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Supporting People with Disability in Ethiopia

Mesfin Kebede from Ethiopia, tells his story of his work with the ILO.

"My life was transformed when I was given a gift of a computer and taught myself how to use it."

Mesfin Kebede's Story

‘My name is Mesfin Kebede and I live in Addis Ababa. I have been disabled by cerebral palsy since early childhood. As a result of the negative attitude towards disability and persons with disabilities in my country when I was of school age, I was denied access to public education. My education is thus based on home schooling.

My parents’ efforts to build up my knowledge have contributed significantly to my development, along with my own consistent effort to learn other languages than my mother-tongue Amharic: Geez, Armenian, English and Greek of New Testament. I also taught myself to draw pictures, read and write music.

I had great difficulty in writing and drawing before getting acquainted with computers. My life was transformed when I was given a gift of a computer and taught myself how to use it. Achievements that were very difficult previously suddenly came within my reach. I started doing translation works for the ILO in 2000. Several of the translations I have done were published as part of the ILO/Irish Aid Partnership Programme. This opportunity has enabled me to support myself, and help my sister and her family.

I am also an active member of the Board of Directors of the Ethiopian Centre for Disability and Development, an agency that promotes disability inclusion across Ethiopian society. This work is very important, since persons with disabilities as frequently regarded as beggars and burdens in the Ethiopian mindset. Prejudice, exclusion and discrimination are our daily lot. Access to basic needs or public services (housing, public transportation, health services, public education) is often denied. It is important to keep in mind that disability is not inability!  

Source: International Labour Organisation (ILO) Cooperation Results Overview, PARDEV February 2013

Irish Aid’s work

Since 2001, Irish Aid has had a partnership programme with the ILO. The overall aim of the programme has been to provide greater opportunities for people in developing countries to secure decent employment and incomes.

Our current partnership is based on the ILO’s “Decent Work” approach.  In relation to disability, , the programme seeks to promote decent work and a better life for people with disabilities through effective legislation and its implementation and through the inclusion of people with disabilities in programmes and services related to employment promotion and economic and social development.

In addition, our work on education emphasises the importance of access to education for the most marginalised children, which often includes children with disabilities. In implementing our policy Irish Aid promotes the development of inclusive education policies at national level and supports civil society organisations like Plan Ireland who work with teachers, parents and school management to ensure that children with disabilities are not excluded from the school system.