Leading a new generation: A ‘Good Brothers Club’ supporting change for girls and their country

Children at a school in Oromia Region, Ethiopia | Photo credit: Overseas Development Institute

CHADET, an organisation in Ethiopia, and local partner of Girls Not Brides member, ChildHope, knows that brothers and boys are crucial to changing attitudes towards girls’ education. Two years ago in one local school, the boys there had the idea of creating a ‘Good Brothers Club’ to focus on the positive role they can play and expand that even further. The club became part of CHADET’s Girls Education Challenge, and there are now Good Brothers Clubs working in a number of schools and communities to change attitudes and help secure a better future for girls.

“Previously, lots of us boys would think about girls negatively, we didn’t care about the problems they faced. The Good Brothers Club changed us. It made us see girls as sisters and respect their education.” – Mustefa 

In an elementary school of a Kebele (neighbourhood) in Oromia Region, there is a thriving Good Brothers Club. The club has 56 members, and its own committee. Mustefa, the Club’s Secretary, explains how it works, why he believes in it, and what it’s achieving:

“Two years ago CHADET introduced a Girls Club here, and then the Good Brothers Club to work alongside it and support it. Girls face a lot of problems in this place, they have to work hard at home, and outside the home, and they aren’t always able to come to school or study. Then they might be married off by their parents which means leaving school altogether.

We see these issues actually affecting girls here, and it’s because of this that their marks are not as high as they should be, or they are not as educated as they should be…Previously, lots of us boys would think about girls negatively, we didn’t care about the problems they faced. The Good Brothers Club changed us. It made us see girls as sisters and respect their education. 

The Good Brothers Club raises money for girls’ education costs – like uniforms and exercise books for girls whose families can’t afford them – by selling tickets for concerts or prize draws that we organise. We perform dramas and puppet shows about issues facing girls and show them to the other children. We put on performances for parents too, because it’s not just about changing our attitudes, it’s about changing the attitudes of the community as well.

It’s good when you see the results. My neighbour used to really struggle with school as she had such a burden of domestic work. At some point she stopped going to school completely. I spoke to the teacher about it and people began discussing the issue with her parents so that they began to accept the importance of her education. She ended up living with her sister, and attends school regularly now.”

Listening to Mustefa, his friends and fellow Good Brothers Club members are also motivated to share their stories. They are serious about their roles and proud of what’s already been achieved.

“The mother came, and she gave a speech. She said, ‘Women and donkeys should be beaten, or they won’t be raised properly’. After that, a lot of people started advising her and tried to change her attitudes. These days she thinks differently.” – Mustefa

Belayneh, the Good Brothers Club auditor, adds his experience of encouraging a mother with very alarming views about her daughter’s education to attend ‘Community Conversations’. These events are organised by CHADET to focus on girls’ education, and bring together everyone from local elders, to parents, to students:

“In this school I had a female friend, whose mother was really rough on her and would keep her at home working. The girl would be washing clothes in the morning and her mother would say, ‘keep washing, you don’t need to go to school’. I told her parents about the coming Community Conversation and told them they should come. The mother came, and she gave a speech. She said, ‘Women and donkeys should be beaten, or they won’t be raised properly’. After that, a lot of people started advising her and tried to change her attitudes. These days she thinks differently; her daughter is able to go to school and has a much lighter burden of work at home. Her daughter is a CHADET beneficiary now and gets support for her schooling.”

The good relationship between the Girls Club and the Good Brothers Club is a real strength, and within the school the two have joined forces to raise money in support of girls’ education in cases where a girl is not a CHADET beneficiary, Mustefa explains:

“Sometimes there is a girl really struggling with her education but she’s not a CHADET beneficiary, so her family aren’t able to buy her exercise books and other things to motivate her to come to school. We know the Girls Club well and when we found out about four such cases, we fundraised for them… with the money raised we bought four sets of uniforms which helped those girls be able to come to school.”

It is clear that the boys really believe in what they’re doing and have CHADET’s on-going support. It’s also clear that they are making progress in their school as well as in their community. As the above story shows, the success of the Clubs can be seen first hand, and progress is blossoming through community togetherness and education.