Integrated Women’s Empowerment Programme (IWEP)

Country Profile: Ethiopia


94,101,000 (2013)

Official languages

Amharic; English (there are more than 75 officially recognised regional languages, e.g.: Tigrinya; Oromifa; Tigre; Harari; Agaw; Afar)

Poverty (Population living on less than US$1.25 per day)

31% (2011)

Total expenditure on education as % of GNP

4.74 (2010)

Youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years, 2015)

Female: 67.8%
Male: 71.13%
Both sexes: 69.5%

Adult literacy rate (15+ years, 2015)

Female: 41.1%
Male: 57.2%
Both sexes: 49.1%

Statistical sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleIntegrated Women’s Empowerment Programme (IWEP)
Implementing Organizationdvv International’s Regional Office, East and Horn of Africa
Language of Instructionmulti-lingual (e.g. Amharic; Tigrinya; Oromifa; Tigre)
FundingThe Royal Netherlands Embassy (RNE)
Programme PartnersFederal Government through the Ministry of Education (MoE) and other related Bureaus, Woreda and Kebele offices such as Women’s Affairs, Agriculture, TVET and Trade and Industry; NGOs and Women’s Associations.
Date of Inceptionmid-2006 (five-year pilot phase)

Background and Context

Over the past few decades, Ethiopia has instituted various educational programmes including the Universal, Free and Compulsory Primary Education Programme (for children under 15 years); the Technical Vocational Education and Training Programme (TVETP, for out-of-school youth and adults), and the Integrated Functional Adult Education (or IFAE) programme focusing on adult literacy integrated with other sectors and wider livelihoods concerns. This collaboration has been part of a wider campaign to make education more accessible to all and thus to improve literacy levels, promote development, poverty reduction and social transformation. Yet in spite of these concerted efforts, the rate of adult illiteracy in the country remains alarmingly high, particularly among adult women. According to current government figures more than 20 million adults are illiterate. UNESCO further estimates that more than 60% and 75% of the total adult population and adult female population, respectively, are functionally illiterate and unskilled as of 2003–2007. The high rate of functional illiteracy among adult women is the result of a complex set of socio-economic and cultural factors which often prevent girls and women from accessing education. In addition many existing adult education programmes fail to address women’s basic livelihood needs as they continually prioritize basic literacy over livelihood skills training and support. In light of these issues and recognizing that a more holistic, livelihood-oriented approach to adult education is necessary to appeal to women and mothers with familial responsibilities. dvv international in partnership with the Ministry of Education, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and various other local NGOs and government sector offices at regional and local levels instituted the Integrated Women’s Empowerment Programme (IWEP) in mid-2006. The programme acknowledged the fact that educating women has a strong potential to stimulate community development, combat poverty and improve familial living standards. Due to some challenges during the start-up, actual implementation commenced in June 2008 and the programme phased out and concluded in March 2013.

The Integrated Women’s Empowerment Programme (IWEP)

The IWEP was designed as an integrated programme to provide functional adult literacy, using three main components: livelihoods/non-formal vocational skills training; entrepreneurial support in the form of business skills training, access to start-up capital and business development, and a support service to poor, illiterate adult women in both rural and urban communities. The programme was implemented in six regional states of Ethiopia: Afar, Addis Ababa City Administration, Tigray, Oromia, Amhara, and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region (SNNPR), reaching almost 30,000 women at the time of phase-out and conclusion. What made IWEP unique were not its components, but the way it was delivered in an integrated manner across all modalities of design and implementation. IWEP’s three core components can be depicted as follows:


Aims and Objectives

IWEP had 7 Result Areas which contributed to the achievement of the overall project purpose and its ultimate the goal: reducing the levels of poverty amongst women and their households in poor areas. The goal, purpose and results are depicted in the table below. Of key importance is the fact that IWEP was supposed to develop a model of women’s empowerment which could be replicated by various stakeholders after the pilot phase. The focus was therefore not on reaching large numbers, but rather the development of methodologies, approaches and frameworks that can assist role-players to empower and improve women’s livelihoods in an integrated manner. It was also expected that the capacity to plan, participate or undertake and manage integrated programmes across different administrative levels will be strengthened amongst IWEP’s partners.

Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies

As noted above, the IWEP had three major components, namely functional adult literacy, skills training and entrepreneurship support (business skill training and access to finance through saving and loan schemes, small scale credit, grants, etc.). The programme required specific and innovative implementation approaches and modalities to bring about the integration required for its success and sustainability. IWEP also trained partner organizations in the different approaches and methodologies in order to enable them to cascade these at community level. Some of the manuals and materials developed by IWEP were used to conduct Training of Trainer workshops for partner organizations are listed below. They were published in different languages such as Amharic, Tigrigna, Oromifa and others:

The following key activities were undertaken by partner organisations during the institutionalization of the programme at the community level:

Institutional Roles and Responsibilities

In order to make the ‘Institutional Integration’ practical, NGO and government partners across a range of different sectors and tiers of government had to be brought together in both coordination and implementation structures. In this regard IWEP designed a ‘Partner Modality’ to show who should form part of the structure and the type of role each stakeholder would be playing. The implementation structures were called ‘technical teams’ and were comprised of experts from relevant government sector offices and NGO partners at the local level.

