Ethiopiaid: Trip to Ethiopia

Lisa Cousins, the CEO of Ethiopiaid, took a trip to Ethiopia to visit the charity’s partners and see their work out there.

What is a ‘Partner’?
Our partners are small locally led organisations based in Ethiopia. Our partner projects range from focusing on maternal health, disability, education, hospice and many more. We believe our partners know best, we listen to them and respond to their needs. Their depth of local knowledge combined with technical expertise means their programmes are responsive to local culture and have strong community engagement and ownership.​ We have 13 main partners, with some of these relationships dating back to YEAR.

Image shows: Lisa (CEO) with Mim (Fundraising Manager) and Alex (Chair)

Who did you visit this time and where were they?
During my 16 days in Ethiopia, I spent time in the regions of Afar, Addis Ababa and Hawassa to visit the projects you help fund (our partners) and their teams on the ground.

What impacted you the most?
My first visit to Afar left a profound impact on me. Exploring the unique landscape, culture, and meeting Valerie Browning and her team, who are dedicated to ending harmful practices like FGM and child marriage, was memorable.

We travelled vast distances into the bush to see the work they are doing to end harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.

Leaving the main town of Semera, we travelled by land rover for many long hours to a place called Awra. Here we were greeted by a gathering of women outside of a village of small traditional Afar domed homes.  

Image shows: An Afari village we visited

Spending time here in discussion with the women and girls really hammered home to me that meaningful development work is not about quick wins, but about establishing trust and building relationships over a long period of time.  Valerie and her team explained that they have been working with this community for several years and I was introduced to Myram, a women’s health extension worker, and Shewit who is one of four traditional birth attendants in this community.  They told me how they are working to end early marriage and that girls (and their families) are encouraged to complete school and not marry until they are 18 years old.  Before APDA’s programme, girls in this village were considered suitable to marry at 13 years.

Change requires not only working with women and girls, but working with clan leaders, religious leaders, the community, and wider family members. I was in awe at these determined and brave women speaking out in front of the men and the religious leader of the village. They are striving for change and what has been achieved so far is thanks to APDA working with them, committed to be there for as long as it takes to eradicate it altogether.

Image shows: Valerie on the left. Sharing views on FGM

What is it like travelling to Ethiopia?
Travelling to Ethiopia is an experience that is both enriching and unforgettable – the culture, history, landscapes, and people.

Addis Ababa, the capital, seems to be busier every time I go! With a population of over 5 million people and an altitude of over 2,300 metres above sea level it takes a few days to adjust. Afar was very different, it is the 4th largest region in Ethiopia (out of 9) yet has a population of less than 2 million. It regularly reaches temperatures of 45-50+ degrees and the majority of the Afar communities live a nomadic lifestyle following the pasture lands and rain.

Image shows: The Afar region

I was struck by just how remote and disconnected these communities are from essential services like health centres, schools, transport, and how different their challenges are. What always strikes me most is how warm and hospitable everyone is. No matter where we visit, we are welcomed with exceptional coffee and often delicious fresh baked breads. Ethiopia is famous for its coffee and the smell of fresh roasting coffee, prepared on a small open stove in the corner of the room, is present almost everywhere.

Where is the most need/where can Ethiopiaid UK help in the coming year?
This year will be a challenging one on many levels. The increase in the cost of goods such as grain, milk, and services like school fees and transport has and will continue to tip many families into poverty. Communities struggling to recover from conflict are now facing multiple challenges with drought and food shortages.

In the face of so much adversity it can feel overwhelming and difficult to know where to begin, but having seen how lives can be transformed by our partners and the knowledge that this is happening right now means we cannot give up.

Image shows: Ethiopian Coffee