Home Stories Persistent Pursuit for Pharmacist Student 

Persistent Pursuit for Pharmacist Student 

In September of this year, Albab Woyesa will leave her college campus as a proud pharmacist.  

Albab Woyesa, 4th year pharmacy student, poses for a photograph during class at Pharma College in Hawassa, Ethiopia

Looking back on the past three years, she recalls the challenges she faced at the start of her college education.

In 2020, I joined university to study pharmacy. Unfortunately, our mother passed away the same year. My siblings and I had to vacate our house and I moved to Hawasa to live with my older sister.” 

Albab Woyesa

Albab was determined to pursue her dream of becoming a pharmacist despite her financial struggles. She enrolled in Pharma Health Sciences College (Pharma College) in Hawasa as a transfer student and began classes. “I wasn’t sure where the fees would come from and this made me worry a lot,” Albab adds. 

Money wasn’t the only concern. Albab thought the learning experience might be different from her previous school. But what she found was a positive change. Video tutorials complimented lectures, most classes had hands-on lab sessions, and the trainers encouraged group work and discussions, which helped Albab adjust and catch up quickly. She found the hands-on practice to be a plus. 

Job satisfaction of Ethiopian health workers

Pharma College is one of 26 higher education institutions in Ethiopia supported by Jhpiego’s Health Workforce Integrated Project (HWIP). The US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded project focuses on improving education for health workers in key professions such as medicine, nursing and midwifery, anaesthesia, public health, pharmacy, and medical laboratory.  

Prioritizing the quality of the health workforce is a key step to improve the coverage and quality of essential health services. Through gender transformative activities—a training, mentoring, and experiential learning package of 12 different interventions developed by the Ministry of Health—students receive education, skills, and support to provide competent and confident person-centered care that helps engage clients in their health. With help from HWIP to strengthen gender offices in institutions such as Pharma College, gender transformative activities increased from 28% to 72%. HWIP also helps higher institutions deliver an outcomes-based curriculum, improve teaching effectiveness, strengthen clinical education skills, and focus on gender response approaches while expanding the use of digital learning solutions.  

Students listen intently during class at Pharma College in Hawassa, Ethiopia.

Strengthening and sustaining a skilled workforce begins by expanding access to medical education, where women continue to be disadvantaged compared with men, and by promoting gender equity in academic studies. According to USAID1, as girls grow older, school participation becomes increasingly difficult as it takes time away from essential income generating activities. Only 35% of undergraduate university students are female and 5% drop out in the first year. A 2020 baseline report conducted by HWIP revealed gender disparities in student enrollment, graduation, and dropout rates, which disfavored females.  

But Albab had an opportunity others did not. Pharma College has a gender club and her classmates encouraged her to join it. The gender club focuses on providing peer-to-peer support, organizing learning sessions and strengthening support systems for students with financial, academic, and social challenges. Topics covered during the sessions include communications, negotiation skills and gender-based violence. At the gender club, Albab met Mela Girma who was trained by Jhpiego on gender transformative activities. 

“I remember when Albab joined [the club]. She was quiet and didn’t talk much,” says Mela. “We usually have small group sessions that give everyone an opportunity to talk and build confidence. After some sessions, Albab gained confidence to talk about her academic financial challenges. She had good grades but was worried that she would (have to) drop out of school,” adds Mela. “The gender club here allows young women to have their own space and forum where they can feel seen, heard and equipped with the right information.”  

Albab applied for a scholarship offered by the campus administration, which she learned about through the gender club. A few weeks later, she learned her application was successful and she received a tuition scholarship for the rest of the coursework. “This scholarship has done so much for me. I can concentrate on my studies and perform well without worrying,” she says. Albab was one of 10 students at the college who received a tuition scholarship through the college fund. In a few months, she will join about 600 students as she graduates as a trained pharmacist.  

Pharmacy professionals play a key role in health workforce availability and management of priority health conditions such as tuberculosis, maternal and child health and malaria. High attrition rates and pharmacist shortages are major challenges in delivering clinical pharmacy services.  

In the second year of the project, HWIP supported 49 health facilities to assess their staffing requirements and hired 2,221 professionals—831 of whom were women—including 130 in pharmacy and 122 in medical laboratory positions. The project advocated to fill these vacant spots because they play key roles in managing tuberculosis and malaria services.  

Pharmacy student Albab Woyesa engages in a practical exercise during class at Pharma College in Hawassa, Ethiopia. The goal of the Health Workforce Improvement Program (HWIP) is to ensure that Ethiopia’s health workforce is better skilled and better managed to provide quality health care to all segments of the Ethiopian population.

While leadership opportunities for women still aren’t equal, gender transformative activities at health care colleges like Pharma College are making a difference, especially as more students graduate and enter the health workforce.  

“We give equal opportunities and encourage healthy dialogue between male and female students and faculty. Through the support of Jhpiego I am confident in the competence of our graduating class this year,” says Dr. Wongelawit Seyoum, a physician and Vice President of Pharma College. “We are using every resource we have to make this progress consistent. My contribution, as the leader of this institution is producing capable health professionals. I am working on the future.” 

As graduation day approaches, Albab is one among many young women who have overcome gender inequities that disfavor females. “Hard times don’t pass quickly, but eventually they do. Challenges will come and go. Be strong and patient in order to get something good,” Albab says confidently.  

Jhpiego believes that when women are healthy, families and communities are strong. We won’t rest until all women and their families—no matter where they live—can access the health care they need to pursue happy and productive lives.

Donate now!