These experts would cooperate as virtual teams to deliver training and services to the IWEP target group. At the same time, the heads of the government sector offices and NGO partners formed a structure called ‘Steering Committees’ who gave oversight and guidance to the programme’s overall implementation. In the case of Ethiopia, the steering committees were chaired by the District Administrator who was well-placed to bring all sector offices and development initiatives together. These structures were transformed within the Ethiopian government’s IFAE programme and currently operate as ÍFAE’ (Integrated Functional Adult Education) coordination structures in Ethiopia. The role of dvv international through its IWEP Central Programme Implementation Unit (CPIU) and regional coordination units (RCUs) was to provide technical and financial support to partners in the form of training of training workshops, programme implementation advice, material development, and monitoring and evaluation.

Programme / Curriculum Design and Implementation


Most IWEP groups started with the literacy component on topics identified during local situation analysis exercises and using either the FAL or Reflect approach. Decisions were made at the programme planning stage to pilot both approaches in prior selected areas. District level experts from local NGO partners and government sector offices developed ‘Facilitator Guides’ with units on different topics. These Facilitator Guides were used by the community facilitators to facilitate the classes 2-3 times per week for approximately 2 hours at a time. Women started saving immediately after group formation so as to build up complimentary/matching capital for IWEP’s available Women Entrepreneurship Fund which could be utilized after the skills training.

Experts from government sector offices such as Trade and Industry, Agriculture, TVET and primary partners (NGOs and Women Affair Offices) received training in IWEP’s market assessment approach - a simplified version of value chain analysis. These experts worked together in teams and conducted market assessments for each operational woreda (district) of IWEP. The results of the market assessments then had to be shared with the women who usually had their own pre-determined ideas on the kind of business they want to engage in. The market assessment exercise and alignment with the women’s interest therefore directly determined the kind of skills training that was conducted and the selection of the best role-player/partner to do so.

Once women had attended the skills training they were eager to take loans from their group and start their business. It was therefore important to incorporate topics on business skills training as early as possible into the literacy programme so that women gain this knowledge and can start their business having analysed their competitors, being aware of profit calculations, etc. IWEP has worked closely with partners to integrate the contents of its business skills training manual with the literacy programme and facilitators have been trained so that women receive this as integrated skill package where business concepts are linked to literacy and numeracy in a variety of local languages. Business Development Support Services (BDS) were rendered by technical partners who visited the women groups on a monthly basis to follow-up on the success of their businesses and identify gaps and further training needs.

Recruitment and Training of Programme Facilitators

To recruit community facilitators, IWEP partners would share the selection criteria with the wider community and local community leaders and structures, so as to identify and nominate potential candidates. The implementing partner organisation then interviewed the nominated facilitators before making a final selection for recruitment. Some of the selection criteria for IWEP’s community facilitators included:

After being recruited, facilitators received 2 weeks initial training in adult education practices and approaches used in the IWEP, using either the FAL or Reflect approaches. In particular, facilitators received training in adult learning principles, class room/group management, participatory teaching-learning methodologies and time management, how to prepare lesson plans, conducting regular learner assessments using the LAMP (Literacy Assessment and Monitoring Programme) and Numeracy scales, keeping administrative records, and report-writing. Once a year, facilitators would receive a 5-6 day refresher training on topics they found difficult or need additional support on. Further support was provided on a monthly basis to facilitators by the supervisors of the programme. As already mentioned, an integrated group of experts called the ‘technical team’ would visit each women’s group and facilitator on monthly basis to provide support on all IWEP’s key components of literacy, skills and business training, managing the entrepreneurship fund, etc. In addition all facilitators in a district would meet with the technical team for a day per month to share experiences, receive some training on the unit topic for the coming month, submit reports and deal with administrative matters. This required technical team members to work closely together, share their supervision reports and conduct these monthly meetings jointly to reinforce the integrated implementation modality.

Programme Impact and Lessons Learnt

IWEP as part of the bilateral agreement with the Government of Ethiopia reached almost 30 000 women across Ethiopia with a three pronged approach combining literacy, skills training and entrepreneurship support in the form of access to start-up capital and business skills training and business development support services. The programme was implemented with a variety of local partners ranging from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to various government sectors offices. The implementation approach was designed to mirror coordination structures from micro (municipal and district) to meso (zones and regions) and macro (federal line ministries) levels. IWEP reached out to 6 of Ethiopia’s 11 regions and more than 40 districts.

As per the programme’s end evaluation and best practices report, presented during the final Lesson Bazaar event in March 2013, IWEP achieved some of the following immediate impact and achievements:

Challenges and lessons Learnt

When reflecting back on the programme and the challenges experienced, many lessons emerged:



Ms. Sonja Belete
Regional Director: dvv international East/Horn of Africa
C/o Education & Training Quality Assurance Agency
P.O Box 34743, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel. +251 -11 123 2239, (123 2240), (123 2241)
Fax: +251 -11 23 6117

E-mail: Sonja.Belete (at)


Last update: 22 November 2013