Ensuring every child is accounted for and no one is left behind in Ethiopia

By Hannah Godefa

On August 6th, I was fortunate to be a part of a campaign in Ethiopia when the establishment of the Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA) kicked off throughout the country.

VERA is an incredibly important institution for individuals, societies and government. For individuals, registration can be used as legal documents and proof for identification purposes. Information complied from these areas are then needed for admin applications like public health programmes and the electoral roll.

On the first day of the campaign, I visited the Gulele Sub City, Woreda 9 VERA team. UNICEF supports the campaign to ensure all resources needed for registration like registry, certificates, awareness creation, materials and logistics make it to all regions, all the way to the lowest levels of administration.

Vital events registration kicks off in Ethiopia

This process is incredibly important because it will ensure that every child will be accounted from the earliest days of life. This means big advancements for accountability when it comes to harmful traditional practices including child marriage, as every individual will have a marriage certificate with the new system from VERA. It will also make it easier for government, non-profit and civil society partners to identify when these practices are occurring.

Birth registration is the first recognition of a child’s existence by the state. Where births remain unregistered, there is an implication that these children are not recognized as persons before the law. The absence of the system of birth registration results in the violation of children’s rights to name and nationality; to protection from abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including early marriage, child labour  and trafficking; to basic social services, including education and health; and the personal rights of orphans and other vulnerable children.

Currently, birth, death, marriage and divorce will be kept recorded from the kebele civil status office to the federal level, so that there is less room for discrepancies and human rights crime.

Participating in the registration process was an incredibly humbling and powerful experience for me, and I am very excited to see how UNICEF will work with VERA and local partners to ensure that every child is accounted for, and no one is left behind.

Media Get-Together with UNICEF National Ambassadors -Abelone Melesse and Hannah Godefa

By Wossen Mulatu

Hannah Godefa and Abelone Melesse
Media meets UNICEF Ethiopia National Ambassadors-Hannah Godefa and Abelone Melesse on Friday, 24 July 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Sewunet

ADDIS ABABA, 24 July 2015 Today, UNICEF’s Media and External Relations Section has organised the third media get-together with UNICEF National Ambassadors to Ethiopia – Hannah Godefa and Abelone Melesse. Also present on the occasion as guests of honour were the fathers of Abelone and Hannah- Ato Solomon Melesse and Ato Godefa Assegahen respectively.

Since their appointment as UNICEF National Ambassadors, Hannah and Abelone have shown a true commitment to the issues of women and children by involving in different advocacy activities both in Ethiopia and abroad. At the media get- together, both Hannah and Abelone shared their current activities in relation to the rights of women and children including their recent field visit to Amhara region to see UNICEF- supported child protection and health activities.

At the occasion, the media had the opportunity to ask questions to Abelone and Hannah on their role as ambassadors, their inspiration and their future plan. The media also forwarded their questions to their fathers on how they have raised their daughters and how they support them.

Speaking of her visit to Amhara region, Hannah said the most fulfilling part of her visit was the interaction she had with the women and children in the community. “I have talked to women who were faced with child marriage instead of going to school- it’s really heartbreaking.”

Seventeen year old Hannah became a UNICEF National Ambassador in 2013. This year, Hannah has participated at the World Education Forum 2015 (WEF) from 19 to 22 May in the city of Incheon, Republic of Korea. Hannah joined the “Leaving no one behind – how education can drive inclusive development?” panel co-hosted by the UNICEF Executive Director and David McKenzie of CNN. On 16 June, Hannah became a panelist or the 29th session of the Human Rights Council’s panel discussion on girls’ education held in Geneva.

Abelone on her part said, “My visit to Dera woreda in Amhara region has been an eye opener to see the progress made in the health sector in Ethiopia. I have witnessed how the health extension workers reach the most vulnerable population through promotive, preventive and basic curative health and nutrition services. My goal is to advocate especially for maternal health though my songs as a rap singer.”

Nineteen year old young rap star Abelone Melesse became a UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia in 2014. This year, Abelone has attended a number of meetings and conferences in her new capacity as an Ambassador. On International Women’s Day, Abelone was invited by Ethiopian Women’s Association in Norway joined by high level Norwegian politicians where she had the opportunity to deliberate a speech and perform her songs on behalf of the women in Norway and in Ethiopia. Abelone also officially released her new single entitled “Jewels of the world” – a song which she has dedicated to UNICEF at the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The song written by Abelone herself has received more than 10,000 views on Youtube 7,150 views on Facebook  and 70,106 views on DireTube.

Note to the media

How can UNICEF support the media? Our UNICEF Ethiopia website has many different resources, including: publications, photos, press releases, speeches, contact information, guidelines and other information useful for the media. In addition, we are present in many socialmedia platforms such as FacebookTwitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, Delicious and Youtube 

In addition, the Media and External Relations Section facilitates individual interviews with specialists and experts on different programmes in different languages including: English, French, Arabic, German, Swahili, Dutch, Italian and many Ethiopian local languages. We also organise media round tables with senior staff and programme specialists, respective government officials and partners on different topics affecting women and children.

Regular media field visits will continue to be organised to visit UNICEF-supported project sites in Addis Ababa as well as in the regions.

We wish to thank those who were able to join us and look forward to our continuous collaboration in 2015 and beyond.

Investing in learning from a child’s very earliest days critical to have a good start in life – Hannah Godefa

(L-R) UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, Hannah Godefa, UNICEF national Ambassador to Ethiopia and Nobel Laureate Economist Professor James Heckman

Early childhood care and education is the first stage of lifelong learning and development. It lays the necessary foundation for building higher-level cognitive and non-cognitive skills and has the potential of breaking down inequity in learning from the beginning by leveraging the tremendous capacity of early brain development and function. Most importantly, it can have a serious impact on the education of adolescent girls later on in life.

That’s why I was honoured to share a panel on the importance of early childhood education and care with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and Nobel Laureate Economist Professor James Heckman at the World Education Forum from May 19-22 in Incheon, South Korea. For me, learning started when I was a baby. I know this because I know my parents – and education has always been their number one priority.

Even before I was old enough for kindergarten, my father and I frequently went to the library together to read. My parents were still recent immigrants in Canada, where we live. At the library, there were literacy and support programmes. I remember that I loved the maps and photographs in geography books – especially pop up books with pieces I could touch.

My parents encouraged my interest and they sacrificed a lot so I would have a good education. I have no doubt that these early experiences formed my interest in books and the world and set me on my current path as a student and an advocate for education.

Wash Program, Shebedino Woreda, AwassaI know from my own journey that there is a direct connection between what a child learns early in life and what happens later. As an advocate for adolescent girls, I have travelled a lot. I have met girls my age and younger who are mothers. For very young mothers, it is incredibly important that they have knowledge, resources, programmes and support to help them provide their children with a good start in life. If we support these young mothers, we are also providing their babies with a fair chance to grow into young people and adults who can make the world a better place.

I think it is up to youth advocates like me – advocates who see the benefits of a strong early start in life – to speak about the issue.

Unfortunately, one of the reasons we are discussing this topic today is because not all children have access to early learning and care. Most of the children who go to pre-primary school live in more wealthy countries. In low-income countries, pre-primary enrollment ratios are only 19 per cent.These disparities in early childhood learning between wealthy and poor are not fair.

Over time, they also compound and the children who miss out early face ever greater challenges as they get older. Investing in learning from a child’s very earliest days is one of the best ways we have to make sure that all children – no matter where they live or who their parents are – have a good start in life.

Many of the individuals gathered at the World Education Forum for important discussions about investment in education and the Sustainable Development Goals. I came to the Forum to ask all to start early – to start investing and prioritizing learning for all children from the very earliest days of their lives. I can tell you from my personal experience: Those very first learning experiences make all the difference – they can change a girl’s life.

