Coffee ceremony is a tradition in Ethiopia, where the world’s most famous coffee Coffea Arabica grows. The ceremony takes about an hour and helps strengthen bonds within the community.
Tsedale, 50, said coffee ceremony is held in households at least once a day, but sometimes up to three times per day. “We call each other hosting the ceremony in our houses and that keeps us together over time,” says the mother of four young boys and three girls.
When people get together for coffee it’s an opportunity to discuss important issues – from their own lives and what is happening in the nation.
I recently made a trip to Debre Birhan, a town 130 km north of Addis Ababa, and it came to my attention that this traditional culture of making coffee to get together is serving yet another purpose, which is related to sexual and reproductive health (SRH).
Discussing HIV and AIDS over coffee
Fana Addis Tiwulid Ethiopia (FATE), a local NGO, sees the potential of coffee ceremony to create awareness on issues of SRH, including HIV and AIDS, which is a significant issue among the community.
Working with government health extension workers assigned in the localities FATE organises a regular coffee ceremony to create discussion on topics like HIV transmission, condom use and family planning methods, with parents and their adolescent children.
Although parents take the lead in socializing their children, educating them and telling them what is right and wrong, too often parents ignore the need to openly discuss sexuality and reproductive health.
Setew Demisse, managing director of FATE,said it’s not common to openly discuss SRH issues in the community. When boys and girls ask anything about their sexual and reproductive health they get nothing from their parents but a warning not to raise such issues again.
Tackling sex talk taboo
Yalew, 20, said it is really hard to talk about things related to sex with parents. He would rather talk about such things with his peers.
“My friends say they discuss many things about HIV and AIDS in their schools and they tell me some of it,” he says.
“I think boys and girls of my age needs to know a lot about HIV as most of us don’t have a concrete knowledge about it,” he adds, saying it would also help if it was possible to openly discuss it with parents.
HIV peer education
FATE runs peer education sessions for young people who are both in and out of school. The in-school peer education program is active in six schools of Debre Birhan.
Adolescent boys and girls regularly meet during their off-class time, including the weekend, to talk about HIV and other reproductive health issues.
From a group comprising up to 25 members, one or two students take a peer educator training for eight days. Then they lead eight sessions of peer education using the technical and financial support provided by FATE.
“This trend has been established in Debre Birhan for the past several months,” says Zegeye Habteyes, peer education coordinator. There are at least two peer education sessions per week.
It is really great seeing young boys and girls talk about their own health separately on peer education programs, and with their parents over the coffee ceremony, says Zegeye a youngster who has long been an active participant of FATE.
From a voluntary youth club to a local NGO
Before it became an NGO, FATE was a youth anti-AIDS club with voluntary young boys and girls like Zegeye who dedicated their time to bringing about change in their locality.
The youth club used to organise various art works and road shows to create awarness on HIV and AIDS among the community. To conduct these events members raised money among themselves by sharing the coins they get from family.
“We grew up in the community and we know the actual gaps that need filling,” says Setew. But there is a financial challenge to engage deep in the issues with the community, he adds.
FATE continues to work on creating awareness, and providing care and support, using small grants from supporters like the American Embassy, British Embassy, UNICEF, DKT and others.
FATE is mainly working in its base town Debre Birhan and surrounding communities of the North Shoa Zone.
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