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A Mountain of Hope: An interview with Hannah Godefa

Much like her peers, 17-year-old Hannah Godefa is very busy with her senior year of high school and active on social media. Unlike her peers, though, the Toronto teen is an ambassador for UNICEF Ethiopia and is the founder of Pencil Mountain, a global mobilization initiative that focuses on sending school supplies to children in rural Ethiopian communities. But that's not even the best part, Hannah began this initiative when she was only seven years old!

While visiting her grandmother in Axum, Ethiopia for the first time In 2005, a seven-year-old Hannah made friends with neighbourhood kids, excited to be pen pals when she returned to Toronto. To her dismay, she was told that her friends didn't have pencils to write with or paper to send her.

Upon returning to Canada she reached out to her school and local businesses to help her support her friends in rural Axum and make her vision a reality. Supported by her family and community, Hannah began collecting boxes of school supplies from local schools as well as donors like Staples and Walmart to be sent to rural communities in Ethiopia. Hannah credits many of the achievements of Pencil Mountain to youth in her community for promoting school supply connection. Pencil Mountain aims to advocate for girls on a global level by directly addressing gender inequality and creating dialogue about issues faced by girls around the world such as child marriage and female genital mutilation. Hannah is working through the Hannah Godefa Fund to organize a youth centre to provide vocational education to girls in rural Ethiopia. She describes her initiatives as a combination of activism and action. Hannah says her greatest challenges occurred as an elementary school student when she was trying to make people listen to her message and take her ideas seriously. She was able to overcome this by working with trusted volunteers, and full support from her family. She is now able to share her message with the global community thanks to the platform UNICEF provides, as well as through social media.

“Seeing the faces of children who have benefitted from my foundation’s work has been the highlight of my life.”

Hannah wishes for her foundation to expand throughout Africa and reach as many women and girls as possible. She hopes that her initiative will one day influence public policy affecting children around the world, and hopes for a world free of gender parity, where all girls can receive an education and be safe from genital mutilation, unfair marriage practices and access to health care. She wishes to see more young women taking on leadership roles at a global level.

Hannah’s favourite part of what she does is being able to empower girls all over the world. She wants you to know that you can make a difference in your community, by advocating for girls through social media platforms or getting involved with local organizations that focus on causes affecting women, such as women’s shelters.

GET INVOLVED! Other ways to get involved include blood donor clinics, which often take place in schools, or sports teams geared toward low-income families. As well, organizations like UN Women or UNICEF who value and work toward global gender equality. How do you make a difference in your community? What is your dream for women and girls around the world?

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