UNICEF Ethiopia renews its Ambassadorship with Hannah Godefa

12 January, 2015, Addis Ababa: Today, UNICEF Ethiopia renewed its ambassadorship with seventeen year old Hannah Godefa, a citizen of Canada with Ethiopian origin, at a signing ceremony held at its premises. The event was attended by Hannah Godefa, UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia, Hannah’s father Ato Godefa Asegahegn, H.E Roman Gebreselassie, Chief of government whip at the House of People’s Representative, W/ro Tsehay Bahta, Head of Capacity Building and Social Affairs Standing Committee of Addis Ababa City Administration Council, H.E Mr. David Usher, Ambassador of Canada to Ethiopia, Ms. Elizabeth Hailu, Manager Customer Services Ticket Offices, Ethiopian Airlines, Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge of  UNICEF Ethiopia, and members of the media.

Hannah Godefa's Ambassadorship renewal ceremony with UNICEF Ethiopia
UNICEF Ethiopia renewed its Hanah Godefa’s national ambassadorship at a signing ceremony held on 12 January 2015, at its premises, Addis Ababa. Left to right Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge of UNICEF Ethiopia and Hannah Godefa in the presence of (left to right at the back standing)- W/ro Tsehay Bahta, Head of Capacity Building and Social Affairs Standing Committee of Addis Ababa City Administration Council, H.E W/ro Roman Gebreselassie, Chief of Government Whip at the House of People’s Representative, H.E. Mr. David Usher, Ambassador of Canada and Ms. Elizabeth Hailu, Manager Customer Services Ticket Offices. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

Speaking on the occasion, Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge of UNICEF Ethiopia said, “I’m delighted to announce that today, UNICEF Ethiopia renews the Ambassadorship of Hannah Godefa as its National Ambassador to Ethiopia for two more years. Hannah is a role model for children, her peers and especially girls. Since her appointment in January 2013, we have been proud of her commitment and dedication to advocate alongside Government for women’s and children’s issue in Ethiopia and globally. She is a testimony to what is possible if one is determined.”

At the signing ceremony, Hannah on her part said, “When I remember my first visit to a UNICEF Ethiopia project over two years ago in Hawassa, I immediately think of the smiling faces of the teenage girls I now more closely resemble. They sat down and had a traditional coffee ceremony with me, explaining the benefits of the alternative income programme they were participating in and their life stories. I was in complete awe of the way they transformed their limitations and hardships in life into opportunities and sustainable success. Most of all, I was amazed at how they credited UNICEF for supplementing their personal achievement in the initiative. It was at that moment I knew, UNICEF is an organization and family I wholeheartedly wanted to be a part of.”

Hannah Godefa's Ambassadorship renewal ceremony with UNICEF Ethiopia
UNICEF Ethiopia renewed Hannah Godefa’s national ambassadorship at a signing ceremony held on 12 January 2015, at its premises, Addis Ababa. Left to right Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge of UNICEF Ethiopia and Hannah Godefa. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

During her ambassadorship, Hannah has been engaged in numerous advocacy activities representing UNICEF-giving a voice to women and children globally. On these occasions, she has served as keynote speaker, a panellist and a moderator with high level government officials, business leaders and advocates from the non-profit sector. Her participation and contribution at the World Economic Forum in January 2014, with H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations, H.E. Mr. Paul Kagame, Co-Chair, MDG Advocacy Group and world leaders that focused on issues very close to her heart – innovation on investing in girl’s education – has been exceptional.

H.E. Mr. David Usher, Ambassador of Canada on his part underscored, “As we celebrate the fifty years diplomatic relations between Canada and Ethiopia, Hannah stands an ambassador not only to UNICEF but also to Ethiopians, Canadians as well as the Ethiopian Diaspora.”

Ms. Elizabeth Hailu, Manager Customer Services Ticket Offices, Ethiopian Airlines said, “As part of our corporate social responsibility, it is our duty to give back to the society. Today, we pledge once more to stand by Hannah to support her by providing free tickets to wherever her destination takes her to undertake her humanitarian functions.”

 

How can we redefine the world’s view to make the case for protecting girls?

