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22 September 2017
RUC2014 Blog 3: Ethiopian women vulnerable to horrors of Gulf States human trafficking Print
Thursday, 19 February 2015 09:58
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How can research contribute to unlocking the potential of girls and women in Ethiopia? This article, first published by Addis Ababa University and produced by AAU's Habtamu Getinet as part of a Research Uptake Communications [RUC2014] coaching programme, tells the story of how research into the realities of human trafficking of Ethiopian women and children in the Gulf States can make a case for the need for government-level policymaking. 

 

This blog, from Addis Ababa University, is the third in a series, which will be profiled over the coming weeks. More information about the RUC 2014 campaign can be found here.

The information featured in this blog is drawn from published, peer-reviewed development research that was strategically selected by Addis Ababa University leadership to align with DFID’s mission of ‘contributing to unlocking the potential of girls and women in Sub-Saharan Africa'.

The story of Nar

The desire for employment and thereby independence, and stories of other young Ethiopian women who had successfully achieved this, was the reason Nar chose to set off to the Gulf States to work as a domestic worker. This is her story…

“Promised with free visa, I arrived in Beirut. A person came . . . took me to his house . . . ordered the guard to lock the door. I got scared and understood that I was cheated. . . . He said to me, “You are to work here, forget the free visa; I bought you for 10,000 ETB from the agency.” I wept bitterly. . . . You know . . . Semira, my friend who promised to get me the free visa (deceived me). After some thought, I convinced myself to buy time to escape. . . . I tried to create peace with [my ‘employers’] so that if they trusted and took me to the market, I will inform police. I only wanted a chance to leave the building.”

Nar’s plan didn’t work for she was held captive and never allowed to leave the building in which she was forced to work with no pay. The tragic end to this story was that Nar was thrown from the third-story of the building she worked in by her abusive ‘employer’. A guard found her and called for help. She was unconscious for 11 days.

“I beg God to help me meet my family and then die ... not to live or stand or walk. Then I was returned back to Ethiopia. I stayed three months and 15 days in hospital. . . . Now I am dependent on my family. . . . It is death. I feel inferior when I compare myself with my peers.”

This story of Nar’s is a grim portrayal of the vulnerability of young Ethiopian women who go to the Gulf States as migrant labour. Nar’s migration to the Gulf States was a proactive move to avoid dependency in her home country, yet she has returned in state that makes her even more dependent than before.

It’s telling that Nar argues that cautioning other young women not to follow the dream of making a better life by finding work in the Gulf States is pointless.

“When I was in bed being at the edge of death, there were friends of mine who, observing my situation, left to go to the Gulf States. . . . People are like wind; they move. So what is the importance of teaching others? Nothing! People abstain only when they face it themselves, like me.”

“There are more than 130,000 Ethiopian women and children living a trafficked life in the Gulf States.”

The Big Issue: Human trafficking of Ethiopian women and children

Nar’s story is one of eight documented in "Trafficked to the Gulf States: Experiences of Ethiopian returnee women" 
by Assistant Prof. M. Abebaw of Addis Ababa University.

There are more untold stories with estimates of more than 130,000 Ethiopian women and children living a trafficked life in the Gulf States. The motivation to take this path is typically a desire to be independent, to help their families, and to find employment are major push factors that lead young Ethiopian women to seek employment as migrant workers in the Gulf States. Tragically, most of them end up in devastatingly exploitative situations. Labour brokers deceive Ethiopian migrant women workers about their rights, denying them the opportunity to change employers, withholding payment and refusing them liberty to negotiate work conditions.Passports are taken on arrival or they are kept in isolated rooms to prevent contact with others, or little or none of the promises made before migration are fulfilled. Far from home, these women become trapped in vulnerable and abusive situations. Over-work, denial of food and medication, denial of salary, sexual harassment, physical and emotional abuse and forceful confinement are commonplace. Communication with the outside world is often denied, causing fear, confusion, frustration, and mental breakdown. Overwork often leads to health problems, and those who have managed to return home have reported actual and attempted sexual abuse.

 

Taking protective steps: Drafting a national migration policy in Ethiopia

These circumstances need to be addressed at policy level. After a recent workshop on Migration of Ethiopians to the Middle East, Addis Ababa University proposes to draft a national migration policy for Ethiopia. The main presenter at this workshop was Dr. Abebaw Minage who presented the process and adverse effect of human trafficking of Ethiopian women and children to and in the Middle East countries. During the workshop major trafficking routes were revealed and human rights violations on trafficked women were discussed. It was agreed that action should be taken to address this devastating reality in Ethiopia. Dr. Abebaw concluding by remarking on major actions that need to be taken by Ethiopian government and other stakeholders. 

“Passports are taken on arrival or they are kept in isolated rooms to prevent contact with others, or little or none of the promises made before migration are fulfilled. Far from home, these women become trapped in vulnerable and abusive situations.”

Call to Action

Read the full article here: Abebaw, M. (2012a). Trafficked to the Gulf States: Experiences of Ethiopian returnee women. Journal of Community practice, 20, 112-133

 

The previous article in the series can be found here and the next blog of the series is here

Contact details

Communications: Habtamu Getinet, Research Officer, Research and Innovation, Addis Ababa University, habtamu.getnet@aau.edu.et

Researcher: Abebaw Minaye Gezie, (PhD), Assistant Professor, School of Psychology, Addis Ababa University, abebaw.minaye@aau.edu.et


 

 

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