Child trafficking is one of the most horrifying crimes imaginable. Children are bought and traded; sold into a life of servitude and abuse. Ethiopia is a child trafficking hotspot.
A recent ‘Trafficking in Persons’ report from the United States Department of State highlights the problem in Ethiopia:
“Ethiopia is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically conditions of forced labor and forced prostitution. Girls from Ethiopia’s rural areas are forced into domestic servitude and, less frequently, commercial sexual exploitation, while boys are subjected to forced labor in traditional weaving, agriculture, herding, and street vending.“
Families who struggle to maintain their families are often persuaded to sell their children, or even pay for them to be sent to a better life. There is a flow of rural children to Ethiopian cities and trafficking of children from cities to foreign countries.
As detailed on www.ChildTrafficking.org in 2005 a legal expert with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) counter-trafficking unit in Addis Ababa, Alem Brook, said internal trafficking of children in Ethiopia was one of the highest in the world. “The parents are often deceived with promises of money or that the child will be educated […] we are talking about thousands of children each year.”
The IOM warned that thousands of Ethiopian women were also trafficked abroad. At least 10,000 have been sent to the Gulf States to work as prostitutes, the agency said. “There are increasing numbers of young women being recruited from here for sexual purposes” Alem said.
In 2005 traffickers in Ethiopia were reported to earn around $800 for each victim they send overseas, this value is likely to have nearly doubled. If caught, they are liable to 20 years imprisonment but few are ever prosecuted. In fact in 2009 only five convictions were made country-wide, with only one offender imprisoned.
With a limited threat of prosecution and high returns it is little surprise that child trafficking and forced labour are on the rise in Ethiopia.
It is beyond the capability of Yenege Tesfa to tackle the traffickers, however our response is through education. Our social education programmes aim to tackle this issue by educating children and young adults in Gondar. We are also planning to start rural community training and awareness programmes to help combat this growing problem.