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Yalemwork: "Prosthetics help entire households walk away from poverty…"

25-05-2005 Feature

Yalemwork Yitayew Kebede, aged 22, is Ethiopia's first and only female orthotist / prosthetist. She was trained by the ICRC in Addis Ababa and will soon start work at a new rehabilitation centre in Bahir Dar.


    I originally wanted to become a physiotherapist, thinking that it was my best option as a woman. However, the opportunity to train in orthopaedic technology presented itself. During my training, I realised that through making appliances, I could contribute to improving the life of disabled people.

Prosthetics help entire households to walk away from poverty – at least partially. People with a prosthetic appliance can contribute much more easily to their families, communities and to society. Activities as basic as walking a long way to get water are a meaningful contribution to family life. In any case, I know that walking again makes all the difference.

As a woman, it took some nerve to step forward to become the first (and only!) female orthopaedic technician in Ethiopia. I feel happy about it. At the beginning, it was quite difficult for me to be surrounded by only male students and then to make th e prosthesis-fitting work with male patients, due to the traditional codes of behaviour in our society. I gradually overcame my fear. Then I was glad to realise how much female patients were grateful when treated by a female technician.

 Hardship and pain  

Becoming an orthopaedic technician requires a high level of theoretical and practical knowledge. It is a multi-disciplined job involving not only the prescription of the correct device, but also its manufacture and the training of other technical staff. It demands empathy and comprehension towards persons who have undergone hardships and pain. So, you need not only a good head, but a heart and spirit too.

The difficulties a woman faces to get qualified in this job may discourage other African women to choose this profession, but I have to tell you, once you get the skills, it turns to be very gratifying.

I would like to encourage disabled African women to come forward and seize the opportunity to become an orthopaedic technician. I believe that they would be well motivated due to their personal experience in disability and would certainly help others overcome their pain and disability.

The ICRC-sponsored training gave me a great opportunity. Not only to become qualified, but above all the chance to help others get relief from pain and improve the lives of many of my fellow human beings.