As a gender and youth focused organization; Young women Christian Association (YWCA) in Ethiopia is striving for the well being of women and young girls through designing and promoting different projects and programs. Among such programs, one of the currently active projects is ‘State Of The African Women’ advocacy (SOAW) project. The project is being implemented in partnership with Young Women Christian Association of Kenya.
State of African Women Program
Funded by the European Union, the three-year advocacy, communication and awareness-raising campaign project remains from 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2020. This project is being implemented in 16 African countries having the overall objective of securing, realizing and extending women’s rights enshrined in African Union policies in African countries. The campaign focuses on strengthening the civil society’s contribution to promote the implementation of the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women (Maputo Protocol) and the Maputo Plan of Action (MPoA).
The project creates a platform that brings 16 African YWCAs to share strengths, strategies and networks. The 16 YWCAs represented by Youth Champions and their General Secretaries are being taken through capacity building training and workshops on the Maputo protocol and advocacy skills, with an aim of increasing their knowledge and skills towards campaigning.
Ethiopian Youth Champions Engagement in State of the African women (SOAW) project;
As part of the project, YWCA recruited two young girls to be women/girls right champions, to coordinate and carryout different advocacy activities. Since the start of the project; the youth champions have been able to organize awareness raising workshops, Speak about the Maputo protocol during different events and engage more than 500 youth through different social media and club activities.
Moreover, the youth champions are engaged with Women Self Help Group federations. The federations, as people’s institution have a major role to lobby and advocate for the right of women and to positively influence the implementation of polices in the country.
To this end, an awareness raising and consultative meeting on Maputo protocol was organized among 10 Women Self Help Group Federations from different regions of the country. The training workshop was conducted as a side event to the’ Self Help Group day’ event organized by Consortium of Self-help group Approach Promoters (CoSAP) on November 24-25/2017 in Amhara Region, Debre Birhan town. The focus articles of the workshop were; article two, article five and article fourteen of the Maputo protocol.
- Eliminating discrimination against women
- Elimination of Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs)
- Health and reproductive rights of women
Discussing on the above articles, participants shared different experiences and practical cases that confirm the vast existence of various harmful traditional practices, gender based violence and challenges of women in health and reproductive services in Ethiopia. Agreeing on the high prevalence of different women right violations from where the federation members are coming, the work shop participants discuss on their respective advocacy roles as self-help group Federations. The following are among the identified roles which the SHG women Federations priories;
- Identifying real cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV), Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) and the different challenges in health and reproductive rights of women in their community.
- Organize public awareness raising programs and present the above identified real case cases to the community on large events. For example; during March 08, Women’s Day celebration.
- Organize consultative meetings with concerned stake holders in their community which includes; police office, women’s affair office and other community based institutions.
- Cascade the content of Maputo protocol among members of the SHGs in their locality.
Furthermore, to enhance the advocacy work of SHG women Federations, YWCA and CoSAP are working together to engage the youth champions of YWCA to engage with the different federations in the country.
Testimony of METI GEMECHU; Youth Volunteer of YWCA and Champion for State of African Women Campaign project of YWCA,
Meti Gemechu, is one of the youth champions of YWCA Ethiopia for State of African Women (SOAW) project. She narrates her experience with YWCA as follow;
‘My name is Meti Gemechu, I have been working for YWCA as a volunteer. I worked mainly on giving tutorial classes to children and also supporting communication works at office level. This experience has helped me to understand my community and realize the privileges I have in life, which I should not consider it for granted.
Later on; I was given an opportunity to become the Youth advocate champion of Ethiopia, concerning the Maputo Protocol (Women’s rights for Africa).
As part of this initiative, I was given the opportunity to travel to Kenya, Nairobi for a Workshop held by YWCA Kenya; I learned a lot about what was happening to women in Africa and how I can be an agent of change in my society.
YWCA has truly affected my life in a very positive way, when I first went to volunteer I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, how I could contribute to the world, YWCA has given me the answers I was searching for in finding my identity and who I wanted to be. For that, I offer my deepest gratitude, Thank you YWCA!