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Empowerment through technology... giving more control over their destiny

I have been working in Western Ethiopia and South Sudan. I spent 3 months in Malakal South Sudan prior to the latest out break of internal war. While I was there in my hotel, the house keeping women, gathered everyday to make things to sell in the market. However the things they made were only valuable to their local market and therefore, would have no real impact on the world or even their city.

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The big issues to overcome are mainly cultural and sexual by nature of there old tribal and cultural norms which is just now being challenged and is begining to break down. Many who have now lived in the US and other countries see that the tribal and cultural ideals and norms they have accepted for hundreds of years is not really what they would like or what they are willing to accept any longer and it certainly will not allow them to succeed. Without this insight and the ability to grab on to and own new technology and abilities in business and management, their place in society will never change as they are presently totally at the cultural will of the males. This behavior allows the males to take them as wives far too young. The result is that they are used and then cast out after they do not serve the sexual needs of the older male any longer. These young women are left to a sometimes agonizing long term slow death sentence without being able to obtain surgery and emotional help. This is a very sad and unless cultural ideas unless changed at the root of the male. Without this change of respect and admiration for the female gender, there will be no change for women in these primative and now emerging cultural settings. So taking the tip that we learned on our first venture into helping in South Sudan after 9/11. 1. We first asked the people what they wanted. 2. We then made the arrangements from the US. 3. Then we turned over to the community in Gambella a boat that was made in Addis Ababa, by a Swedish mission who were teaching the students the skills of building boats. This proceedure, is the one the people respect and therefore think highly of how we helped and how we saved their lives and gave them hope. We empowered them to fulfill their need as they saw it. I have obtained and studied over the past 4-5 years solar power. In those years we developed curriculum for teaching 5th grade to adults. So, instead of going to Africa in the South Sudan, as this is not possible right now as they are still at unrest. I will be training South Sudanese women in the US in Lincoln Nebraska, how to design, make panels and batteries and how to use solar panels in the villages. Why women, because the South Sudanese women are extremely intelligent and are motivated. They are use to working with their hands and are very good at very fine detail. That is why they are hired in the US in meat packing plants because of their fine hand skills with a knife in the preparation of animals for food. This comes natural to them as it is part of their culture. Their fine motor skills and leadership can now be adapted to learn a new technology. Much like sewing, but is limited in both market and income. They like the idea that they can not learn it here in the US and then take it to South Sudan to share it with their sisters and brothers back in South Sudan. These skills and leadership will establish themselves as possessing a high self esteem and knowledge base. Mastery of new technologies and leadership are the things that women in their culture need to begin to own to change their destiny. 

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Hi Les, cheers for adding your inspiring impact story to our challenge! As you continue to share how you're bringing impact, we encourage you – and our entire community – to be sure to explain how your story connects back to the OpenIDEO challenge you're posting it to. In our challenge Impact phases, we're particularly keen to hear from community members who've been inspired to bring OpenIDEO challenge ideas to life and who want to share updates and impact stories directly related to those ideas. Check out more tips: