In our ongoing efforts to strengthen partnerships with local partners and Ministries of Health (MOH), we recently attended a meeting hosted by the Reproductive Health, Family Planning, Adolescent and Youth Health Services (RHFPAYH) desk at the Ethiopian MOH. The meeting served as an opportunity to discuss various opportunities, challenges, and the implementation of a Minimum Service Package (MSP) within Ethiopia’s industrial parks.

This agenda links directly to one of DMI’s innovative, cost-effective and scalable workplace sexual and reproductive health (SRH) interventions which took place in Ethiopia’s Hawassa Industrial Park (HIP). Our intervention in the park was particularly successful in terms of demand generation, achieving a 15-fold increase in service uptake.

Hawassa Industrial Park
Ethiopia has a large network of industrial parks. The flagship Hawassa Industrial Park was inaugurated in 2016 and is the largest specialised garment and textile production park in Africa. In 2019, when DMI was carrying out activities across Ethiopia as part of the WISH2ACTION programme, HIP had 49 factory sheds, belonging to 22 garment and textile companies from the UK, USA, France, China, India, Belgium, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia.

At the time, HIP employed approximately 30,000 people, 85% of which were women aged between 18 and 35 years old. The park’s significant concentration of women in their reproductive years presented us with promising prospects for meaningful impact. The MOH expressed particular concern about the lack of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) knowledge amongst these young workers, as well as the insufficient availability of SRH services. These concerns further highlighted the urgency and potential for implementing interventions that aim to generate the demand for SRH services.

Our intervention
In response to this unmet need, as part of the FCDO-funded WISH2ACTION programme in Ethiopia, we collaborated with the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia (FGAE) to actively promote their enhanced SRH services at HIP.

In preparation for our campaign, we conducted a capacity gap assessment within the park. The results from the assessment were used to inform the messages of the spots which focused on delaying first pregnancy, youth stigma, and myths and misconceptions. It was determined that these messages would have a stronger resonance with young, unmarried factory workers.

The main distribution point for these activities was HIP’s internal broadcasting system, which operated over loudspeakers in communal areas such as factory floors and the cafeteria. DMI’s SRH spots were broadcast for two hours each day, using the two most widely spoken languages at HIP, Amharic and Sidamuu Affo. Popular songs from both languages were also incorporated into the broadcasts. Alongside broadcasting, we supplemented our media intervention with interpersonal activities which included sex education and learning sessions delivered by health professionals using the same material.

Our campaign reached approximately 30,000 individuals at the industrial park. As a result of our intervention, the use of SRH services provided at the park increased by more than 15 times compared to the previous year.

Opportunities for scale
Given that Ethiopia is home to many other industrial parks like Hawassa, there is remarkable opportunity for replicating this initiative in other industrial parks, as well as in other large commercial sites that provide healthcare services for their staff. We look forward to seeing how this potential unfolds and the significant impact it could have.