She Thrives: Reducing Child Labor in Ethiopia’s Agricultural Sector using a Gender-Focused Approach

Project Duration
December 2020
February 2025
Funding and Year

The She Thrives project seeks to build agency of vulnerable women and girls in the Ethiopian agricultural sector, change community social norms and traditions that uphold child labor and gender inequality, and transform laws, policies and institutions to be more gender equitable and support efforts to reduce child labor in Ethiopia.

The Problem

In Ethiopia, agriculture is the leading sector for employment, and coffee is the country’s top agricultural export commodity. Oromia and SNNPR are Ethiopia’s largest coffee producing regions, accounting for almost 95% of the country’s coffee production. Four million Ethiopian households are engaged in small-scale coffee cultivation, with women and girls undertaking 70% of the labor. In addition to harvesting, washing and sorting coffee cherries, women and girls engage in hazardous tasks, such as handling pesticides and other dangerous chemicals. 
In Oromia and SNNPR, women not involved in coffee farming often cultivate spices and khat, which include similar risks to workers. Due to high labor costs and the physical nature of this work, women engaged in producing these three goods are frequently assisted by children in their household or those of their neighbors as informal workers. Women and girls working in the production of coffee, spices, and khat often lack the ability to improve their lives by pursuing an education or fair-paying jobs, to better their households, or to make contributions to their communities.

Our Strategy

The She Thrives project aims to reduce child labor in informal agriculture in Ethiopia, using a gender-focused approach by implementing activities that will: 

  • Strengthen the capacity of the Government of Ethiopia to address child labor in the agricultural sector through collaboration with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth, and the Ministry of Agriculture;
  • Build the capacity of private sector partners to understand and prevent child labor and other labor violations within the coffee value chain through collaboration with the Ethiopian Women in Coffee Association;
  • Improve the ability of communities to reduce child labor; and
  • Increase the economic stability of households vulnerable to child labor, with a focus on women and girls. 

The project will provide direct services to 10,300 people, including vulnerable women and men, and girls and boys engaged in or vulnerable to child labor in 10 districts ("woredas") within the geographic regions of SNNPR (Gedeo) and Oromia (Ilubabor-Yayu). Members of vulnerable households will be provided education and livelihood services; have access to employment services; and have increased access to social protections.


