Monday, 14 November 2011 12:05

Youth for the Youth

Addis Ababa, 8 April 2011 (The Ethiopian Herald) - The letter 'C' stands for using Condom properly from the ABC prevention ways of HIV/AIDS. It is increasingly becoming source of income for some youth clubs and associations though its principal purpose is to serve as a preventive tool from the disease. Studies on the effectiveness of condoms have shown that if a latex condom is used correctly and consistently, it is highly effective in providing people with power of protection against HIV and unwelcome pregnancy. But people should not take things hundred Cognizant percent of for this, granted. various governmental and on-governmental organizations be they are international or local are working on the distribution and proper usage of condom taking it as one way of arresting the alarming rate of the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS.

As sources indicate, since 1989, D~T International has been promoting family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention through social marketing in the developing world especially in condom distribution. A year later, by the time the HIV / AIDS epidemic hit Africa, DKT-Ethiopia had already established contraceptive and family planning services distribution network via the private sector. It was in October 1990 that DKT Ethiopia was invited by the government of Ethiopia to introduce a contraceptive social marketing programs in the country. "The project began slowly and faced a range of challenges and difficulties", Andrew Piller, Director, DKT-Ethiopia said.

From the time DKT first began operations in Ethiopia, it has set goals and objectives regarding public health fitting that of government of Ethiopia. It has continued being an effective means of building the existing strength in the fight against the pandemic through providing international quality products and services more effective among the population throughout Ethiopia, the Director added. The plan is also the most ambitious because it allows approximately 90 percent of condoms to be distributed in Ethiopia.

So far, DKT-Ethiopia has been successful in enhancing a wider market network, aggressive marketing techniques, and an effective distribution network in a country where family planning services are very limited. Through the network of salespeople, it could easily reach out to the unreached at remotest areas and the small shops and pharmacies are distributing the products to ensure that all Ethiopians can access to them at affordable prices. This trend can help run social marketing programs through private sectors, governmental and non- governmental stakeholders.

Young Marketers, whom the DKT has organized are of model distribution means through anti- HIV/AIDS clubs, youth associations and girls reproductive health clubs. These actors are aggressively working to distribute condoms and other health products on commission basis to help themselves generate income as the saying goes "Two birds with one stone."

Accordingly, DKT and the German Foundation for World Population (DSW) started recruiting young marketers in May 2007 to formalize the ongoing sales of donated condoms and worked with the already set up nine young marketer clubs. As of February 2011, the number of young marketers has grown to 185 clubs found in 149 towns across the country in all states.

And they are selling condoms and family planning products to people through kiosks and other non traditional centers such as pharmacies. For example, since its inception, May 2007, club of young marketers has sold a total of 52,508,529 pieces of condoms with a net revenue 137,490 USD benefiting the youth. DKT has also provide YM clubs and associations with trainings to enable them effectively enhance its distributions of condoms and other family planning products.

Recently, the second National Young Marketers Sales Conference was held in Bishoftu arming at increasing anti- HIV/AIDS clubs' commitment and scaling up practical skills that will help maximize condom distribution. Representatives from 185 young marketer clubs drawn from all States and two city administrations were in attendance at the conference.

Fasil Gutema, National Sales Coordinator said that the conference includes practical trainings on salesmanship and product handling, technical updates on DKT products, capacity management skills, entrepreneurship, volunteerism and sales contest, among others. The participation of young marketer clubs and associations in distributing DKT products is now on the rise. Young marketer clubs are accounting for approximately 30 per cent of DKT's condom distribution share, Fasil added. According to him, young marketer is a cost-effective means of increasing condom sales points, critical to overall use of condoms through anti-HIV/AIDS clubs and their members as well as being incoming generating means and creating job opportunities. DKT-Ethiopia is supporting 185 young marketer clubs allover the nation and planning to escalate the number to 200 by next year.

It was also stated that DKT is working with these clubs and associations to effectively distribute condoms and help reach the entire country. "Previously, we were providing condoms free of charge to these clubs and associations but now it is in a commission base for making them increase their commitment and make profit at the same time", the coordinator added. As to Fasil, there are two main criteria for selecting the partner clubs and associations: their objective alignment with the DKT and willingness to work with.

