Change from ‘within’: Este woreda’s formation of Disability People's Organisations (DPOs)


Worku Gashaw, a storekeeper and proud embroiderer from Licha kebele of Este woreda has been living with a disability all his life. Since birth, he's had no mobility from the waist down. His friends help him carry items for sale in and out of his shop. Through his friends, and the kebele health centre next to his shop, he learnt about SNV Ethiopia’s Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All Results Programme (SSH4A RP).

Worku is among the 2,054 persons with disability in Este Woreda. As part of the SSH4A RP-initiated disability-inclusion activities, he received a disability-friendly potty chair that has become a great sanitation aid for him.


Creating disability-inclusion leaders

In June 2019, and as part of SNV Ethiopia and the Este woreda administration’s commitment to disability-inclusive WASH development, Disability People’s Organisations (DPOs) at woreda and kebele levels were established. The DPOs helped to identify and register people living with disability at kebeles. Through the rich information they gathered – including disability types – a richer database was created for the Woreda Social Affairs Office’s records.

Disability People’s Organisations were formed in all 50 kebeles. The DPOs, local government officials and community representatives received an orientation workshop on disability and disability-inclusive WASH to redress biased perceptions towards disabilities. These workshops were effective, not only in raising awareness about disability inclusion, but also in building people with disabilities’ confidence and self-worth.

Wubalem Birku, a woman with sight impairment and member of Mekane Eyesus Kebele DPO said, ‘My parents used to take me to and from the toilet. Thanks to the capacity building trainings on disability-inclusive WASH, I learnt how to be independent. I tied a string from my house to the latrine, and used this as my guide so that I can now go to the latrine by myself.’

Sharing anecdotes of change

During a focus group discussion with DPOs, Yetemegn Kasaw, member of the Mekane yesus kebele level DPO added, ‘In the past, we were being paid lip-service. Many people looked at us with pity. Since becoming a DPO member, my confidence level increased. It has instilled a sense of self-worth within.’

Talking about how the formation of Disability People's Orgnaisations has changed their lives, Misganaw Alamenie, Chairperson of the Mekaneyeus DPO explained, ‘We are now represented in many meetings that focus on social issues in our kebele. Our organisation is pushing for the construction of inclusive water points and toilets in our kebele. We are now respected by the community and lead dignified lives. Thus, we push and work hard to improve the sanitation and hygiene conditions of our kebele, in a more inclusive way.’

Gone are the days of hiding, shame and neglect. Said Misganaw ‘We used to be kept indoors. Neglect of people with disabilities was atrocious. Now we are not left behind. We are included in sanitation and hygiene-related matters. If we remain strong, I believe change is not far away.’

Written by: Fasika Ayalew with Andualem Anteneh

Note: SSH4A RP is SNV’s largest multi-country, results-based funded sanitation project that is being implemented in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Zambia. The project contributes to ending open defecation; increasing the use of toilets that are safely managed, functional, and facilitate privacy; and increasing access to handwashing with soap facilities. SSH4A RP applies SNV’s Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene Approach (SSH4A): an integrated rural sanitation approach to strengthen the capacity of local authorities in developing and enforcing area-wide sanitation service delivery models within their jurisdictions.