Individuals of all economic strata are shedding their jobs, hometowns, and lifestyle to embrace a wider experience and a more meaningful existence.
Hayat Ahmed Mohammed, born 1982 in Ethiopia is the 2003 Miss World participant from Ethiopia. Hayat Ahmed was Ethiopia's first ever representative sent to any Miss World pageant. At the time of the competition, she was a 3rd year student at the Unity University College pursuing a degree in Information Management Systems. Amongst 100 contestants in the 2003 Miss World Pageant, Hayat made the semi-finals and was awarded the title "Continental Queen of Beauty - Africa." That year the pageant took place in China and was seen worldwide by over 1 billion people. These days, Hayat focuses her time on promoting the use of condoms and bringing HIV/AIDS awareness to other parts of her country. This has sparked angry controversy and claims of hypocrisy because she is a Muslim woman promoting safe sex in a very conservative country, by using very seductive western-style advertisements for condoms on large billboards. Hayat now runs Bellissima, a controversial condom café in the city of Addis Ababa where all patrons are given condoms with their receipt, causing some Ethiopians embarrassment when they bring the bill along with a condom. Some customers say they are promoting immorality as one of the waiters acknowledged in 2008. By 2010, Bellissima was well established, and still distributing free special coffee-flavored condoms with the sponsorship of Marie Stopes International. Ethiopia is widely thought to be the birthplace of coffee and the beverage is very popular in the country. The condoms are also available for sale under the name "Sensation" and are the least expensive condoms on the Ethiopian marketplace. However, resistance to Hayat's work continues both from Muslim authorities and from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Ahmed said she plans to open more cafés around the country and promote other HIV/AIDS prevention strategies, such as fidelity and abstinence. Ahmed said that many Ethiopians are 'ashamed' to discuss condom use and that she wants to spread the message that condoms can protect them from HIV/AIDS. Ahmed added that she also plans to set up condom vending machines in the café to better facilitate their use by young patrons who are sexually active. It takes courage for this beautiful young woman to stand up to the wrath of religionists and the criticism of the elder generation in a conservative Orthodox Christian and Islamic nation.
"A lot of people in Ethiopia are ashamed of talking about or using condoms," said. "Yet some companies put condoms in their toilets and when you go to look, each day, the boxes are empty. I don't care if the condoms are used behind closed doors or in public – as long as many people use them."
Ethiopia's HIV prevalence is estimated at over two percent among sexually active people aged 15 to 49. A report by the Federal HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office in March noted that between 2000 and 2005, condom use among males increased from 30.3 percent to 51.9 percent, and among females from 13.4 percent to 23.6 percent. According to Ethiopian government data, half the public sector institutions and 20 percent of private businesses have mainstreamed HIV/AIDS prevention in their operational policies. However, Philopos Petros, head of the Ethiopian Civil Service College's HIV/AIDS management unit, noted that "There are still educated people exposed to HIV and dying of AIDS," and said that greater awareness of the danger was necessary.
In 2008, support from DKT and British reproductive health care organization Marie Stopes International allowed Hayat Ahmed, then 26 years of age and a former Miss Ethiopia as well as a UN HIV/AIDS ambassador, to open her Bellissima Café in Addis Ababa. Ahmed is thinking of setting up new franchises of her condom café throughout Africa. Café Bellissima, located in the capital of Addis Ababa on bustling Gabon Street, continues to provide no-cost "Sensation" brand condoms with every order. The café's concept is modeled on "condom bars" in Asia. Within the first two days of business, the cafe handed out six boxes that contained 48 packets of three condoms each. The campaign is supported by social marketing groups like DKT Ethiopia, and According to IRIN/PlusNews, the no-cost condoms have elicited mixed reactions, with older patrons tending not to like the idea, while younger ones love it and sometimes ask for a second packet. This might seem to be just another upmarket café at first sight, except when each order comes with a packet of 'Sensation' condoms, served in 'Sensation' cups by staff wearing 'Sensation' T-shirts. Former beauty queen Hayat, has been involved in HIV/AIDS campaigns since she was crowned Miss Ethiopia in 2003 and subsequently named an HIV/AIDS ambassador. Her beautiful face adorns billboards and she regularly appears on Ethiopia's only television station promoting condom use.
"When I walk down the street, even children recognise me," she said. "But they do not call me Hayat - they call me 'Sensation'."
Coffee is the national drink of Ethiopia and a source of tremendous pride, so back in September of 2007, DKT introduced the world’s first coffee-flavored condom, complete with milk and sugar, to Ethiopia under the "Sensation" brand as a way of counteracting frequent complaints about the bitter latex smell of the normal varieties. The macchiato-flavored 'coffee condoms' are sold in the cafés of Addis Ababa and cost 1 birr for a three-pack, making them one of the cheapest brands on the market. The charity reported selling 300,000 packages in its first week. Marie Stopes International is working to open an additional twelve condom cafés throughout Ethiopia. In a local commercial advertising her café and its special service, Ahmed says:
"In the past people didn’t want to hear about condoms and the usage of condoms - they would steal condoms. But on the other hand if you put condoms in private places like the toilet and checked at the end of the day it would be empty. People are used to everything else being behind closed doors so if you give them free condoms, or we make condoms available everywhere for free, I think they will be happy to take it."
"One person cannot change the world, but I want to make a contribution," Hayat said. "I have a name and the will and I will use that." Her name in Arabic means "life."
Marie Stopes International works in some of the worst hit countries in Africa and Asia to reduce the number of people being infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and integrate HIV/AIDS and STI prevention and treatment services. There are over 215 million women around the world who want to use family planning but cannot access it.
A large proportion of people in developing countries use private healthcare providers for most of their health needs, especially people in remote locations or urban slums who may be far from state-run health facilities. Marie Stopes International has teamed up with existing private healthcare providers in order to scale up access to high quality care for some of the world’s poorest and most under-served people. Their social franchise network works in much the same way as a commercial franchising operation. Franchisees – clinics, midwives and pharmacies – pay a small fee to join the network.
They receive extensive and ongoing training in a range of sexual and reproductive health services, infection prevention, counselling, and, importantly, how to put their clients’ needs at the heart of what they do. Once they have completed the initial training and meet the quality standards they are provided with branded signboards and materials, usually bearing the logo of the Marie Stopes International BlueStar network. They are also provided with affordable high quality medicines and other products from, which they sell to clients using an agreed pricing structure. read more and make a donation here
Yabanci is a book by a Dutch woman who moved from Holland to Turkey to starta new life in a Turkish village overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. A great read for those who are considering a move abroad or have lived in a different culture. Available in English as an ebook or in Dutch in both print and popular ebook formats.. take a look