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Life & Work with Dureti (Mimi) Tadesse

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dureti (Mimi) Tadesse.  

Hi Dureti, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
I was born and raised by risk-takers, prayer warriors, generous, hard working single mother, and single grandmother in Oromia, Ethiopia. Growing up, I experienced discrimination based on my ethnic background and Christian belief. Oromos have been discriminated against in Ethiopia ever since they were forcefully occupied by Abyssinians in the late 1880s. As a woman, I also experienced first-hand gender discrimination, dehumanization, imprisonment, torture, and marginalization. I was afforded the opportunity to change my life. My husband and I came to United States in the early 1990s and applied for Political asylum. We were granted political asylum and eventually became naturalized citizens where We witnessed the achievement of women and the opportunities that are open to women. This has only fueled my passion and dedication to make a difference in the lives of women in Oromia– my place of birth. 

In 2012, I started Christian-based Nonprofit Organization called “C.G. Women’s Empowerment (CGWE)” after my grandmother Cawwaaqee Guuttatta. Our mission is to create economic self-sufficiency for women, children, and entire villages in Ethiopia’s Oromia State. We envision a world where all women and children are safe from violence and discrimination, are socially empowered and are economically self-sufficient. But without intervention, these women are unable to earn a sustainable, living wage—giving way to intergenerational cycles of abuse, poverty, and disenfranchisement. By creating opportunities for women to achieve sustainable economic self-sufficiency, CGWE saves the lives of women and children in the Oromia State of Ethiopia. 

We believe that empowering women to be key agents of change is an essential element to achieving the end of hunger and poverty. Women bear almost all responsibility for meeting the basic needs of the family, yet they are systematically denied the resources, information, and freedom of action they need to fulfill this responsibility. 

CGWE achieves its mission of uplifting women, children, and entire villages in Ethiopia’s Oromia through Dabaree—a traditional economic system based upon the principles of reciprocity and cooperation that empowers women to become self-sufficient. 

In March 2014, during preparation to travel and launch the Dabaree program, we only had enough funds to buy 3 cows to support 18 individuals. But, through the generosity of family and friends, we raised enough donations to buy 10 cows to support 60 individuals. They were able to use the milk, yogurt, and butter to feed their families. That year, we traveled to Oromia, Ethiopia, and officially launched C.G. Women’s Empowerment (CGWE). 

Since then, we have provided 400 cows to 400 women in 11 villages, supporting over 2,400 people. We have drilled water wells to provide clean water in 3 villages with the support of Columbus Rotary Club, and we have distributed 900 solar light bulbs for children to do school homework at night since there is no electricity in rural areas. Additionally, we built an animal clinic to ensure the health of the cows and animals in the community that so many people rely on. We have also been excited to create libraries in 4 elementary schools so that children can practice reading and writing. Finally, we continue to offer training to the beneficiaries on how to handle and feed the cows, how to save money and start small businesses, how to take care of their bodies and personal hygiene, as well as education on harmful traditional practices like kidnapping girls and genital mutilation. All of these programs address the holistic needs of women so that they can be change agents and continue the cycle to transform communities. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
As with any program, we are constantly learning and navigating new challenges. The biggest struggles we have encountered have been related to the pandemic, political strife in Ethiopia, and even navigating the needs of the people we are serving from so far away. We have been fortunate to work with a local partner, Hundee Oromo Grassroots Development Initiative who has provided a lot of guidance to us and support on the ground in the region. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
We are proudest of our focus on empowering women, who are often overlooked and undervalued. We believe that by coming alongside these women, we can give them skills and training to take care of themselves and their families with renewed confidence and hope. One of the most unique aspects of our work is the foundation of reciprocity. “Dabaree” is the traditional economic practice where each beneficiary becomes a donor for the next woman in need. 

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
During the COVID-19 crisis, we witnessed firsthand the connection that we have to one another, even across the globe. While we all experienced the pandemic together, we could see the vast differences and inequality in its impact across communities and countries. This only fueled our passion and emphasized the need for our work even more. During this time, we continued with our approach to be community-led, listening to our local partner (Hundee) to understand what the women and people of Oromia, Ethiopia needed most. While we had delays in providing cows, we were able to provide funds for flour, soap, and cooking oil that were needed most. 

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Image Credits
Terri Kirk
Etefa Gudina
Liz Crawford

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2 Comments

  1. Giffti

    June 18, 2022 at 8:24 am

    Wow, we know her and she doing a lot of things for women to change their life. God bless you and your family wherever and thanks all to help and donate the money to help other women. not only women to help boys and girls to change their education states buy a Solar light even if no light and they stay in the dark, the light of them. I am proud of her.👊

  2. MathewosNegasa Alga

    June 18, 2022 at 9:18 pm

    First of all thank you and next this work is what i need to do if i see a person who do this good work thank you

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