Ethiopian History of Social Work and Social Services

Acknowledgments: Andargatchew Tesfaye, 1986, Social Welfare programmes and social work education in Ethiopia and other sources

The history of social services and social work in Ethiopia can be divided into 5 phases. the first phase is elaborated below while the other three phases can be read from

  1. Social services provided by families, communities and religious groups: “Social Welfare services in Ethiopia began with traditional services provided by the extended family system and religious groups. Gradually organized welfare services by voluntary and public agencies started replacing traditional services since the 1920s. Now the government is trying to make use of newly created institutions such as farmers’ and urban dwellers’ associations to extend welfare services. …the care of the indigent, the afflicted and the orphaned has always been the responsibility, first, of the extended family system and second, that of the community at large. Religion and social customs have always encouraged charity and almsgiving” (Tesfaye, 1986, p. 363). Social services including social welfare are provided by families, churches and mosques. Charity is driven by custom and religion “But, the advent of modernization in the twentieth century gradually began to erode this strong social fabric. Due to various reasons, the strong and extended family system began disintegrating. The poor, the sick and the orphans were no more fully absorbed by the community” (Tesfaye, p. 363). Modernisation includes rural-urban migration, urban bias in delivery of services, break down of and customary social welfare, salary-based social insurance (e.g. pension for government or public employees) and increased social problems. “It is unfortunate that the adoption of the new way of life did not usher in with it a system to replace the eroded social system. Formerly, no matter how imperfect the system may have been, people were either self-employed and were taken care of by the extended family system, or they were in the service of the nobility who took care of them“, (Tesfaye, p. 264).
  2. Monarchy-led social services
  3. Revolution government-led social services
  4. Re-birth of social work (2004)
  5. Indigenisation phase

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