5 Min of Inspiration: How Impressing the Neighbors Prevents Families in Ethiopia from Starving

5 Min of Inspiration: How Impressing the Neighbors Prevents Families in Ethiopia from Starving


Women in Ethiopia said, “Before [GRAD] we used to store food for a year and it will finish in four months and we start to starve. Now, our neighbors see that we don’t starve, and they start saving to have a stable life like us.” It’s hard to get more meaningful than that—now people don’t starve.

That’s what CARE is accomplishing in Ethiopia—giving families a platform to graduate out of poverty, and using social norms to spread the behavior beyond just the people that GRAD reaches directly.

In their own words, here’s what families in Ethiopia think about how CARE’s project is helping them

What have we accomplished?

  • Create a culture of savings. One man in told us about the complete change in his family. “[My wife] is the one who handling cashes. I take the money by telling the reason why I need the cash. [I am] impressed by the savings.”
  • Get men to share the workload: “… after we started family discussion, now the males are helping around the house and abuse also has been minimized.” There is still a struggle to get men to help with cooking and cleaning—which probably feels familiar to every woman in the world.
  • More equal relationships: Now, men are “sharing the key to the cash box” with women, as a way to give women access to finances and family decisions.
  • Getting women market skills: One woman told us “I am more business-minded now. I sell maize when it’s not the season for maize so that it’s more expensive to sell so that I can get more money with it.”  Women are using this money to send their daughters to school.
  • Improve living conditions: People are investing money into their houses. “Now we have built a house that is in a much better condition than our previous hut. Now we have built a house that has four walls and iron sheet roof.” Families eat more vegetables and better quality foods than they did before.
  • Give people a path to change their own lives: When we asked what women want now, one woman told us: “I want to work harder, save, become a role model not only for women in my locality but for women all over the country.” Women like this will change the world far more than we can on our own.

How did we get there?

  • Show AND tell: one of the most powerful pieces has been to get community leaders, especially religious leaders, not just to talk about gender equality, but actually to model it in their own lives. Families feel that seeing leaders make changes themselves puts more pressure on them to change, and make them feel that change is possible.
  • Pay attention to the little things: Indications of change can be subtle. Women say things like being called by name, having men look them in the eye, and being able to eat with their husbands makes a huge difference to their own feelings of equality and well-being. “Earlier if there is an occasion like a wedding, husband and wife will not go together. Nowadays women have started sitting together with husbands and men in public gathering.”
  • Get men involved: Ethiopia has a twist on the VSLA, which they call Village Economic and Social Associations (VESAs), and it focuses on bringing men and women together.  They work on social norms change, couple dialogues, and role model men in addition to generating income.
  • Hire more women: Having women field staff is critical to being able to reach women and men, although this is also an area where CARE could improve.

Want to learn more?
Check out the mid-term evaluation or the project webpage.

Special thanks: USAID funded GRAD from 2012-2016 at a level of $25.2 million. Partners included CRS, REST, ORDA, Agri Service Ethiopia and SNV.

Stay Informed & Get Involved

Join our email list for our latest updates and get inspired to take action.

Sign Up