As learnt from the conference, due to these partners, accessibility of the DKT products is increasing and the clubs and associations are becoming indispensable to properly reach the society. "Some clubs and associations are working even at night to access people to condoms as required specially in areas where commercial sex workers are widely availableā€.

According to government report, DKT is providing over 90 percent of condom supply and distribution in the country specially after the involvement of these young marketer clubs and associations. Awareness has also raised due to these clubs and associations.

According to Fasil, DKT-Ethiopia is still working to organize similar clubs and associations in the future and by 'providing them with material, financial support as well as offering trainings so that they can build their capacity. It is not working only on the distribution of condom but enhancing family planning as well.

According to the national sales coordinator, these young marketers are making profit and help themselves to be self-reliant. For example, they are making 8 birr from one gross condom sales, Fasil said. If the products get expired or damaged, DKT automatically changes the same amount of the expired product free of charge.

Betru Tekle (PhD), Director General, Federal HAPCO at the conference stressed that youth center intervention and endeavors is of paramount significance to bringing about real behavioral change about the pandemic. Since the disease is mainly affecting the youth, the solution may be best addressed by this group in a coordinated manner in accordance with government policies and strategies to curb HIV/AIDS. "The government is intensifying the battle against HIV. But it needs the coordinated effort of the he youth and volunteer ones that advocate anti-HIV/AIDS clubs to bring about a meaningful change", Dr. Betru said. He also reaffirmed that the government is committed than ever to work with various partners and continue giving the necessary support. He also urged conference participants to share their skills and knowledge they have acquired from the conference their respective peers going back to destinations.

The young marketers who were participating in the conference also said that they are serving the society by providing the latter with necessary products and making money at the same time. From this one can deduce that these youths are now gaining dual advantages-saving fellow citizens from the pandemic and helping themselves financially. They are also working to bring about significant change in awareness creation about the disease and other similar health issues. Solomon Alebachew is from South Wollo, Haik town, Logo Haik Tiwuld Yidan Association. He said it was in 2008 that DKT had selected four young marketers from his Association to participating in DKT products distribution. He said, two years before DKT provided us with condoms estimated to 3000 birr free of charge for the first time. "After that, we started involving in income generating activities but we were not that much effective". However, they are effective in raising awareness among the society by breaking silence emanating from both religious and cultural influence. "In my village, there are Muslim majority. There was religious influence on the use of condoms. They said using condom is a taboo --"harram". But since HIV I AIDS has knocked everybody's door and becoming everybody's problem, we are working in the awareness creation and have been effective", he added. He also called on the DKT to further enhance its support by giving them some facilities to foster activities in that regard like bonus, prizes, bajajes, t-shirts and bags like what it has done for other clubs and associations.

Sinkinesh Gurmu, from Hawassa Fiyameta Young Girls Reproductive Health Association, on her part said that they are working with DKT in condom distribution and family planning products like pills and other materials women can use to protect unplanned pregnancy. She said DKT ,is providing them with products to distribute in commission basis and financially assist themselves. "It is good ' opportunity for young marketers like me for creating job and making money. Regarding awareness raising, Fiyameta has great connection with females that help them approach freely since their service is rendered by girls. At the beginning, people were ashamed of buying condoms and pills at shops." They were even blaming us for selling these products. We went to them to serve. But now thanks to the increased awareness those who seek service come to us. Means the reverse becomes true for clients for getting the products, Sinkinesh commended. She said the change has been brought about following their relentless effort in sharing experience they have gained from trainings, life experiences through time and interactions. It is absolutely true that healthy youths are vitally important for the overall developmental activities of the nation. Hence, the Growth and Transformation Plan of the country can only be realized where the working force of the nation is healthy and remains productive. So, stakeholders and partners like DKT Ethiopia are expected to move in unison to make a real difference inn the fight against the arch enemy of human race-HIV/AIDS.

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