As thousands of us prepare to raise millions during Christian Aid Week, Hannah Richards reminds us how our efforts can transform the lives of those in even the deepest poverty.
You wake in the dark to feed the baby. You shake down the goat-hide mat where she has wee’d in the night. She wears no nappies. The bed you made with branches tied together creaks as you rise.
As the skies start to lighten you are already on your way. The sounds of your children die away as you walk.
‘God please clear all the thorny plants from my way. Help me find good firewood so I can sell it. Help me buy some food for my children because they are going to die.’
One foot in front of the other. You pray. You try to ignore the pains in your stomach.
‘I have to force myself to go out and collect firewood. I do it so I don’t have to face my children crying, weeping, and yelling when they have nothing to eat.’
‘I have to force myself to go out and collect firewood. I do it so I don’t have to face my children crying, weeping, and yelling when they have nothing to eat. I have to go to the bush and collect the wood and carry it down into the town on my back.’
This is Loko Jarso’s reality. Loko walks by herself for hours at a time to get the firewood she needs to sell.
But Loko is not alone. She has you: everyone who paces the streets, delivering and collecting Christian Aid Week envelopes; every person abseiling down a cathedral; every sponsored walker; every cake-maker. Loko and others like her are not alone because we stand with them.
Loko’s budget is impossible: she must feed, clothe, educate and medicate six children all for £4 a week. And her status as a woman is that of a second-class citizen.
In her cattle-rearing, pastoralist community in the south of Ethiopia, the traditional laws have prevented women from owning property. We know this can change, that lives like Loko’s can be transformed.
Christian Aid’s work through our partner HUNDEE has already transformed the lives of so many here. HUNDEE asks communities to identify who are the poorest of the poor. These are invariably women, and often widows like Adi Abduba.
Having a cow has changed Adi's life (above) and with your help we can transform the life of Loko, and so many others like her.
Adi’s situation used to be every bit as precarious as Loko’s. Adi was given a cow and two goats. The cow allows her to nourish her children and make money through selling milk and butter.
In these communities, owning a cow gives you rights. For the first time, the cows carry the name of the women who own them, not their father’s
name, nor their husband’s name. The women meet weekly, to run a loans and savings cooperative, using start-up money from the milk and butter from the cows.
With the weekly support we give them, and the support they give each other, they learn to read and write. They learn about their rights and
responsibilities, basic maths and how to run small businesses.
HUNDEE is also helping to change the way the whole community sees women. There is less domestic violence, more joint decision-making.
Adi has gone from being the poorest of the poor to being a confident, strong woman: ‘When I think about how our lives are improving, I feel so happy.’
This Christian Aid Week, let’s show Loko that she is not alone. Let’s help give her a better future. Get everything you need to take part this May.