Young People in Action: Empowering Ethiopian Adolescents
Young People in Action encourages engagement in education to reduce harmful traditional practices.
As well promoting supportive, open and favorable community attitudes to end discrimination towards people, especially adolescents, living with HIV and AIDS.
The Ethiopian Government’s Ministry of Health estimates that there will be 2.5 million orphans by 2014 as a result of HIV and AIDS.
The lack of education in rural Ethiopia, especially on sexual and reproductive health, leads to myths and misunderstandings about sex, reproduction, and people’s rights. Aamina Mohamed, a former sex worker and current peer educator, easily identifies the negative conventional wisdom affecting local communities in Ahmara region. “Women are not equal in their socio-economic responsibility, early marriage is advantageous, giving birth before marriage is a sin, rape is not a big crime for policy-makers and sex-workers are ill-behaved”, she explains.
Negative perceptions like these lead to real problems for the local people. Tenagne Worku, who has lived with HIV for five years, experienced it herself: “Due to the fact that I didn’t have much information about HIV and AIDS, I didn’t take all the precautions when I used to have sexual relationships with different men”. She now works as a care-giver, looking after people living with HIV and AIDS, like her daughter.
‘Young People in Action’ has trained more than 1,500 peer educators and more than 600 community –based organisations. The establishment of nine new youth centers has also helped, benefiting more than 16,800 vulnerable people.
According to USAID the number of HIV-positive women aged 15-16 is much higher than men of the same age.
By providing local young people with the knowledge and the skills to address their problems, Interact is helping prevent the spread, and reduce the impacts of HIV and AIDS. From early marriage to female genital mutilation, along with skills training and financial support, local peer educators are changing perceptions, behaviors, and with them the future directions of communities in Ethiopia.
Kassa Mohamed was 15 years old when her family forced her to marry a 30 years old man. After seeking a divorce at 5 months, she had to challenge the traditional thoughts of her community: “Our peer educators told us that the existing Ethiopian legislation highly opposes arranging marriage below 18, even if there is the couple’s authorisation.” Legal advisers helped her family and religious leaders accept Kassa’s decision until she finally got divorced. She now lives with her parents and plans to be a lawyer and help other girls her age.
11,495 young women and men have accessed family planning including condoms. We've helped 460 young people with drug dependency issues, and 7,587 have attended voluntary HIV counselling and testing services. 291 pregnant women have received prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV and AIDS services.
Skills training and economic support has enabled young people to play a greater role in their communities. Yenee Hussein lost her father and was forced to drop out school. After her engagement with Young People in Action, however, she has gained basic business skills and financial support to open a shop.
Yenee’s story reveals the hopes of tomorrow: “I want to thank (Interact local partner) EMRDA and its workers who provided me this chance. I can improve myself even beyond this in the future. I am also showing good performance in my class, thus I will help others in the future as you made me to step up today.”