Half the Sky Movement Sparks New Schools in Ethiopia

Posted on February 05, 2013, by Lizzie Presser, Half the Sky Movement

In early 2010, Georgina Fenton was working as a genetic counselor in Sydney, Australia, identifying patients with a high risk of developing cancer. After a trip to Ethiopia and an afternoon reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, she changed the course of her career. Now, Georgina is the proud founder of a secondary school in Ethiopia and she is working with locals to prepare for the upcoming school year.

Georgina’s philanthropic standards weren’t easy to meet. She wanted to find a way to help a specific village, Beklo Manekya, which she had passed through while traveling in Ethiopia. She wanted to work with the locals there and find out their most pressing needs. And she wanted to empower the community members to take a project on as their own while she worked on fundraising from Australia.

“That’s one thing the book really highlighted for me — having the communities control the projects and not just coming in and imposing an idea,” Georgina said in an interview. So, that’s what she did.

Georgina and Sophie visit students from the Eshet Amba Elementary School. 

After traveling back to Ethiopia and meeting with locals and officials in Beklo Manekya, Georgina learned the group consensus: They wanted financing for the construction of a school. With nine primary schools and only one secondary school in the area, more than 1,000 kids are denied access to the only high school within reasonable distance.

In 2011, Georgina and her friend Sophie Coleman founded a non-profit, School’s a Gift, and began fundraising while their partners on the ground began designing. School’s a Gift has raised over $50,000 Australian dollars in the past year, more than enough to finance the construction of the school.  

“People have just really trusted me and my passion for the cause and they've been so generous,” said Georgina. “And it means there are an extra 500 students who can attend secondary school this year.” In September 2013, the new Beklo Manekya Secondary School classrooms will open their doors and government-assigned teachers will run the show. The government finances the school’s operations while School’s a Gift is charged with providing annual funding for building management, which is expected to be less than $5,000 yearly.


The Beklo Manekya Secondary School will open its new set of classrooms in September 2013. 


With one school under her belt, Georgina is now focused on School’s a Gift’s next project: improving the learning conditions of Eshet Amba Elementary School. As it stands now, the school is constructed with mud and has no desks or chairs, Georgina explains. It’s also dark and cold. She’s determined to build new rooms for the school to improve the learning environment and encourage attendance.

“You don't have to be Bill and Melinda Gates to make a difference,” Georgina reflects. “If this all that I do in my lifetime, that's still amazing. Although, I'd love to be Bill or Melinda Gates.”

You can connect with School’s a Gift on Facebook or donate to the Eshet Amba Elementary School project here.

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