« 100 Years – 100 Lives » | ETHIOPIA - “Getting myself through college is my priority”

As Ethiopia embarks on the journey of industrialization, more and more young people are joining the garment and textile industry to make ends meet.

Reportage | Ethiopia | 5 septembre 2019
It is a Monday morning and residents of the area are rushing to pass through the industrial park gates to make it on time for work. Parallely a group of young women stand at the gate in search of news for work opportunities. I was told that many of these women come to the gate every morning to see if there is any job opening in the industrial parks.

Making my way through the tight security, I met up with one of the thousands of workers employed by one of the garment factory in Ethiopia.

Sega-Setu is a cheerful young women in her early 20s. She joined the factory as an operator 2 years ago.

“I moved to the city because I was enrolled in the university here. My father lives here but he can’t provide much for me except a place to stay. That is why I started working here”.

Despite the labour intensive nature of the work, Sega-Setu is always projecting her glaring smile among her peers.
“I use to be extremely tired when I first started to work here. It is not easy to juggle university life and factory work. But I needed the money.” She explains to me as she makes her way down the assembly line.

The expansion of the garment and textile industry is one of the key priority sector for the Ethiopian government to spearhead the Growth and Transformation Plan which aims to see the country become a middle income country by 2025. Currently, the garment and textile sector employs approximately 64,000 workers, focusing in particular on the young section of the population (from 18 to 28 years old). The majority of them women.

“The most important thing is to have a goal. For me, it is clear that I need to work in order to support myself and my brother. He is currently not working because he doesn’t have any educational background or work experience. I am working my way up so that I can afford to finish university and also be able to open a shop for my brother”.

For decent work in the garment and textile industry

Despite Ethiopia becoming an attractive sourcing destination among big global brands and investors, many challenges lie ahead for this newly developing sector. Poor working conditions resulting in low productivity, high turnover and absentee as well as weak regulatory institutions, coupled with the limited capacity of the workers’ and employers’ organizations, hinders proper functioning of the labour market and businesses environment.

Recognizing the need for intervention to achieve Decent Work in the garment and textile industry, the ILO comprehensive initiative ‘advancing decent work and inclusive industrialization’ developed by a number of ILO programmes and branches aims to see improved respect of workers’ rights leading to greater incomes and compensation, and enhanced safety, equality, voice, and representation.

The programme also aims to lift Industrial productivity and competitiveness to enable a global competitive textile and garment sector and encourage accountable and transparent government institutions.

Sega-Setu is currently working as a quality auditor whist studying accounting in the University. The programme intervention at the factory level will allow young women workers like Sega-Setu to operate in an improved working condition while incorporate gender equality and diversity principles to encourage women worker to reach leadership positions

“I started as an operator but within the last two years I have grown into a bigger position. When I graduate, I hope to grow into a work that relates to my education background”.

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