Jyesha Wren | Summer 2009 | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
This summer, I was in Ethiopia working with the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Leadership Development for Mobilizing Reproductive Health (LDM) program. The LDM program focuses on building the capacity of grassroots community organizations working in the field of reproductive health by providing leadership and health-based trainings. I worked with IIE and the organizations in their LDM network on ICT applications.
After arriving, I spent a lot of time with Hiwot Ethiopia and the Integrated Community Education Development Association (ICEDA). Hiwot Ethiopia works with youth in Addis Ababa to promote reproductive health, raise awareness of gender issues, and provide services related to education and sexuality. ICEDA works in a rural Oromo region not far from the capital. It’s a region where formal public schools are non-existent, and the rates of early marriage, abduction of young girls, child labor, and female genital mutilation are very high. Since ICEDA’s inception in 1998, they have established Alternative Basic Education schools in all of the villages, and are passionately committed to empowering women and creating safe environments for girls. Traveling with them to the villages where they work, and meeting some of the women involved in their programs, left me very humbled and inspired.
In terms of ICT, both of these organizations desired a stronger web presence, and ICEDA really needed a data collection system. Both organizations had websites, but they found them too expensive and difficult to update regularly or edit them when necessary. They were excited to learn about a free and easy-to-use platform where they can reach out to potential funders and partners, and raise awareness around the issues relevant to their work. In addition to teaching how to blog, I created databases, and held workshops on various topics including: Microsoft Access, E-Newsletters, and Offline Email.
I lived in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The initial transition was not easy. The people were all very kind and welcoming but it was hard to adjust to the frequent power cuts and lack of Internet. At the time, the city was experiencing a power and water crisis, so electricity was only provided for only part of the day, every other day. For the first few weeks I spent a lot of time hiking around the city for Internet connections. There are many cafés advertising wireless, but unfortunately the connection was often too slow to work with or was completely unavailable. Aside from those kinds of challenges, I really enjoyed my work there.