The Ethiopian Centre for Disability and Development

An inclusive Ethiopia for people with disabilities

Freedom for Equality

According to the World Health Organisation, there are an estimated 15 million people living with disabilities in Ethiopia, representing 17.6% of the population. For many, the inaccessibility of built environments is a major obstacle to participating actively in society. In addition to physical obstacles, people with disabilities are held back by attitudes and mistaken assumptions about them and their abilities. For these reasons, people with disabilities in Ethiopia are often unable to find a means of sustaining a living and 95% are estimated to live in poverty.

The Ethiopian Centre for Disability and Development (ECDD) works collaboratively with other organisations to promote and facilitate “disability inclusive development” in Ethiopia. Their aim is to make Ethiopia inclusive to people with disabilities rather than separating them from society by confining them to specialist facilities. This approach ensures people with disabilities can be integrated in mainstream schools, universities, healthcare services and workplaces. Their projects, conducted in collaboration with relevant organisations, focus on mainstreaming disability issues and people with disabilities into existing community development programmes, increasing vocational skills training opportunities for youth and adults and increasing the accessibility of mainstream schools and healthcare facilities.

ECDD’s Inclusive Training and Employment Program (ISTEP), supported by USAID Ethiopia, helps people with disabilities find and secure employment. Few employers in Ethiopia will consider employing a candidate with a disability, so ECDD decided to tackle the issue by both educating employers and supporting prospective employees. To better prepare prospective employees, ISTEP worked with vocational colleges and universities, training approximately 750 instructors and support staff to provide skills and training for people with disabilities. With support from ISTEP, nearly 300 people with disabilities were enrolled in training in areas including food preparation, construction, metal works and making leather products. ECDD also helped job seekers with disabilities to be stronger candidates by helping them to prepare resumes and get ready for interviews.

88 of the enrolled trainees obtained jobs after their training, 168 secured internship placements and 93 received support to start their own individual or joint businesses. ECDD also trained 95 human resource managers in creating inclusive employment practices. Lukas Zida, an ISTEP beneficiary who is now a high school counsellor said, “before I began work, people did not want to even shake my hand, as if my blindness would pass on to them. But the situation changed after I got employed – there was a complete change of attitude. I feel my pride restored and feel respect in the community because of what I have achieved.”

ECDD was conceived and created by people who have experienced living with disabilities in Ethiopia, and they maintain majority governance by people with disabilities and their family members as one of their core values, alongside gender equality. They aim to break boundaries, challenge stigma and ultimately create an inclusive Ethiopia, where people with disabilities exercise the same rights and have access to the same services and opportunities enjoyed by others.

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