The Ethiopian society is undergoing a historical change – a shift towards democracy. See how things have changed for SYL’s partner organization, the Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development (ECDD).
Bob Ransom is a founding member of ECDD. Before retirement, he worked with the UN International Labour Organization and travelled all over Africa. He did not find it very satisfying, as they went in for a short period, gave advice and guidance and then left. There was no possibility of a follow-up. With the desire to see some impact, he set up ECDD, not as an international NGO, but as an Ethiopian organization, to see what they could accomplish in one country.
At the time of setting up in 2005, ECDD thought to do disability rights advocacy. However, with the government proclamation of 2009, they ended up having to change most of their documents. They could not use the word ‘advocacy’. They could not talk about ‘disability rights’. However, they didn’t really change what they were doing, they just changed their language. They ended up calling it ‘disability awareness’ instead of ‘advocacy’. In a way, it was the same thing, but there were some words that really upset the agency controlling the CSOs. The whole attitude of the government at the time was control. The government believed that the civil society was a necessary evil, a way of bringing money into the country. The government recognized that the civil society was doing some good things, but on the other hand, they felt that civil society was competing, in terms of taking resources away from the government.
A decade later, now in 2019, with the change in government, things are looking more positive. There is new legislation this year, which is very enabling and exciting. The new prime minister has called for a meeting with the representatives of the civil society to talk about their role in Ethiopian society and development. This meeting was attended by around 400 representatives including the ECDD Executive Director. Bob believes that the new prime minister is smart and knows that civil society can really complement and strengthen what the government is doing. He will send out very positive signals to get more resources flowing into the country. ECDD believes that the timing for the start of the SYL project is in a very favorable environment, which can lead to real impact in the next couple of years for disabled students in universities. The future looks very promising.
Help ECDD and SYL to support students in Ethiopia, by donating at Holvi (in Finnish)