Making a difference
Tiglu Haile is the project manager of Access, Service, and Utilization of Reproductive Health (ASURE), an initiative of Amref in the area of Arba Minch. The project aimed to provide better reproductive health services and information and access to family planning. Its goal is to reduce child and maternal mortality and combat diseases. The USD 4.5 million project, which started in 2014, it worked on, among others: on sexual, reproductive, maternal and child health issues in the Gamo, Wolaita, Gofa, Segan areas of SNNPR. Now, marking the end of the project, Tiglu reflects on the project with The Reporter's Samuel Getachew, its legacy and how its impact has affected the lives of many.
The Reporter: Tiglu, you have been involved in areas of charity for a few years now, before coming to Amref. Tell me a bit about yourself?
Tiglu Haile: Thank you! It's true, before coming to Amref and leading the project that is concluding this month, I was involved in charitable works, including with MSF Spain in Hawassa. I was involved in areas of emergency projects there. It was a great foundation that gave me the inspiration and motivation to work on the project I have been involved in the last five years, which I believe has touched the lives of approximately 1 million people. It has also shaped me on the impacts of such efforts, when carefully coordinated can truly change and impact lives.
Tell me about the project?
The project is named ASURE (Access, Service and Utilization of Reproduction Health) and it began in January of 2015. We worked on important health projects targeting vulnerable populations. We aimed to ensure the population would have quality and innovative health services, especially women and young people; a segment of society that we believe needed such services and attention. We have built youth-friendly services that are fully equipped with resources and human power, to have an impact as well as become a human-friendly environment as a way to motivate the community to fully take advantage of.
Most charitable gestures seem to be shortsighted band aid solutions and this sentiment seems to be shared by donors, who are experiencing donor fatigue. What makes this effort different than others?
That is an interesting perspective to have. No matter what your stand is on charity, there can never be denying the fact that charities remain essential. That is not just reserved for Ethiopia by the way, but in all nations around the world, including in the western nations.
Be mindful, with ASURE, we were not providing what you call charity or handouts, but hand-ups. We were trying to have the population embrace a life of independence and become self-sufficient and sharing the lived experiences of others with them.
For instance, when we created a specialized clinic, we placed it next to a general clinic and made sure, ours were specialized and welcoming of a segment of a population that seldom came for Medical and professional help. Like young women, who in the midst of their period, we provided space and resources, so she would not miss a day of school and get the feminine assistance she needs. That is not traditional charity, but something that would not only help them but the community as well, when she would not be forced to miss school because of such need. We know an educated girl benefits us all at the end, and we see that whenever we visit communities.
Who is funding the project?
It is the European Union. Equally, the contribution of Amref Health Africa in Italy, Christian AID, Women Support Association and Ethiopian Interfaith Forum for Dialogue and others remain profound and essential. We are thankful for that and it has helped us a lot as we addressed important issues. However, I cannot help but recognize the help and guidance of other partners and the regional governments, as we implemented the project to such a large population. Such an effort cannot have such a profound impact without the help of partners and we were lucky with that front. But in all these, the partners are the people on the ground who helped us move forward with the program and see it in practice.
What do you hope is the long-term legacy of the project?
To be honest, there are many. We were able to increase access to quality health services and worked hard to reach populations such as women of reproductive age and adolescent youth groups, who otherwise would have limited access. We feel that such service were important and has benefited the community and many have benefited. That is our legacy and we are most proud of that. But we want the engagement to go on and some of the young people we engaged with are certainly the future leaders of Ethiopia. We will see them leading their community and family for the better.
I understand there is a Youth Advisory Parliament that was created for the implementation of the project?
As a group and as an individual, we recognize good engagement with young people which remains important for our work and its impact. This concept was created last year and it was meant to give young people an opportunity for the youth to advocate for their own issues within and empower them to speak up on what is important to them. After all, we want to help young people lead a better and meaningful life.
Anything else you would like to add?
I have to say, we were able to have an impact and it’s evident where ever you go in the area. For example, we did not think we needed to lead from the top down but saw the wisdom from leading from the ground up. We were able to involve street children and saw them as they transitioned from what they were to becoming a sexual and reproductive youth health advocates. We saw them as they became our greatest ambassadors. Through them, we were able to reach many people and offer skills training and education on sexual and reproductive health.