Ethiopia: JRS holds youth work shop
14 October 2008

A young refugee boy plays the guitar in Addis Ababa. (Angelika Mendes/JRS)
Most people with HIV/AIDS are adults from 20-40 years of age which means they die at an early age, when they are vital members of their communities.
Addis Ababa, 14 October 2008 From October 14-16, 2008 the Emergency Needs Programme (ENP) in Addis Ababa conducted a three-day workshop on “Avoiding Risk, Affirming Life” Youth Action Kit, focusing on teenage groups aged between 15-24. The workshop was part of a series of human development lessons and employed a participatory brainstorming approach.

Hanna Petros, Project Director of ENP, opened the workshop and welcomed participants who were mostly from Somalia but also from Congo and Sudan. Considering the ethnic difference of Somalis, the project invited different Somali communities like the “Banadire” who are considered one of the minority groups in the Somali community. 30 youngsters out of whom 60% were girls attended the workshop.

The workshop was meant to serve as a device to reduce the widespread ignorance and false myths held by a majority of unrecognised urban refugees and to help them distinguish false myths and true facts in order to better protect themselves against HIV/AIDS. The resource persons for the workshop, who were invited from Archdioceses of Addis Ababa Catholic Secretariats (ACS), used a participatory approach which involved role-playing, drama groups and games.

The workshop focused on a variety of topics such as good communication, self knowledge and self-confidence, decision making and managing emotions. Participants further discussed about sexual relations, choices and consequences and facts about HIV. Other topics included learning to trust and be faithful, protecting themselves and their partner, risky behaviours, Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) and overcoming stigma. We believe and hope that the training helps the young participants to become stronger adults, based on assertive communication skills, to learn how to work together integrating different values and helping their community live healthier and happier.

Commitment to changing attitudes

The training was closed with an event during which Seyoum Asfaw, Country Director, and Hanna Petros, congratulated participants and handed over certificates of participation. Both underlined the importance of JRS’ commitment to support asylum seekers and refugees and to help them find a better future. Changing their attitudes plays an important role as most of them are deprived of formal education due to their situation and rules of their host countries. To express their gratitude to JRS and Ethiopia, where they can more or less live in peace, participants performed Somali, Congolese, Sudanese and Ethiopian national cultural dances.

Most people with HIV/AIDS are adults from 20-40 years of age which means they die at an early age, when they are vital members of their communities. Illness and death at these ages affect the strength and productivity of a community. In most cases, due to their situation and absence of formal information and lack of health promoting mechanisms, asylum seekers and refugees between these age groups have a high probability of being infected. Therefore the need arises to address them through workshop or other means.

In line with the UN refugee agency’s (UNHCR) Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) prevention which stresses the importance of gender sensitive planning and the value of structured dialogue with refugee women, priority for participation was given to women. Workshops like this one are one step towards better addressing their protection needs and safeguarding their rights and to work towards their empowerment. At the same time the importance has to be given to working together with refugee men, refugee women and other relevant actors to promote refugee women’s rights.

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