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close this bookThe Impact of Training on Women's Micro-Enterprise Development - Education Research Paper No. 40 (DFID, 2001, 139 p.)
close this folderChapter 4: The Dire Dawa Urban Development Programme (Ethiopia)12
View the document(introduction...)
View the document4.1 Background
Open this folder and view contents4.2 The training
Open this folder and view contents4.3 The women and the impact of the training on their lives
View the document4.4 Benefits and constraints
View the document4.5 Conclusions

4.1 Background

The ACORD programme in Dire Dawa had been running for over three years (since May 1994) at the time the research started. It is still running and is funded by ACORD UK through its regional office in Addis Ababa. Its overall purpose is to work with community organisations and structures, particularly groups of women, to address the needs and improve the condition of the poor within the community.

Dire Dawa lies in the east of the country. With the construction of the Addis Ababa -Djibouti railway completed in 1902, the town developed into a major trading centre and witnessed the influx of different ethnic groups. With this expansion came a reputation for contraband trade, especially in chat (a mildly narcotic leaf that people in the region chew), electrical goods and clothing. This trade moves across the nearby frontiers with Djibouti and Somalia. Today, Dire Dawa's population of approximately 200,000 is made up of three main ethnic groups, these being Amhara (35%), Oromo (33%) and Somali (17%), and a number of smaller groups. The Amhara are Christian while the Oromo and Somali are Muslim. At the time of the research (late 1997 to mid 1998), the economy of Dire Dawa was in decline due to the effects of the border conflict with Somalia, the impact of structural adjustment on the economy nationally and the lack of investment stemming from uncertainty in relation to the town's administrative status. In addition, the once budding contraband trade had been adversely affected by a recent government clampdown. Unemployment and poverty were widespread in the town, especially following recent large-scale army demobilisation and the closure of some factories in the area.

According to a baseline survey carried out by ACORD at the start of the project in 1994, overall only 28% of the population of Dire Dawa were working in formal employment, whilst the large majority (72%) were engaged in informal sector activities. More women than men were employed in the formal sector (55% versus 45% respectively), mostly in the factories surrounding the town. However, women were more likely to be in low-status, poorly paid jobs: the survey found that men's overall share of public sector wages was 88% compared with 12% for women. In the informal sector, where the majority of those working are to be found, the main income-generating activities are selling firewood and injera-making (the local bread) for women, transport and stone-crushing for men. The latter are considerably more lucrative than the activities engaged in by women. The proportion of female-headed households in Dire Dawa according to the 1994 survey was unusually high: an estimated 32% of households in the town were headed by women and these were disproportionately represented among the poor.

Hence, the ACORD programme was operating at the time of the study against a background of economic decline. The focus of its work in Dire Dawa was on supporting the most vulnerable and those living in the worst conditions, e.g. in slum areas where piped water is in short supply, diseases spread through a lack of hygiene, where there is no garbage collection and little sanitation. It sought to provide this support primarily through community-based organisations (CBOs). It is estimated that roughly half the adult population of Dire Dawa belongs to one or more CBOs, a remarkably high figure. CBOs vary widely in terms of size and assets, ranging from the smallest with fewer than 20 members and virtually no assets to the largest with several thousand members and significant assets. The former tend to be female-dominated, while the latter tend to be male-dominated.

The majority of CBOs have a social function and act as a sort of insurance policy: in return for a monthly contribution, CBO members receive services to cover traditional social and family obligations such as food and refreshments at funeral and marriage ceremonies, the loan of tents, furniture, utensils and other equipment and the provision of voluntary labour to assist with preparations for such events. The quality and range of services provided vary according to individual CBO capacity, contribution size, and other factors. The ACORD programme has achieved considerable success in transforming CBOs from providing traditional, chiefly socially oriented activities ID providing credit, savings and income-generation opportunities (Howes 1998).

The principal components of ACORD's programme are:

1. CBO grants for income-generation/micro-enterprise projects and/or for social-infrastructural projects aimed at tackling needs identified by the community.

2. Joint projects developed in collaboration with other agencies and community or government organisations intended to meet the needs of poor people not able to benefit from CBO grants.

3. Training to pro vide new skills and to upgrade existing skills with a view to improving people's management of their resources.

4. Linkages with local institutions, NGOs and donor agencies in order to maximise coordination of development efforts in the town.

5. Research aimed at improving the programme's knowledge of the practical and strategic needs of vulnerable groups and documenting the programme's experience of working with community groups.

This study is only concerned with the third component of the programme, namely training.