thanked the Rotarians for refurbishing five water wells in BenaTsemay and for supporting the orphans currently under GTLI’s care.

Lori Pappas looks on proudly as translator Yehualashet helps Gulo and Dobi tell their story to the Rotarians at the District 5580 Conference in May


The Rotarians enjoyed hearing from Gulo and Dobi how projects they supported have helped the communities

Meeting With Old Friends…

It was a special treat for Gulo and Dobi to meet GTLI’s Minnesota and Wisconsin supporters. We had a lovely gathering at Lori Pappas’ house where the women shared their reflections on the things they had observed during their U.S. travels. They now truly understand the importance of learning and have pledged to become Ambassadors of Education. Dobi amazed the group of friends when she stated, “Before I met you, I only felt responsible for my family and community. Now, I realize that you also are my community, and I return home holding your well-being in my thoughts and in my heart!


Dobi and Gulo were delighted to meet GTLI supporters

…And New Friends

Minnesota women, eager to learn how to support women on the other side of the world in their quest to feed their families and help their communities, gathered at the Kitchen in the Market in Minneapolis to meet Gulo and Dobe, Hamar women in transition to leadership. Gulo described the determination to learn of the members of the Minogelti Women’s Cooperative and how that has enabled them to sustainably operate their grinding mill and operate their rural trading center.

Gulo reported that, “because we now are the ones who are making life easier for our entire kebele of 4,000 people, the men respect us. I am often asked to participate in decision-making that affects everyone. Previously, no women was ever asked for her opinion.”

Gulo speaking with Minnesota women at Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis

Dakota County Technical College

Gulo and Dobi were invited to speak with students and faculty of Dakota County Technical College, hosted by the Multicultural Student Leadership Association. As the women shared their experiences and talked about  the GTLI literacy initiatives, the students realized how similar Gulo and Dobi’s goals are to their own despite the differences in their respective environments. Gulo and Dobi shared how learning Amharic, the national language, and gaining basic arithmetic skills instantly elevates the status of a woman. A Hamar woman able to communicate in Amharic and perform basic record-keeping earns the respect of her community.

Lori shared that GTLI initiatives are successful because we pay very close attention to the way people think and the influences of their culture. We make sure that our programming reinforces the desires of the people. During February – April, 2015, 154 adults (83 women and 71 men) graduated from our Integrated Functional Vocational Literacy schools, conducted in eight communities, exceeding expectations.

The sentiment expressed frequently by female IFVL participants: “We are gaining confidence now that we are equal to men because in the former time, men and women never sit together but in the IFVL class, we are all treated as equals. This is making it much easier for us to participate as equals in other community meetings. Plus, we have increased knowledge of different things, which gives us more respect.

Dakota County Technical College students and faculty with Dobi and Gulo


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Marti MartindaleHamar women visit Minnesota

Innovation…with donkeys?

One of our latest innovations is creating a lot of buzz: donkey ambulances! These “donkulances” (so named by GTLI friend and supporter Dr. William Himango) are specially constructed metal carts designed to transport pregnant mothers. They are outfitted with a canvas top, removable litter and mattress, and animal-friendly harasses. Slow and unconventional? Yes, but they are community-owned and community-operated and are always available. Previously a pregnant mother would either have to be carried by litter or walk one or two days to the nearest health facility.

GTLI Donkey Ambulance

GTLI Donkey Ambulance


We first introduced donkey ambulances in Dasenech, and after a few months the results are encouraging.

  • A trip made by a donkey ambulance can turn a multiple day walk into a six hour ride.
  • Within the first two weeks, pregnant Dasenech used the donkey ambulances seven times.
  • Patients pay what they can for the service, usually 5¢ to 20¢, which is used for donkey care.

Community acceptance of the donkey ambulances has been even better than expected. The Dasenech communities love the freedom and ease of transportation the donkey ambulances provide, allowing them far easier access to government health facilities.

As a community member states:

We like the donkey ambulance, which is why we constructed and prepared the village roads by hand. Before the donkey ambulance, we had to pay more than 2,000 birr in cows and goats to transport a patient or pregnant women to the health center. Now our community has decided each transported person must pay 50 birr. Thank you, GTLI (and APC) for saving our life and money.


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Marti MartindaleInnovation…with donkeys?

JSI blog features GTLI

In a recent blog post, JSI describes our work to empower communities to create their own healthy futures, supported by USAID’s Advancing Partners & Communities project.

There are many reasons that the communities of southwest Ethiopia do not have access to and use family planning and reproductive health services. We are working with our implementing partner JSI to address both the supply and demand sides of this issue with our project Increasing Pastoralist Resilience through Healthy Timing & Spacing of Births.

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Marti MartindaleJSI blog features GTLI

Star Girls Music Video

Still one of our favorites, the Star Girls Music Video was created at Carleton College for GTLI by students at the Weitz Center for Creativity. It shows scenes of real life in the classroom, and new pumps with clean water, and new livelihood activities. The music and lyrics perfectly capture why we are inspired to do the work that we do.

Thanks so much to Neal and Leandra for their song. Find out more about them on their website or their Facebook page

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Marti MartindaleStar Girls Music Video