Initiated in May 2002, Nia Foundation is an indigenous, nonprofit and non-governmental humanitarian organization established from the outset to alleviating the all rounded challenges faced by persons with autism and other related developmental disorders, and young men and women living in challenging socio-economic circumstances. Having made the necessary multispectral preparations and forging partnerships with the government, national and international NGOs, Nia Foundation was legally registered and licensed by the FDRE Ministry of Justice in 12th January 2006. While recently, the foundation is reregistered in November 2009 by the FDRE Charities and Societies Agency Proclamation No. 621/2009, as Ethiopian Residents Charity Organization with registration No0854 and permitted to operate in all regional states of the country. Its head office is located in Addis Ababa Nifas Silk Lafto Sub City, Woreda 04, House # 887.
The journey of establishing the Foundation started and initiated primarily by a dedicated woman, W/ro Zemi Yenus, the owner of Niana School of Beauty and Modeling. The opportunity of getting to work as a teacher and mentor of the youth in such a school, it gave the founder an insight to comprehend the prevailing complex problems the youth particularly vulnerable young girls are encountering and forced to live in commercial sex work that urged Niana to sponsor hundreds of these vulnerable young women. Having recognizing the systemic consequences of poverty, the charitable undertakings performed along with the school helped the founder and supporters to comprehend the various underlying factors that compel young girls into the commercial sex industry and other life threatening engagements that consequently puts them at high risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and sexual reproductive health problems and other socio-economic challenges. On the other hand, the founder’s second son was diagnosed in the autism spectrum disorder and was wondering the availability of any meaningful services in the country. Finding out there were none and in this regard the circumstances of many children in the spectrum and their parents’ was deeply heartbreaking, it drove her to discover ways on how she could help her kid and other children in the same situation.
In due course, Billal Yousuf, her first son and only 13 at the time, has always been enthusiastic to help children in Ethiopia took this noble initiative as well. With the donations obtained from Niana and the young Billal (i.e his personal belongings of playing and learning tools), school and day care center for autistic children which is the first-of-its-kind in Ethiopia was established following the consecutive events to raise awareness and generate partnerships. The center started its operation serving four kids. Nonetheless, this small initiative has paved the way to open to what we now call the Joy- Center for Autism, a joyful place for holistic rehabilitation and training of persons with autism and related disorders Joy is a derivate of Jojo’s name; while by using its vocabulary definition, we intended to illustrate the Center as a place that is truly joyful.
That is why, the word ‘Nia’ which is an extract of Arabic word with equivalent meaning in English as ‘‘good intentions’’ chosen to be the name of the Foundation. Adding a humanitarian attribute to the name, Nia has an exceedingly positive intention towards the holistic development of the hard-to-reach children, youth and women regardless of their different abilities, disabilities, and gender. It is with this optimism that Nia Foundation strives to empower and inspire its targets to lead successful and productive lives and enjoy descent and prosperous life with great aspirations for themselves, their families, communities and their country at large. This is mainly through promoting education and vocational trainings, strategic dialogues and discussions, rehabilitation programs, women leadership, entrepreneurship and capacity building initiatives.
To achieve its mission, the programs mainly focus on adolescent and youth empowerment and self-reliance via individual talent development (that include concerted programs on art, beauty & fashion, and culture (ABC)), along with personal development skills, livelihood opportunities and promoting user friendly SRH education and services; holistic rehabilitation and treatment programs for children, adolescents, and young adults with autism and related developmental disorders; parents’ of children with intellectual disabilities;; and promoting and catalyzing the ‘Yagebagnal’ / “It’s my Concern” movement all over the country so that everyone would care to everyone and hence respond realize mutual uprising and holistic development. The movement firmly believes in nurturing positive societal values, sensitizing communities to care for each other and inspiring people to take initiatives for being responsible for others in common matters through organizing a series of discussions, community dialogues and consecutive actions, awareness creation events, broadcasting relevant messages through mass-medias, and organizing motivational trainings. The ‘Yagebagnal’ movement is an innovative approach of the Foundation to tackle the vast cultural, social, health, economic and other related challenges through pursuing the basic principle of effecting positive change by promoting community ownership and self-initiated responsibility to take personal and collective action.
Thus, over the years, Nia has grown to serve the overlooked, most vulnerable and marginalized segments of the society through designing and employing participatory community-based development programs. Participation and community-based development are among NIA’s major concepts and strategies that Nia implicitly see these as an active process to increase community control. This is evident in most of its programmes such as the ‘Yagebagnal/I care’ movement in which it envisages a prosperous Ethiopia with comprehensive growth and development effectuated by the concerted effort of its citizens.
In-view of attaining its vision and mission along with an intrinsic organizational value of partnership and networking, Nia works hand in hand with relevant stakeholders through forging strategic and operational partnership modalities. Nia is an active member of national, regional and global networks and corporations as well. It works in collaboration with governmental, nongovernmental and private institutions, donor partners and philanthropies. To mention few - Ministries and sub offices of Labor and Social Affairs’, Health, Women, Children and Youth Affairs and Education, ChSA, the Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development, CCRDA, Global Fund for Children-USA, Packard Foundation, UNICEF, UNESCO, CORHA, USAID, Population Council, EngenderHealth, Ipas Ethiopia, Finland Embassy, Pact Ethiopia, Save the Children Norway, UEWCA, NEWA, ENDAN and Civil Society Support Programme (CSSP). Nia has a separate project agreements with the respective donor partners, while operational agreement are made with the concerned government sector offices. Its audit reports are current and functions with controlled internal administrative and managerial systems.
Nia Foundation has three layers of administrative hierarchy - the Founders, Board of Directors (BODs), and the Secretariat. The Founders are the supreme authority organ; while the BODs appointed by the Founders is the second highest governing body that consists Seven elected committed members drawn from a wide-range of sectors and experiences supposed to serve a three-year term that may be renewed if they are reelected by the Founders and agreed to continue.
The day-to-day operations of Nia are executed through its secretariat that is under the command of a full-time Executive Director supported by the internal management committee composed of the ED and Department Heads. The Secretariat is operated and managed by the programme and administrative staffs needed to successfully design and develop, implement, monitor and evaluate its different projects. With professional expertise in fields related to all aspects of Nia’s work along with years of hand-on-experiences in project management and working with marginalized community groups, our staffs have backgrounds in public health, special needs education, social work and psychology, economic empowerment and livelihood, project cycle management, human resource and financial administration. Currently, the Foundation has 51 full-time employs (44 female and 7 male), and more than 500 committed volunteers had been serving Nia’s purpose.