du Pro Bono
Pro bono around the world - Ephrem, Ethiopia
Pro Bono Lab launched in 2020 the study "International Panorama of pro bono". Its objective : analyse the diversity of pro bono practices around the world. Discover the testimony of Ephrem, from Talent for youth in Ethiopia.
6 avr. 2021
Talent Youth Association is based in Addis [Ababa] in Ethiopia. It's a youth development organisation, with programs mainly focusing on sexual and reproductive health, youth employment, women economic empowerment and youth participation in policy decision making.
Ephrem Berhanu is the managing director of the organisation. He leads two departments namely administration and finance and program coordination. He has the overall responsibility of overseeing the day to day operation of the organization.
1. Tell us more about the national context in which your organisation operates
Generally speaking, Ethiopia is a developing country. So we are focusing on implementing various youth development focused programs. Demographically speaking, 70% of the population is below the age of 35. The total population is estimated to be 110 [million], so we are the second largest population in Africa, after Nigeria.
Now, we have a good civil society law. The past ten years, it was a bit difficult, because the civil society laws that we had didn't give more space for civil society operations. But in two years, a new civil society law was introduced in the country, which is a good opportunity for all the CSOs to engage in right related democratisation and governance activities.
2. If you had one legislative measure put in place by your government to facilitate the work you do?
Well, in the past, the overall operating environment for CSOs was really challenging, but now we have a very good policy platform in place.
Had it been some two years back, I would have said we needed more civic space for CSOs, but now I think the operating space is wide and I think everything is ok.
3. What are the different activities that you put in place within your organisation?
We have a youth employment program in which we try to create employment opportunities for young people by introducing different training programs or fresh university graduates and for those who have completed high school. We provide job-readiness trainings in six youth success centers in Addis. Through these centers, we provide trainings for young people so that they have decent jobs, and we've been trying to start digital skills training centers so that we expand opportunities for young people. This is a project we started one year ago, we are drawing the lessons from it, and we are planning on expanding in other parts of the country, outside of Addis.
We also have sexual and reproductive health programs implemented in different parts of the country. We promote girls' education, because in some parts of the country, in particular in the Northern part, girls are getting married early, because of this they quit their education. We're trying to educate the community on the impact of early marriage, as it hinders their future, because they're dropping out of school. For those who have already dropped out of school, we offer an opportunity for them to continue their education through different innovative mechanisms. We have been able to create it thanks to fundings from the Obama foundation, Girls Opportunity Alliance program.
In some rural parts of the country, in the area called Benishangul-Gumuz, which is a 700km far from Addis, in the Western part, we are targeting around 900 marginalized women by creating cooperatives, so that they engage in economic activities. Plus, we promote land-right access for women, because in that particular area, only the husband or the male [in the family] is entitled to have land-right certificate. So, when the husband passes away, if the widow doesn't go to the appropriate legal body to claim ownership, they are not putting into productive use the resources that they have. So, we are trying to promote and create access to these land-right certificates for these marginalized women, and to promote cooperatives engaging them into self-help groups so that they start small business activities.
We promote meaningful and inclusive youth participation in policy and programs at the national level because we strongly believe that they need to meaningfully engage in order for programs and policies to respond to their best interest. We are establishing different youth advocacy groups so that they take part in different programs and policy development. We particularly work with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs. Whenever these particular Ministries develop policy and programs, we try to make sure that young people's voice have been included in the process.
So, these are the activities we are undertaking. We receive funds from different international NGOs, we work in collaboration with the government, and also other local, international and governmental organisations based in Addis and internationally.
We are applying pro bono in our youth employment program. As I've said before, we have about 6 youth centers in Addis where young people can come to get trainings, have support to establish their start-ups and find jobs. We're collaborating with a number of big companies so that they provide support for these initiatives.
4. Do you have in mind an inspiring example of a pro bono program which you put in place recently?
We're collaborating with a consulting firm which supports us on how to sustain our success centers. They have been helping us on how the centers need to be managed, on identifying income-generating schemes. We are also collaborating with an IT firm which provides us with professionals to organise trainings for young people.
5. In the survey, you said one of your beneficiaries was the public sector: could you tell us more about it?
The government started to construct 3.000 youth centers throughout the country with the view that there is no recreational areas where people can go and get support or access to facilities like a library, a clinic, a gym.
In Addis Abeba alone, we have about 110 youth centers. One of the problems that we've identified along the process is that the government don't have the appropriate mechanism to manage the centers and make them effective.
So, we've jumped in to help the government in trying to make our 6 centers so that the government can learn from our experience and allow the replication in other centers.
6. Do you have a community (of volunteers, of beneficiaries...) ?
For most of our programs, we have a volunteer community to support its implementation. We have a volunteer youth group named Ethiopian Youth Council for Higher Opportunities (ECHO). ECHO is a select group of young people between the ages of 18-29. Currently we have about 23 ECHO members. They play instrumental role in implementing various programs and organizing events. They mobilize their peers for the success of program implementation.
7. With the coronavirus situation, have you adapted your activity?
Since the first case has been reported in Ethiopia back in March 2020, the government introduced various restrictions on how business needs to be undertaken. One of this is the prohibition of gatherings, so because of the Covid-19 situation, we cannot use our centres. We're trying to introduce different innovative approaches such as trying to use the technology to reach out to young people. So we are organising online webinars via Zoom so that people can get involved from where they are.
The Covid-19 situation has put a lot of stress into the different activities that we undertake, but we are trying to cope up as much as possible and continue the trainings online. We will keep doing that in the coming months: even though the government has relaxed some of the restrictions, we have to be careful not to put in danger our beneficiaries.
8. Why is pro bono important according to you?
It was a new experience for our organisation to use pro bono as a way to deliver our program portfolios, but we are learning and getting the lessons from working and engaging with the private sector and receiving the necessary support from them. We'd want to expand this in the future, by engaging more with the private sector and the international organisations which are based here in Addis and have a certain expertise which they could share with the young people we are supporting, particularly with the ones who want to venture new businesses and start-ups.
We'd also like to share our experience with other like-minded CSOs in the country, so that they benefit out of our experience.
In the past, the civil society here in Ethiopia have been having issues and we're discussing on how to engage the private sector. Oftentimes, when we're thinking of engaging with them, the financial aspect comes first, but that's not the only way: they can also provide their expertise and high-skilled resources they have.