Despite the global pandemic dragging on, the development cooperation project, coordinated in-tandem with SYL and The Threshold Association, continues in Ethiopia. The EMPOWER project aims to improve and increase the opportunities for disabled people to study at the academic level as well as to increase the overall equality between disabled and non-disabled students at universities. The Ethiopian partner universities have an important role in achieving these objectives. Approximately 18 % of the Ethiopian population suffer from disability and disabled people continue to suffer from underrepresentation in education.
During the last six months, our partner organization, the ECDD, has been focusing on organizing training for university staff and students. Giving training and further education on disability is important because, in order to have a true and long-lasting change in the society, the societal prejudice on disabled people have to be changed. On the other hand, it is equally important to provide training for students with disabilities so that they are aware of their own rights and the positive development continues even after the project finishes.
Here are some examples of the results achieved during the first six months of the year 2021:
- Increasing knowledge at the university top management level. Each of the three Ethiopian partner universities organized a training event, lasting for two days, aimed at promoting equality and inclusion. The participants appeared to be very interested and eager to learn more. However, despite the clear interest and slowly improving level of inclusion, disabled people continue to suffer from a marginalized status in Ethiopian society. Educational events are a powerful way to correct inadequate or outdated knowledge about disabled people. They also make it easier to intervene in discrimination.
- Trainings for non-disabled students and staff. Similar training events were organized for non-disabled students as well as university security workers. Before the event, the knowledge on disabilities was limited but the training succeeded in creating active discussion and improving the level of knowledge. The topics covered ranged from accessibility to the rights of disabled people and equality. In total, 73 non-disabled students and 61 security workers attended.
- Improving skills with leadership training. In addition to the educational events, each of the partner universities organized leadership training for the leaders of the Association of students with disabilities. The leadership training aimed to help disabled students and their associations to work more efficiently and independently. Giving training in skills such as leadership is important because this ensures that the positive work can be carried on by the associations themselves after the EMPOWER project. In addition, a visit between the associations and local organizations working for disabled people was organized and it was very fruitful.
- Job-seeking skills for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities are considered by many to be inferior not only in academic performance but also in employment. In order to improve their employability, the ECDD provided job searching and entrepreneurship skills training to graduating students with disabilities. 60 disabled students took part in different training sessions aimed to improve job-seeking skills and entrepreneurship. Some of the major important topics of the training were for example how to write a good CV and how to succeed in entrepreneurship. The effectiveness of the training was measured by testing the participants before and after the event and over 90% of them scored higher results afterwards.
SYL’s project is carried out at three new public universities in Ethiopia (Dilla, Debre Berhan and Jimma Universities) in collaboration with the local organization ECDD and with support from The Threshold Association. The project will run from 2019 to 2022, and it aims to improve the education and position of disabled students so that they can participate in education, gain qualifications and find employment like other students.
SYL’s Development Cooperation Advisory Board