My reflections on the Girl Summit, July 2014 
By Hannah Godefa, UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia 

Hannah Godefa, UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia, speaking at Girl Summit 2014
Hannah Godefa, UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia, speaking at Girl Summit 2014 ©Marisol Grandon/DFID

The Girl Summit was a forum designed and hosted by the UK Government and UNICEF, to mobilize all world efforts to end female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and end child, early and forced marriage in my generation. It openly discussed issues of gender inequity and disparity and challenged public and non-profit sector leaders to create innovative solutions and commitments at the Summit. Closing this event was a surreal experience, and an absolute honour. When representing any demographic, there is a certain amount of responsibility to present the absolute truth of the issue. In this particular event, I had the incredible opportunity to echo the voices of the many girls around the world taking action in response to the calls to end the endless challenges for girls in education, health and the community, which further perpetuated harmful traditional practices. #Youthforchange hosted by UK Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening and Home Secretary Theresa May exemplified that spirit of change by having a youth-focused audience and engaging programmes. Important strategies such as school outreach were discussed, including a competition honouring schools that creatively used media as a method of presenting these vital issues.

It was then up to the many public leaders at the Girl Summit to respond. We heard from UK Prime Minister David Cameron, girl activists like Malala Yousafzai and various NGO’s to answer questions on financing for girls, ensuring equal access to education, and protection from FGM/C and child marriage. There were also discussions with likes of Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF and Deputy Minister of Ethiopia- H.E Ato Demeke Mekonnen. All who participated in the discussion recognized protecting girls was not only the right thing to do, but critical to our global future. Ending off the day in the closing plenary allowed me to re-state the importance for girl involvement and engagement in these discussions, to ensure girl voices are represented around the world.

Hannah Godefa, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, speaking at  Youth For Change
Hannah Godefa, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, speaking at Youth For Change ©Russell Watkins/DFID

As we all know, discussions among the public and private leaders are not enough. When we have the opportunity to make a difference anywhere, we should seize it, however special attention should be given to the issues girls face, as they are the foundation of our future. It is all in the facts: empowered and protected girls are able to form their families and communities and better contribute to our world socially and economically. The dialogue exercised at the Girl Summit cannot end there. It must manifest into commitments, be implemented into action and support this movement of rising girls around the world. Only then will we start to see a change in the way the world values girls. Girls are the mothers, community leaders and advocates of today. It all starts with a promise to champion for girls everywhere. If the way we view ourselves shapes our future, and our perspective influences how we invest our resources, the most important question is: how can we redefine the world’s view to make the case for protecting girls?

I don’t want a world where all children are healthy, happy and safe to be just a dream. I want it to be reality: Hannah Godefa

Canada mobilizes support for innovation, integrated action for youngest children

#EveryNewborn

Mother and child at Wukro Clinic
Improving newborn and child health also depends on better accountability — and more thorough accounting. Wukro Clinic, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2009/Tuschman

Toronto/Addis Ababa, 29 May 2014 – Every minute, 10 babies die or are stillborn across the world, a staggering 5.5 million lives ended every year just as they start.  The majority of those deaths are from preventable causes, including prematurity, childbirth complications and newborn infections.

While child death rates have been reduced by almost half since 1990, newborn mortality has increased as a proportion of overall of child mortality, as highlighted by papers published in The Lancet earlier this month.

“We are succeeding in rapidly reducing child mortality because we have made it a global priority, with a commitment to innovation, partnership, and equity,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.   “We need the same global commitment, and the same political will, to reduce newborn mortality — working together to find new ways of reaching every family.”

Poorer families bear the greatest burden of newborn deaths.  If current trends continue, it will take over a century before a baby in the Central African Republic has the same chances of survival as a baby born in Canada.

Lake hailed Canada’s leadership in galvanizing global support to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality.  The Toronto Summit will explore the most effective ways to speed up progress on newborn, child and health.

“The fact that not all children and young people around the world have access to critical health care is unacceptable. It must change,” said UNICEF Ethiopia National Ambassador, Hannah Godefa, who was the only young person to speak at the Summit. “I hope we can redouble our efforts and be catalysts for change. I urge all of you today to renew your promise to the women and children of the world and commit to taking concrete action to ending the preventable deaths of women and children. Because I don’t want a world where all children are healthy, happy and safe to be just a dream. I want it to be reality.” she added.

Improving newborn and child health also depends on better accountability — and more thorough accounting.

