Ethiopia, 25 July 2012: UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson visits programmes for adolescents, micro-enterprise
By Indrias Getachew
BISHOFTU, Ethiopia, 25 July 2012 – UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson visited the UNICEF-supported Bishoftu Youth Center and a micro-enterprise run by young people formerly living on the streets, on Monday, at the end of his visit to Ethiopia, where he attended the African Union Summit.
“It is so inspiring to come out of the conference rooms and see daily life for Ethiopians,” said Mr. Eliasson. “I feel energized by seeing the children [and] youth learning about family planning, learning computers, reading, studying, and understanding how important it is that we always remember that it is the human being at the end that counts.”
Creating opportunities for young people
Ethiopian youth, particularly those in Oromia Region, face a variety of challenges, including child marriage, gender-based discrimination, HIV/AIDS infection, child labour, female genital mutilation, sexual violence and trafficking.
About 85 percent of adolescents live in rural areas and represent the most vulnerable section of the population, with a low level of educational attainment, especially for girls. Young people in rural areas lack farmland, and university graduates face limited job opportunities. Young people have limited access to micro credit facilities and other funds with which to set up income generating projects.
The Bishoftu Youth Center, managed under the Oromia Region Bureau of Youth and Sports (BOYS) with the support from UNICEF and other partners, is one of 52 youth centres in the region that provide adolescent programme services in line with Ethiopia’s National Youth Policy. UNICEF supports the Youth Policy with activities focusing on life-skills development, economic empowerment, and sexual and reproductive health.
Services provided at the Bishoftu Youth Center include games, club activities, Internet and library services, health services, counseling, and training for income-generating activities.
Micro-enterprise meets vital need
After touring the Bishoftu Youth Center, Mr. Eliasson stopped by Feyene, a micro-enterprise owned and managed by three young people who used to live on the street. Their business was started through the UNICEF-supported Economic Empowerment of Youth Project of the Oromia BOYS.
“For eight years I lived on the streets,” said 24-year-old Vinod Daniel, founding manager of Feyene. “I used to drink, chew chat, fight with people, and steal. During those eight years I even tried to commit suicide. I didn’t have a good life – everything was dark. We were committing crimes and were eventually put in jail. While in prison, we were encouraged and arrangements were made for us to go to school.”
Following his release from jail, Mr. Daniel persevered with his studies and eventually made it to college. During his first year as a college student, Mr. Daniel decided he wanted to take over a disused toilet facility, fix it up and provide safe sanitation facilities for the local community.
Through the Oromia BOYS, he and his friends obtained permission to take over the facility and received a small loan to repair it. After cleaning it up, they opened for business, charging the public a small fee for use.
With no other sanitation services in the area, business at the Feyene rent-a-toilet facility has been good. Over the past three years, Mr. Daniel and his two partners have been able to pay back their initial loan of 19,000 birr (US$1,072), and have received a second loan of 69,000 birr (US$3,875), with which they have expanded their business to include a music shop, a fruit stall and a barbershop. The expanded outfit now employs six young people, who, like Mr. Daniel and his partners, used to live on the street.
“You know that there are 2.5 billion people who do not have safe sanitation in the world,” said Mr. Eliasson. “37 percent of humanity does not have it, so you are showing one way to solve it in reality. It’s an enormous thing. Your example can play an important role. You have inspired me.”
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