Woman weaving

Michael Tsegaye

Seventeen year-old Enderyas is a young man unable to hear and speak due to a hearing disability since birth. Like many vulnerable people in Ethiopia, Enderyas was considered unable to work due to his disability, and was fully dependent on his mother. Thanks to a project implemented by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church-Development and Inter-church Aid Commission (EOTC-DICAC) with support from the Civil Society Support Programme (CSSP), Enderyas received vocational training and now earns a decent living as a textile worker.

Enderyas is one of an estimated 805,000 disabled people in Ethiopia. People like Enderyas are frequently overlooked in the labour market, and receive little in the way of state support or social benefits, meaning many are entirely dependent on relatives or resort to begging in order to meet their basic needs for food, shelter and healthcare. This discrimination also affects their confidence and self-esteem, compromising their capacity to realise their full capability.

Empowering people with disabilities

Recognising the potential in people such as Enderyas, EOTC-DICAC initiated a CSSP project seeking to provide food assistance and employment opportunities for people vulnerable due to disability, old age or illness such as HIV.  With the capacity building and financial assistance received from CSSP, EOTC-DICAC conceptualised a vocational training and business-development initiative orientated around textile production.  Twenty-two vulnerable adults were selected from Kamashi and Assosa woredas in Benishangul Gumuz and received vocational training over 3-months in modern weaving techniques, using state of the art weaving technologies made available in two specially-constructed workshops.

At the outset, Enderyas and other trainees had never heard of modern weaving technology and had no previous experience of weaving garments, resulting in a steep learning curve.  Trainees also had to overcome cynicism from members of the public, who doubted whether people with disabilities had the capabilities to become a skilled worker.

Focusing on what people can do, not what they can’t

After three months of practical training, Enderyas and his fellow trainees have gained the skills needed for weaving garments. Ato Eshetie Zefu, their trainer in modern weaving techniques was especially impressed, ‘Enderyas has been very interested in modern weaving vocational training from the very beginning. Our communication was through writing and sign language. In the training, he was fast and punctual for his deeds. He has become a close friend!’

What’s more, the project also constructed two weaving workshops, equipped with modern weaving facilities, enabling trainees to create viable textile businesses, and improve their own income. The trainees have been organised into cooperatives, and design, produce and sell a variety of garments. The results have been life changing.

Enderyas has secured his own job, rented his own house, and is generating a comfortable monthly income. Rather than being reliant on his family, Enderyas has begun to support one of his jobless brothers.

CSSP supports this and other projects throughout Ethiopia, building the capacity of civil society organisations and changing people’s lives for the better by recognising what people can do, rather than what they can’t.

This story of change is from the Civil Society Support Programme 1.