Since 2017, MDF has been involved in strengthening 17 TVET (Technical & Vocational Education and Training) Colleges in Ethiopia. This project, financed by KfW, a German banking organisation promoting global development, is executed by a consortium led by Niras-IP Consult and supports the following components: 

  •   Decentralisation of vocational teacher education  
  •   Selected TVET Lead Cluster Institutions (LCI)  
  •   Selected Agricultural Technical and Vocational Education and Training centres (ATVETs)  
  •   Selected TVETs for special measures addressing gender as a cross-cutting issue   

In this consortium, MDF is supporting that fourth component in close cooperation with Niras-IP Consult gender experts. Concerning this component, the project aims to become a role model in the education sector while using Gender Equality Management practice daily by emphasising gender analysis, gender awareness raising, training gender focal persons, and conducting baseline tracer studies.   

To improve the education conditions for staff and students, the project includes an investment for Early Childcare Centres (ECC) set up at these TVETs.

Jolanda Buter, MDF's senior advisor and trainer, is the expert involved in this project and has previous experience setting up childcare centres for education institutes in Ghana and Benin (projects managed by MDF consultants). She used relevant information and approaches for this trajectory in Ethiopia, such as the management model and participatory methods to involve important stakeholders.     

This Ethiopian project sees Jolanda working closely with the senior gender expert of the organisation Fair & Sustainable, Ms. Hibiete Tesfaye.    

It is well known that female staff with small children often feel split between their commitment to their professional duties and their expected duties as mothers when the children are not well looked after during their working hours. Sometimes, (young) mothers feel forced to take children to the workplace since there is no alternative childcare service available at home or nearby. This impacts their own effectiveness at work, as well as the image and/or belief that the combination of motherhood and being a professional is hardly possible. This image could hamper the possibility of women to build professional careers and advance into leadership positions.  

The experts used the Kaizen group 1 approach for putting the ECC proposal in front of top managers of the TVETs. Via these Kaizen groups, Rules and Regulations for ECC (already developed by the Ethiopian Government, Ministry of Women) were discussed and adapted in co-operation with staff, parents and other parties involved. The gender focal points of the TVETs, trained in several topics, often lead this trajectory.   

As of now, eight out of the 17 TVETs have taken actions that are leading to ECC initiatives. Even with delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MDF international experts, together with Gender Focal Points (GFP) of the TVET institutes, managed to support this innovation process from a distance, as did the Niras-IP Consult expert under challenging circumstances. 

Support from TVET top management is crucial for:  
  •  Getting an appropriate location for the ECC and space for an outside playing field   
  •   Assuring finances and assisting in finding (external) finances (e.g. renovation of the designated building and additional equipment)   
  •   Contracting caregivers  
  •   Assisting the renovation of the given location, for example, by TVET departments focusing on building and construction

The Athlete Kenenisa Bekele (Asseta) TVET College has already renovated a building and assured the equipment for an ECC for 12 children (aged 1-2 years old).  

It is worth noting that the success of this ECC and elsewhere at the TVETs has led to male staff and students also asking for access to this ECC service. Discussions at the TVETs are ongoing and tend to accept the demands of single fathers and female students.   

The TVET GFP will still be trained and supported to finalise the process of getting gender aspects more and better integrated into the TVET as an institute (with attention to hygiene, sport and first aid) and successfully finalising the ECC setup. It is crucial to make it fully functional, maintaining perspectives for sustainability (secured support by the TVETs and government) with the possibility of future expansion.  

The ECC will be helpful and relevant for giving the children of male and female staff/students a safe base during working hours of their parents. At the same time, it should build the confidence these parents have in combining parenthood with a successful professional career, possibly in the education sector.  

This article was written by Marie-José Niesten, Senior Trainer/Consultant at MDF Netherlands, based on interviews with Jolanda Butler.