One Workplace At A Time
An Overview of MEDA's Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Intervention for Working Youth in Ethiopia
A little under one-third of Ethiopia's population is currently living in extreme poverty. In many of these cases, households withdraw their children from school and put them to work in order to supplement the family income. While the government of Ethiopia has made great effort to element the worst forms of child labor, enforcement of laws and consistent prosecution of violators has not yet reached an ideal level.
To address this gap, MEDA's E-FACE project implements various livelihood strengthening interventions that tackle the issue of child exploitation due to reduced livelihood. E-FACE targets households at-risk of or engaged in the worst forms of child labor in the Ethiopian textile and agriculture sectors, as well as young workers under the age of 18.
One E-FACE intervention in particular that addresses young workers' rights and health in the workplace is the 'Occupational Safety and Health (OSH)' support. This intervention is a three-component system that places young workers rights and safety at the forefront, while creating a participatory environment for the youth's employers to get involved in the development of a safe workplace.
Component 1: Keep Safe (Youth-focused)
The E-FACE OSH intervention begins with the 'Keep Safe' program. Designed as a six-week rights awareness course, youth workers in the local textile industries of Addis Ababa, Gamo Gofa and Wolaita zones are trained on their rights and responsibilities in the workplace. This awareness course focuses on changing the attitudes and behaviours towards workplace safety in the Ethiopian context. Youth are also exposed to workshops and mentorships on workplace hazards and mitigation strategies, as well as practical lessons on decision making and communications skills.
Component 2: Participatory Code of Conduct (Youth and employer focused)
Following the completion of 'Keep Safe', the youth and their employers participate in the development of a standard code of conduct that protects the workers' rights and informs both parties of their responsibilities. This involves a participatory session with the employers and youth (first separately, then together) to develop a code of conduct for appropriate workplace practices that they feel is relevant and can be upheld. Once developed, MEDA, with the support of government partners, monitors and mentors employers to ensure compliance with the standards.
Component 3: Graduated Incentives System (Employer-focused)
The third and final component of the OSH intervention is an incentive system geared toward the employers to ensure that hazards are mitigated. This is done through a graduated incentive system of access to business development services, financial services, and market linkages. Business owners are assessed for workplace hazards and compliance to the code of conduct developed during the second component. Access to the incentives is granted as they increasingly mitigate hazards (i.e. scheduled working hours, breaks, set pay rate, etc.).
This three-component intervention is MEDA's response to the gap in child labor and young-worker regulations enforcement. As the project continues, this intervention will reduce the number of youth engaged in exploitative work by supporting the employers and their young workers to develop enhanced awareness about occupational safety and health, as well as improve the overall working conditions for the youth engaged in textile activities.
 World Bank, http://data.worldbank.org/country/ethiopia, 2011
 Ethiopian Labor Proclamation defines young workers as those aged 14-17.