08.07.135:21 PM ET

Constructing a New Life

Ethiopian women find jobs in hard labor.

Mekedes Getachew is one of six women working on an Ethiopian construction site in the capital of Addis Ababa—a growing trend stemming from the surplus of nannies and cleaners in the city. Even though she started out making only 75 cents to the men’s $2 per hour, she still lifted 100-pound bags of cement to prove herself to her boss. Most girls in her village are married off at a young age, but Mekedes set off on her own at age 11, being a nanny for three children—one of whom was older than her. When she was kicked to the curb after developing pneumonia, she returned home but was spurred to return when she heard stories on the radio of women working on construction sites. Mekedes’s job allows her to save up for when she is truly independent—she harbors dreams of attending school or owning a small shop.