CARE Ethiopia: A Decade of Results in Social Transformation for Urban Female Youth (2009-2019)



When CARE Ethiopia initiated its P-SHIFT design process (project to program shift) it was 2008. Many donors were focused on rural and specifically highland areas with a focus on food security and nutrition sector specific initiatives. At the time, most urban funding was HIV/AIDS focused and there was very little attention being given to urban programming beyond that sector. In 2012, CARE Ethiopia made a strategic decision to no longer work in HIV/AIDS programming but to a shift its Health sector perspective to focus on Sexual Reproductive Health. CARE Ethiopia was visionary in understanding the impending growth of peri urban areas in particular and the Resource Poor Urban Female Youth Program was designed with this in mind. Sure enough over the last ten years there has been an explosion of growth in urban and peri urban areas. Small towns/large villages where CARE Ethiopia was working in 2010 such as Debre Tabor and Chiro are now major peri urban areas, with tertiary education and significant increase in Government Service provision and in some growth and expansion of private sector. However, funding availability for urban areas has only recently become apparent. Between 2010 and 2015, CARE Ethiopia designed a number of projects focused on Domestic Workers and the prevention of Gender-based Violence but was unable to secure funding. This is reflected in the much smaller portfolio of initiatives for this CARE Ethiopia Program. Still, despite the limited scope there has been considerable impact and learning generated and CARE Ethiopia continues to believe that more investment is required in urban areas and focused on adolescent girls in particular. The rise of the industrial parks and many of the protection issues that have arisen with these opportunities are of significant concern. Opportunities for Resource Poor Urban Female Youth continue to grow in areas of entrepreneurship and economic empowerment if the structures and social norms are favorable.

CARE Ethiopia is proud of its contributions to the SDGs, in particular SDG #5 – Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, #1 - No Poverty and SDG #8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth. However, while the world has achieved progress towards these SDGs, women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world, including Ethiopia. With its partners, CARE Ethiopia will continue its focus on women and girls and joint efforts for improving conditions in the workplace (“decent work”) and on increasing economic opportunities and capacities.

One of key the elements that constituted the Program Approach was to work more in partnership; the understanding that CARE did not have to be doing everything everywhere. The point was to work more strategically and to be humble enough to understand our key competencies and comparative advantage and not to work in areas where others were already strong, for example Education and Health. Despite the fact that these sectors traditionally impact women and girls, it was not considered our key competency and there were other agencies with far more related experience.
The partnership component of the program approach committed to work directly with these institutions or at the very least collaborate to ensure the communities where we worked experienced integrated impact even if CARE didn’t work in those areas.

Another key aspect of the Program Approach was a commitment to working more with research institutions. CARE Ethiopia recognized that as an INGO our experience and understanding measurement was not a key strength and if we wanted to understand better how to improve our programming and to generate robust evidence of what works and does not work then we needed excellent research and impact measurement. Over the last ten years CARE Ethiopia has fostered strong partnerships with research specialists and organizations; ACPIH, ODI and IDS to name a few.
Despite the constraints placed on INGOs, CARE Ethiopia has continued over the past ten years by working closely with Government counterparts to generate evidence and push the boundaries regarding women and girls empowerment, demonstrating its program approach commitment to work in areas of advocacy relevant to our core sectors. As we move into the next ten years CARE Ethiopia is excited to work more with emerging social movements focused on women and girls and with explicit feminist agendas such as Yellow Movement and Seetaweet.

Esther Watts, Country Director
CARE Ethiopia