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The higher education initiative (hei): 7 years of helping university students stay healthy

The Higher Education Initiative (HEI), DKT’s set of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) activities for Ethiopian university students, enters its seventh year of activity this year.

Since 2009, HEI has worked closely with university administrations and student populations across the country to deliver high-quality SRH programming.

HEI’s outputs to date have been impressive:

  • – 1,300 mass events for nearly a million students
  • – Peer education and other training for 84,000 students, faculty and staff
  • – 2.1 million condoms distributed

In addition to consistent, wide-scale programming, HEI has also served as an innovator, authoring and managing the Temarinet website, one of the largest indigenous social media websites in the country, and creating “block-based” discussion sessions at girls dormitories.

“The block-based sessions came out of a need to personalize our mass promotion,” says Shimeles Gebeyehu, SRH Coordinator for DKT Ethiopia and Head of HEI.

“We needed a space where female students could share and also reinforce one another.”

“Block-based sessions have been a great vehicle for this.”

HEI has also been at the forefront of helping universities integrate SRH into their budgets and administrative processes. One of the great successes of the project is that several universities now include budget outlays for SRH commodity procurement, which was not a consideration a few years ago.




Ethiopia’s education sector has experienced exponential growth in the past two decades, with the student population in the country increasing from just under 40,000 in 1996/7 to nearly 600,000 in 2014.


The number of universities also increased, from one in 1993 to 36 today with plans to add 11 more by 2020. There are also numerous Teacher and TVETs as well as private institutions existing and planned in the country.


While the expansion has been rapid, it has occurred in the midst of multiple “macro-demographic” factors, including a moderate and declining HIV epidemic, the introduction and uptake of family planning, and rapid growth in international media and technology.


It has also occurred almost within a single generation, during which time a massive number of young people has lived away from their families and community structures for the first time, for which the culture has had little time to adapt. This has left some students vulnerable to STIs and unwanted pregnancy, necessitating ongoing SRH work at universities.


Contact Shimeles Gebeyehu at


Read more about HEI here.


12 May 2016