Ethiopia: A collective vision for disability inclusion in action!

Bob Ransom, one of the founding members of an Ethiopian civil society organization Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development (ECDD) explains why organizations promoting development should pay attention to people with disabilities. ECDD started as SYL’s development cooperation project partner responsible for implementing the project in Ethiopia since January 2019.

Bob Ransom decided to settle in Ethiopia after retirement in 2005. He had a long career working in Africa in the area of vocational training and employment for persons with disabilities with an American organization, and then with the UN International Labour Organization (ILO). After retirement, he wanted to do something different, which could create a real impact. He got together various friends and colleagues to discuss setting up a new organization.  This organization became ECDD.

ECDD started with only 5 people. Bob put up some of his own money as seed capital to start the organization. They bought computers and rented office space and furniture. Next, they invited Kalle Könkkölä to Ethiopia. Kalle Könkkölä at the time was the global president of Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI), whom Bob knew through an ILO project. They thought that Ethiopia would be a great place for Kalle’s organization to come and work as there were very few international disability organizations working in Ethiopia at that time. After his visit, ECDD became the representative for people with disabilities in Ethiopia.

ECDD then started processing grant applications. Threshold Association in Finland applied and got money for the university project for disabled students. ECDD also established principles like gender equality (an association that was 50-50 male-female) and deliberate hiring of qualified persons with disabilities. ECDD was unique in the way that they saw the need for promoting disability mainstreaming. They didn’t want to be an organization that provided services directly to an individual person with disabilities because there were many organizations doing that. They observed that there was goodwill on the part of many people, government and development CSOs to include people with disabilities. They just didn’t know how to include them, so they weren’t doing it. ECDD decided to make it their mission to show how to include visually/hearing impaired, physically/intellectually disabled people as part of their organization.The need was tremendous and is continuously growing with the population growth.

Slowly, over the years, ECDD developed relationships with other organizations, answered calls for proposals and got funding. It was a step-by-step growth. With their new strategic plan, they are now realizing the need for a more coherent programming, instead of just responding to what the donors want them to do. They know that it will be a long-term transition, but they are heading in the right direction. With increasing pressure on international development assistance community, Bob Ransom believes that ECDD is well positioned as an Ethiopian organization for promoting the development of people with disabilities. There is a need to pay more attention to people with disabilities, and to stop excluding them willfully orby neglect!

Shruti Jain
KENKKU member

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