Yidnekachew is twenty years old and his passion is football.
It has been over a year since he completed high school, however
his national school leaving examination scores were not sufficient
to qualify him for placement in the public universities or colleges.
While he waits for an opportunity to receive vocational training
that will allow him to pursue his dream of becoming a civil engineer
building roads in Ethiopia, he has devoted his time to football
- serving as a coach for a group of teenagers he adopted from his
"I am crazy about football," states Yidnekachew. "After
completing high school I found myself doing nothing. There were
a group of young guys who would regularly come together to play
street football in my neighborhood. One day I asked them if they
would take me on as their coach, and they agreed." This was
the humble beginning of a football club with a very important calling.
Football is among the strategies employed by the Tabor Wegagen
Anti AIDS Association, a group of youth who came together in Awassa,
capital of Ethiopia's Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples
Region (SNNPR) to reach their peers in their work to prevent the
spread of HIV. The association has also started a small circus and
Participating in the football club keeps the players busy - an
alternative from whiling idle hours on the streets of Awassa - and
away from situations where they are exposed to the temptation of
developing harmful habits. These include indulging in alcohol, chewing
chat, or using other habit forming substances, which pave the way
for risky sexual behavior and thus exposure to the HIV/AIDS virus.
Competition between clubs also provides healthy entertainment for
the hundreds of adolescents who come to watch the teams play.
The association uses the occasion of football matches to provide
HIV/AIDS awareness messages to the audiences who come to the games.
In addition, the team members are trained by the association to
become peer educators, more effective in communicating and convincing
other adolescents to adopt safe behavior patterns. Athletes, who
tend to be on the upper rungs of teenage social circles, are particularly
effective and influential.
The service being provided by these youth is especially important
as they and their peers represent an important group for HIV/AIDS
prevention and control endeavors. Poised to enter the sexually active
years of their life they are at an age where they can be influenced
to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
"Presented with limited opportunities for higher education
and future employment, and witnessing the poverty and economic hardship
that is all around them, it is very easy for young people to feel
insecure about their future," states UNICEF representative
Mr. Ibrahim Jabr. "Instilling self worth and self esteem is
therefore critical for the success of HIV/AIDS prevention among
the youth. When a person feels that their life has value and meaning
it is much easier for them to correct or change habits that may
put that valued life at risk."
It is with this philosophy that UNICEF focuses its HIV/AIDS programme
on youth prevention, and why the football field is a logical place