In 2012 alone, around two out of five births worldwide were not registered. Around the world, nearly 230 million children under age five have never been recorded – meaning they do not have the legal identity they need to access health, education and other services. And the numbers will rise unless action is taken.

But increasing the number of children registered at birth enables governments to improve the planning and budgeting of life-saving interventions, and to summon the political will and civil society support that is needed to meet targets.

“This year we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Millions of children are still being deprived of the most precious right — the right to survive,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.  “We must reach every family, every woman, every child, and every newborn.”

 

Teach a girl, enrich the world

By Erna Solberg and Hannah Godefa, Special to CNN

See original content on CNN

Editor’s note: Erna Solberg is prime minister of Norway and co-chair of the U.N. Secretary General’s Millennium Development Goals Advocates. Hannah Godefa is UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia. The views expressed are their own. This is the latest in a series of articles ahead of a special GPS show from Davos this Sunday.

As the humanitarian crises in South Sudan and Syria and Central African Republic continue to unfold, girls are once again caught in the cross-fire. Murdered by soldiers, killed or sexually assaulted as they flee, their lives are being ravaged by wars they did not start. Once again, they are the victims of somebody else’s dispute, subjected to sexual violence by those hoping to achieve their military and political goals.

How much more are we willing to stand?

Currently 28.5 million children in conflict-affected countries are out of school, more than half of them are girls. It is not just their security, but their education and hope for a better life that are being ruined.

But these girls don’t need to be faceless, voiceless statistics. They can be victors, like Malala, who captivated us when she bravely stood up for her right to education, changing the way we think about young girls and their rights.

The key is investing in girls’ potential, something that can be a win-win for everyone – enabling female participation in local economies can accelerate the fight against poverty, inequity and gender disparity. When you educate a girl, you educate a nation.
This is one of the key messages we, the prime minister of Norway and a 16-year-old UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia, will deliver this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos as we encourage those gathered to “reshape the world” by putting young girls first. We will raise our voices to galvanize the crucial support needed to change attitudes and transform the lives of the countless Malalas, standing together to ensure that these girls are neither invisible nor forgotten.

We are two very different women from different generations, cultures and countries, but like millions of other women and men out there, we agree on this: invest in girls. The question is, is anyone really listening to such calls? After all, we’ve been talking about giving girls equal access to education, employment and healthcare for the past three decades. Will the international community – government, business and the general public – finally take much needed action?

Educated girls and women have smaller families and healthier children, are less likely to die in childbirth, are more likely to see their children survive past the age of 5, are more likely to send their children to school, and are better able to protect themselves and their children from malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, and sexual exploitation. Education empowers women, multiplying their economic choices and contributions, and increasing their political voice and influence across the board.

The numbers don’t lie. For every year a girl stays in school and learns, her future earnings increase hugely. An extra year of primary school education, for example, boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. A one percentage point increase in female secondary education raises the average level of GDP by 0.3 percentage points. Does anyone need more convincing?
In today’s hyper-networked world, we are witnessing unprecedented shifts in traditional power dynamics, and we will all end up impoverished if we remain complicit to girls being denied their right to a better future. Denying girls their rights – whether it be for social, cultural, or economic reasons – means that half the world’s population is prevented from fully contributing to its own economic growth and well-being and to that of local communities.

The voices calling for action are not just ours, but have been heard echoing around the world in the United Nations’ MY World survey on people’s development priorities, as well as in the action agenda laid out in the Girl Declaration. When girls and women across the developing world have been asked what they want for their future, the resounding answer is: education, jobs, healthcare and security.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been critical in galvanizing progress around gender equality and women’s empowerment, but we must build on this success. The clock is ticking: with close to 700 days to go until the MDGs deadline, the targets we set ourselves won’t be reached unless greater investment in girls’ empowerment is made. Without this, girls will continue to drop out of school for lack of safe and supportive learning environments. Women will still marry young, and will still die in childbirth each day for want of simple medical interventions.

As the old adage goes, you can teach a man to fish to feed himself for a lifetime. But if you invest in a girl, she feeds herself, educates future children, lifts up her community and propels her nation forward – charting a path that offers dignity for all in the process.