In the summer of 1994, right after the first International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) took event in Cairo, Egypt at which DSW participated; a new thinking had paved the path for a platform to an active campaign of SRHR issues in Ethiopia by DSW. Prior to its proactive engagement that eventually led to the opening up a country office in Ethiopia, DSW was working in partnership with local organizations, among which had included ‘Save Your Generation Association (SYGA)’.
From the early days onward, the young people in Ethiopia, particularly of the adolescents were the main focus of DSW’s commitment to address their SRHR needs. One of the epic-making milestones hitherto stick to DSW’s reputation is the Youth-to-Youth (Y2Y) Initiative, a social franchising model one was pioneered by DSW in Ethiopia. This youth program in essence bore a nationwide phenomenon as a gift to and for the young people in Ethiopian by DSW.
The most visible best practices of the Y2Y Initiative are the pace with which the effects continue to replicate and cascade the impacts all the ways to the grassroots community. Thus far, more than eight million youth have been mobilized and were benefited from DSW’s youth program. Sexuality education and other SRH issues are no longer a taboo to discuss and dialogue in a most transparent manner among and between the young people in Ethiopia.
In August 1998, DSW Ethiopia had proactively kicked in its mission from its first country office opened in Africa. Two years later (in 2000), an official registration of the DSW’s country office had become materialized. It all started with a handful of key staff members. The appointment of a female first country director at helm truly ushered DSW to join the rank of a very few international NGOs in Ethiopia then being headed by females. For more than sixteen years of its mission in Ethiopia, the country office has now embraced as many as fifty-five employees working full time.
Between 1998 and 2016, DSW Ethiopia saw four country directors. Two were females who are stalwart advocates of the sexual and reproductive health right issues. As DSW’s work in Ethiopia increasingly became visible, a series of study-tour of the various projects were organized by DSW for donors and other stakeholders, including the German Parliamentarians, individual celebrities, EU delegates and journalists from eight EU-member states.
Since 2004, DSW Ethiopia adds the capacity building program to its specialties. In November of that year, the Youth Development Center was established. The center was founded on an international model with the financial support of BONITA GmbH & Co. KG, a German-based women’s clothing chain. When BONITA-DSW Youth Development Center was launched twelve years ago, it was the first in its kind. Every year, this center provides training programs for more than one thousand young people and over half of them are females who take leadership roles on SRH youth clubs managements. It is the center of excellence for conducting researches, documenting best practices, producing IEC-BCC materials, compiling evaluation documents and preparing RH manuals.
When DSW Ethiopia drew the attention of key stakeholders and its partners some fifteen years ago and formed a taskforce team to help develop RH Manual, there wasn’t any one similar training manual compiled in local contexts way back in 1998. This manual, over a period of fifteen years has been revised three times each revision was done in five years interval. Since then, it has had numerous editions of print-run and continues to be used both by DSW’s partner youth clubs and others local and international youth-SRH focused organizations. The validity of this manual has continued to gain traction with an official endorsement issued by the Federal Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Health particularly took stakes of DSW’s projects. That the ministry has many times in the past initiated and brought the roles of DSW upfront at the key taskforce team to develop SRH-related national strategic documents.
As the SRH issue is the core thematic area of DSW’s specialty, it undertook implementation of a three-year project by integrating SRH and the livelihood needs of women who earn their living from the informal sector. This project was formally known as “Working Together for Decent Work”. One of DSW’s most successful projects in recent past was funded and technically supported by the European Union (EU). When this project had phased out in June 2014, there have been about 20,000 women benefited from improved SRH access and economic empowerment.
Although DSW Ethiopia mainly focuses on clearly defined thematic areas for its programmatic activities and implementation, SRH remains a crosscutting issue when an intervention calls upon DSW’s expertise outside the thematic areas. Such one instance worth noting is the Adolescent Nutrition Support Project (ANSP). This project was a two-year pilot program. By integrating the ANSP with the SRH program, DSW Ethiopia successfully executed the project in ten rural localities of the two most populous regions in the country. The area in which DSW’s experience in Ethiopia matters most contributed to the results achieved as behavior change communications was central to the pilot intervention. The fact that adolescents were the main target beneficiaries of the project, it has made it all the more new and was implemented by DSW for the first time.
The Behavioral Change Communication material one that has been regularly published for the past six years in a row remains a flagship for DSW Ethiopia in a way none of its peers ever equally merit it to the extent of similar undertaking. In the past six years alone, there have been a print run of 1,560,000 publications between the regular IEC-BCC materials produced in two versions and two major languages. The primary recipients of the IEC-BCC publications are the projects’ beneficiaries and the youth clubs. Since there are more than 60 youth clubs in various parts of the country, they receive most of the publications and distribute them to the young people in the community.
The youth clubs are the change champions and all are being formed on the basis of voluntarism. They are also effective means to reach the community and work with DSW Ethiopia as grassroots partners. When the youth clubs still remain at the grassroots level, they run one or two projects each and could manage a budget not more than 500 euro annually. To date, about two dozens of former youth clubs have become home-grown NGOs. Each on average could manage an annual budget for different projects up to 500,000 euro.
Through the last sixteen years, DSW Ethiopia has been able to partner with twenty-one local and international organizations. Here is to the continued success of DSW in Ethiopia!