In Ethiopia, as elsewhere, companies, organizations and employers of all kinds are seeking to attract the most talented and reliable employees in order to become more competitive. Many employers are recognizing the benefits of hiring a diverse workforce, including qualified workers with disabilities. However, companies are facing challenges in employing and retaining persons with disabilities. Indeed, they are often confronted with complying with related laws, making their workplaces accessible and raising awareness among staff in order to collectively create a disability inclusive work environment. Many could benefit from the knowledge and best practices of other companies, both in Ethiopia and in other countries.
International Labour Organization (ILO) facilitated the establishment in 2010 of a Global Business and Disability Network, comprising multinational enterprises, employer federations and disabled persons’ organizations. It was formed to assist companies to manage disability in the workplace and to prepare and implement a strategic business plan on disability inclusion. The Global Network promotes good practices in the wider business community through business-to-business knowledge sharing and helps develop products and services that respond to expressed needs and demands of Network members. It is the only global business network focusing on disability inclusion in the workplace.
The Ethiopian Business and Disability Network (EBDN) addresses disability as a diversity issue from a private-sector perspective. It does this through information and knowledge sharing, joint action, improving technical skills of members, their networks and staff, and through corporate social responsibility activities. It assists local companies to adapt products and services to the needs of customers with disabilities. The EBDN fosters the development of a workforce culture that is respectful and inclusive, promoting the hiring, retention and professional development of women and men with disabilities. The EBDN promotes business awareness about the positive relationship between the inclusion of people with disabilities, as workers, customers and share-holders, and business success.
A Core Group of founding business leaders from both public and private companies in Ethiopia meets periodically to guide the development of the Network. A growing number of local companies are joining the Network in order to learn about the benefits of hiring workers with disabilities and thus becoming more competitive. Membership is free. The Network enjoys a close working relationship with the Society of Human Resource Management in Ethiopia (SHRME) and many company Human Resource Managers are members of the EBDN. In addition, the EBDN partners with the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations in promoting awareness of the benefits to companies that increase their workforce diversity by employing persons with disabilities.
The EBDN was initiated by the Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development (ECDD), a local non-governmental development organization working with employers to provide skills training, internships and employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. ECDD continues to provide support to and facilitate meetings of the EBDN.