We woke up to a fresh morning on the Wednesday in Addis. This forenoon, we were about to meet with the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), a Panafrican advocacy organisation based in Ethiopia. We were warmly welcomed to fantastic premises.
We all agreed that we wouldn’t mind living in their office.
It was obvious that this organisation had plenty going on. Only two weeks from then, their annual high-level conference was about to be held, and their annual report presented. This year’s theme, child hunger, would be carefully discussed among numerous participants. Successful achievements were also shared with us regarding how the ACPF works to ensure the ratification and implementation of child relevant conventions among african countries, but also statistics produced in their ‘Child Friendliness Index’ that earns great awareness on the continent every year.
Ethiopia scored low in many measures. However, working with rights has been a real challenge in the country, also for the ACPF advocating for children’s rights in Africa with their secretariat in Addis. With an opening of the democratic and civic space, this has brought a major change for civil society organisations such as the ACPF, and will hopefully bring about new and wider possibilities and results.
Finally, what we brought with us was the main reason to strongly advocate for children’s rights on the continent according to the ACPF. By 2050, the number of youth in Africa will have risen to 1 billion. If children are hungry now, or if the quality of their education is lacking, what kind of youth will this be?
Intense and insightful discussions over lunch with Sarah Guebreyes, our host at the organisation.
After an “exotic” lunch (since it was western and not injera 😉 ) together with the great team of ACPF we began what had become a sport for the group: get 16 people into taxis. Using an uber-like app called “Ride Addis” it was feasible, however it was sometimes a bit tricky to know that we had arrived at the right spot since the usage of addresses is uncommon. The taxis use special buildings, corners or statues as marks of orientation, quite impressive that it works well in such a busy and sprawling city!
Travel assistant Embla desperately trying to get a hold of a ride.
We went up the hill from downtown up to the University of Addis Abeba. Several campuses in a green area in a beautiful setting were awaiting us as well as a student group. It was a group that had been selected from the university to be extra ambitious when it came to changing the society both on a bigger and smaller scale. The would help elderly living in the area or have school presentations on a regular basis. We were warmly welcomed by them all, so many smiles and handshakes. They had set up an ambitious schedule of several meeting on campus – we were so thankful they made the extra effort!
Meeting with the students
Being welcomed to the Institute for Peace and Security Studies
We got a tour in the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS), actually the best at the African continent! The programmes had contributors such as the African Union; it was here the future diplomats and peacemakers were trained. Frank who showed us around really made the engagement shine through! The director Michelle was welcoming the visit, hopefully an exchange program with Uppsala will behold in future! The campus held beautiful gardens and actually a palace that had been donated to the university. To sit down in the grass chatting with the other students was a great experience – to talk to university youth intrested in the same areas as us was great! We had been longing for meeting ”normal people” living in Addis, an not only organisations etc. One of the students said he had already represented Ethiopia on international conferences with the African Union – it might be the future minister on foreign affairs that we had a chat with! 😉
One of the students, Tesfaye, giving us some info about Ethiopia’s political context
Great hospitality is really something that is omnipresent in Ethiopia. Everywhere, be it in the streets when we felt lost, not knowing what kind of shampoo we wanted to buy, how to find that bar; people would approach us in the most friendly way and help out. Once when we felt a bit scared by a street dog – an older woman saw that and scared away the dog and nodded to us. Small things like that really made us feel welcomed to the country. The hospitality mentioned was also something showed by the student group of Addis Abeba. They wanted us to have the best visit possible and gave us several pieces of advice; had we also contacted them earlier they could have helped us in to the African Union HQ! We were really so thankful when we left the campus, happy to have met new friends. Many of us though “I want to return here studying!” and we exchanged contact in order to stay in touch. We met with some of them again the last night, but the report on that day is yet to come….
Happy in mind and in heart we returned to the hotel. Tips or everybody: talk to your counsellor about the possibility too go to Addis and also look for an internship that might be available soon at ACPF!
Sara Taxén and Cornelia Gårdmark