The rains have cleared for the morning, small flocks of urban sheep scurry about and the churchgoers hustle along the main streets of Addis Ababa as the warmth of sunshine spreads across the valley floor. We are in transit, in one of the numerous blue and white “contract” taxis that provide the more specific, traditional and lucrative A to B service.
As we lurch along a main artery road, somewhere in the western section of the sprawling urban mass, the driver and my colleagues from the Landmine Survivor Network stop at a shoe shine post and then a bus stop, asking for the precise location of this sub-city’s biannual Survivor Association meeting. After a few misses we find a hit and follow another pack of urban sheep up an ally until we approach the entrance gate and high walls of an elementary school.
Soon we enter a dark and run down classroom of the dilapidated building. Inside, up to 40 Survivors and Persons with Disability (PWD) are in deep discussions about the current state of the organization, their relationship with the Network and the challenging nature of their relationship with the city and the state. LSN helped establish the group through its social support program over 3 years ago and now the total membership has expanded to include over 80 Survivors.
Throughout the duration of the function, appreciation for LSN’s efforts is expressed, even when the more vocal members venture to offer up constructive criticism or alternative ideas.
On several occasions the rising cost of life was mentioned as an increasingly concerning development for many, especially those subsisting on limited budgets. They hope to form small business opportunities for members and to promote increase awareness of disability rights in the community.
Criticisms of the city and the state are quite harsh, with enough closed fists and flying hands to remind me of Argentine bus drivers expressing their views to the taxi drivers during rush hour in Buenos Aires. Much of this centers on promises that have yet to be fulfilled like the City’s plan to offer up positions for PWDs on the City Council and the Government’s stalling on the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A lack of enforcement mechanisms has been one of the main obstacles to the laws that do exist and the groups hope to push for major change in this area as well.
After sharing another round of injeera and wat for lunch with many of the survivors, I wash my hands and ponder the messages and objectives of The Advocacy Project and Survivor Corps and how they come together at points like this. They both push for the construction of mechanisms that allow for the voiceless to have a voice, and today the sights and sounds of those voices of indignation, pressing for more rights, pressing for justice, for accessibility, continue to flash before my eyes and ring in my ears. These voices of indignation will continue to take the initiative and create more opportunities for enhanced awareness.
For more information on the food security and inflation issues facing Ethiopia’s economy, check out the following articles
The Economist.com. Ethiopia: Will it ever be able to stave off starvation?
IRIN Africa. Ethiopia: Lifting of grain tax may ease food burden for urban poor. http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=77383
My apologies for not embedding the links in text, I seem to have lost those capabilities due to our internet connectivity issues here at the office. That also explains the lack of pictures up to this point, an unfortunate situation which we hope to remedy over the next couple of weeks.
Posted By Lucas Wolf
Posted Jul 22nd, 2008