She Thrives Results as of September 2023

  1. The She Thrives project facilitated a consultative workshop with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Labor and Skills (MOLS), the Ministry of Women and Social Affairs (MoWSA), the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Union (CETU), and several Coalition members to establish a single platform for monitoring child labor, child protection, and child rights at the National level. The Coalition, comprised of local and international organizations including Save the Children, World Vision,   Plan International, Hope for Children, CARE Ethiopia, Woord en Daad, Population Council, and the Africa Child Forum, serves as a collaborative platform that advocates for the development and enhancement of policies related to child labor and child protection.
  2. She Thrives facilitated meetings between Ethiopia’s Ministry of Labor and Skills (MOLS) and the Ministry of Women and Social Affairs (MoWSA) to discuss shared interests and agendas in child protection. These consultations resulted in the finalization of a strategic planning document, fostering consensus on addressing child labor at each ministerial level, and reinforcing the implementation of the Child Labor National Action Plan (NAP). An MOU outlining modalities of cooperation, and broader strategic approaches to address child labor, protection, and rights is expected to be signed by high-level officials and stakeholders in December 2023.
  3. She Thrives conducted a panel discussion during the nationwide celebration of the 32nd African Child Day pushing for the inclusion of the child labor agenda in the annual plans of regional and national Child Parliaments. As a result, child labor representatives committed to elevating the issue in sessions with the House of People’s Representatives. The collaborative effort resulted in a consensus to enhance cooperation between Child Parliaments and relevant government ministries, incorporate child labor into upcoming annual plans, increase the participation of Child Parliament representatives during legislative sessions and to implement and monitor programs addressing child labor.
  4. She Thrives provided training to 104 Child Labor Committee leaders from all project implementation woredas. Training created a deeper understanding of how unequal power dynamics and gender inequality affect the household economy and perpetuates child labor in their communities. This in turn will ensure that committee leaders fully understand the intersection of these issues and learn ways to mitigate challenges and provide adequate resources.
  5. She Thrives is helping rural households diversify income sources as a method to enhance financial stability and resilience, reduce poverty and economic shocks, and overall reduce reliance on child labor. Through training on how to manage money and becoming members of Village Savings and Loans, women and adolescent girls strengthened their capacity to save, invest in business, and gain peer support and guidance. Women and adolescent girls are also provided advanced business entrepreneurship training. For those investing in agricultural practices such as coffee harvesting, the project provides skills training on ways to improve agricultural practices, value-addition techniques necessary to increase production, how to access markets and sell at competitive prices, and how to collaborate with each other and engage in beneficial and efficient decision-making. To kick start these efforts, the project provided training to over 1,300 women small-scale farmers on ways to make informed decisions on the types of commodities they produce, and information on viable products for income diversification through the value chain analysis which identified coffee, avocado, maize, shoat fattening, and poultry production as key sectors to invest in project communities.
  6. She Thrives registered 180 women to government affiliated Technical Vocational and Education Training Centers (TVET) based on a signed MoU agreement between the project and selected wordea TVETs. Training curriculum was adapted for the project participant demographic based on a comprehensive labor market assessment, aptitude and skills, and availability of trainers. Groups will be clustered into cohorts based on field of study and will begin applied practical training in the coming months.
  7. The project registered 450 adolescents into government affiliated Technical Vocational and Education Training Centers (TVET). Of those registered, 357 adolescent girls graduated from an array of technical professions such as Agro-Processing, Woodwork, Food Preparation, Animal Production, Hairdressing, and Plant Science, Natural Resource and Crop protection. Many of these girls will now begin formal jobs, start their own businesses, or work with Master Craftsperson’s to expand their skills further. As a result, many will now be able to contribute to their household income enabling a younger sibling to return to school or not engage in child labor or allow a caretaker to reduce long working hours to make ends meet.
  8. She Thrives has provided leadership and life skills training for a total of 4,047 adolescent girls aged 15-17 with little education or employment skills in the South and Oromia regions. This comprehensive training fostered independence and resilience, builds essential life skills, including decision-making, goal setting, self-confidence, and communication skills. Girls are anticipated to apply these acquired skills in future endeavors, contributing to their personal growth and overall well-being.
  9. She Thrives enrolled over 1,000 children into the Accelerated Education Program (AEP) enabling children ages 10-14 to return to school. Many of these children had large gaps in education and were engaging in child labor instead of going to school. Linking children to bridge educational programs such as AEP reduces the risk of drop out and failure to catch up. To date, the Project has successfully integrated 843 (613 female, 230 male) AEP graduates into the mainstream schooling curriculum. Imperative to the AEP success is supporting students with school feeding programs. Many children have little access to food especially during school hours, and families have little funds to spare to support school attendance. Without the help of the project and the AEP, many of these children would remain engaged in child labor with limited schooling. Many leaving school at 6 years old, some never attending.
  10. In 2021, during the initial stage of implementation, the She Thrives project conducted a series of consultations with core partners, including the Government of Ethiopia, and former USDOL-funded project staff to strategize ways to ensure effective project implementation. Through these meetings, the project had the opportunity to engage in discussion on the intersection of child labor and gender inequality and assess gaps in existing policies and programs.
  11. She Thrives provided capacity-building trainings to key government ministries, media houses, public relations officials, and Technical and Vocational Education Training centers TVETs on specific concepts that will enable them to employ social analysis and gender equity and diversity diagnostic tools to address harmful gender norms that underpin child labor and strengthen legal, social support and reporting systems to curtail it.
  12. The Ministry of Women and Social Affairs convened 50 state and non-state actors to create the first national coordination platform for child labor. This followed their commitment to She Thrives to develop a national multi-stakeholder platform to better address child labor issues.
  13. She Thrives established child labor committees in 48-project implementation kebeles in collaboration with Labor and Social Affairs Office (LSAO), Women and Children Affairs Office (WCAO), Education Office, Enterprise Office, Agriculture Office, and Justice sector. These committees will advocate for a child-labor-free community at their kebele and act as a bridge between the government, community, and the project.
  14. She Thrives supported out-of-school children's enrollment in the Accelerated Education Program and leadership and life skills training to reintegrate them back into formal education as a child labor prevention and removal strategy.
Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE)
Implementing Partners:
Balaya Children’s and Family Charitable Organization (Balaya), Women Children Integrated Development Association (IWCIDA)
Contact Information: / (202) 693-4843 / Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT)
Child Labor
Capacity Building
FY20 Projects
Livelihood Services
Women’s Empowerment