On Thursday, October 7 2021, DSW inaugurated a youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health (SRH) service clinic in Assela, one of its key project areas located around 100 miles southeast of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. A full schedule was set for the all-day event, which was attended by regional health officials from Oromia, as well as senior academic representatives from Arsi University.
The inauguration program proceeded under the watch of Serk Youth Empowerment Center (YEC) whose facilities house the newly launched youth-friendly SRH clinic. The clinic intends to support the young people with both information and services related to SRH.
“This inaugural event that led to the launching of the clinic represents the first service delivery engagement on the part of DSW. By the same virtue, DSW has now taken a step forward from its flagship thematic focus of disseminating SRH information, commodity supplies and creating demand for the service provision throughout its two decades of operation in Ethiopia,” stated Feyera Assefa, Country Director of DSW Ethiopia.
The establishment of this pilot clinic is the culmination of years of continuous assessment of youth-friendly SRH service needs made by DSW, supported by the encouragement of parents and community members across different age groups. The clinic finally brings together DSW’s work on access to information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, with the provision of SRH services and supplies.
“DSW’s commitments to the wellbeing of young people in our community have brought us together to arrive at this important development: service provision being served and delivered by and with the very young people growing up here. I worked as a watchman at one of the public offices near the Serk Youth Empowerment Center (YEC) and I often saw the young people working on SRH-related issues in the centre. I became interested in their activity because I am a father of six children and most of them were in their early teens back then. Once I found out what was going on with the young people in the centre, I personally encouraged my own daughter to team up with her peers,” said Mekonnen Assefa, whose daughter Kidist Mekonnen aged 18, is a peer-educator and has volunteered at the YEC since she was sixteen years old.
“We started with tailored messages on SRH for young people, aimed at impacting their behavior and eventually build upon the knowledge accumulated from these experiences to launch a service delivery facility. Here we have come a long way but we finally implemented what we had envisioned for empowering youth and creating a better future for them,” emphasized Feyera.
DSW, which has mentored more than 200 youth clubs (also known as youth empowerment centers) all across the country, both to advocate and create widespread demand for SRH services, has long looked for ways to establish a youth-friendly service facility such as the Serk Youth Empowerment Center.
“The presence of this project by DSW empowered the Serk Youth Empowerment Center to provide great services to many young people in Assela and the surrounding communities,” acknowledges Semeneh Tejneh, an Assistant Professor who teaches SRH studies at Arsi University. He further noted that “this youth empowerment center has already demonstrated more than its fair share of responsibility.”
As part of the inaugural event, government stakeholders and other partners engaged in interactive discussions, sharing their experiences and pledging for further commitments.
“How to keep this youth-friendly SRH service delivery facility sustainable remains a question which we need to address. For instance, we should contribute in terms of capacity development for the youth working in the clinic both professionally and on a voluntary basis,” suggests professor Semeneh Tejneh.
“It would also be very practical to set up recreational activities in close proximity to the facility, so that the young people can find the services they may need right where they spend their free time. Let’s not forget that this town is home to one of the highest proportions of youth dealing with substance abuse and SRH-related issues. Thus, we should take our pledges seriously and build up upon DSW’s efforts, trying to replicate similar undertakings in the future”. Professor Semeneh Tejneh concluded his remarks by recalling that everyone has a stake in DSW’s project.
“The accessibility of our model for service delivery is not only defined by maintaining it at a minimum possible cost, if not free altogether, but also by the fact that the information and knowledge accumulated on SRH-related issues during the past year are now available at the same location where the youth-friendly SRH services get delivered,” Feyera reaffirms.
The youth-friendly SRH clinic is modeled on delivering service provision as well as disseminating SRH information and creating demand for the services by and with the youth. Each field of activity is housed in different units, making the services conveniently accessible for the young people.
In his final remarks, the Head of Assela Health Office, Alemayehu Tessema said that “if DSW showed the way to play its part, we too should be able to take this endeavor to the next level. There are many training programs out there offered by our partners and we would like to ensure that some of these capacity development opportunities go for this service delivery clinic inaugurated today. We can also supply the clinic with SRH commodities based on its needs”, pledges Alemayehu.
Financially supported by the Dirk Rossmann Foundation, Voice for Choice (V4C) has been an important advocate for youth in the past three years, reaching many young people in Assela town with information on SRH, and establishing links for service provision. At the cusp of its third year, V4C has now become a driving force for DSW Ethiopia to inaugurate and launch a SRH service delivery clinic and keep up its youth-friendly approach.