Amen Gabre, A 17-Years-Old Exchange Student From Ethiopia To Speak At Aledo Conference

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Local women are invited to take a break from holiday craziness for a special Christian conference called Untangled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at The Slammer Bed & Breakfast.

Conference speakers will include singer/songwriter Chris Walters of Camanche, Iowa; Lori Boruff and Deb Bowen, both of Aledo, who are authors and speakers; and Amen Gabre, a 17-year-old exchange student from Ethiopia, who has worked with Ms. Bowen and is passionate about women’s rights in Africa.

“We wanted to launch a speaking platform for Amen to talk about special experiences she’s had,” Ms. Bowen said of the student, who spent the last school year at Davenport Central and is completing high school at Scattergood Friends School outside Iowa City. Amen Gabre received a full scholarship from an anonymous donor.

Ms. Gabre’s essay about the book “The Bold Countryside Girl” by Beza Tamerat, a distant relative of hers, won first place in the 2016 Iowa Letters About Literature program, in the high-school division.

“I was just blown away by the depth of a girl her age,” Ms. Bowen said, noting Ms. Gabre’s talented-and-gifted program teacher at Central “really challenged her, and told her she could do it.”

Ms. Bowen encouraged Ms. Gabre to expand her essay for her “A Book by Me” series, short books for students written and illustrated by students. The series includes books on the Holocaust, human rights, veterans, and other heroes.

Ms. Gabre’s book is “The Plight of Ethiopian Girls,” and it’s about her life and the struggle for young Ethiopian women. It was illustrated by Faith Mutum of Rock Island.

“It’s very personal to me since I was a pre-teen when I witnessed young girls in a small village being circumcised,” Ms. Gabre wrote in a recent email. “I’ve never been able to forget their screams as their elders tortured them in the name of tradition. Since then, I’ve learned that many women die in childbirth and have other health complications due to this heinous act. I want to get a law degree and help stop this in my country and other countries as well.”

She said she was surprised to see how supportive the Davenport Central teachers were when she arrived in fall 2015. “It isn’t like that in my country,” Ms. Gabre said.

She also was impressed by Ms. Bowen’s giving heart. “She endorsed my dreams, and I knew her kind inclinations toward me,” she wrote.

In her essay, Ms. Amen Gabre wrote of the Ethiopian author: “I used to think that girls who live in the countryside of Ethiopia would never get the chance to come out from their darkness. If phenomenal girls like you can make it through all the difficulties, obstacles, and pains that you endured, then it gives me hope that I can make it, too.”

On Saturday, the teen will talk about Ethiopia, “the reason why I became a feminist, and female genital mutilation, which I believe is the core part of my whole speaking,” she said by email. “Also, I will talk about God’s grace, mercy and blessing upon my family and I.”

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