Empowering communities to fight child trafficking

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Family for Every Child’s member organisation in Ethiopia, FSCE, is making great strides in tackling child trafficking in Ethiopia. One way they are doing this is by equipping community members at key transport hubs with what they need to effectively intercept traffickers at these key locations, so children’s lives take a dramatic turn for the better. Now they are supporting over 450 children a year to leave child trafficking – a true example of community-powered change.

What is it?

Since 2013, FSCE has set up counter-trafficking committees at the country’s main bus terminals. As common transit spots for trafficked children, these transport hubs are a strategic battleground in the fight against child trafficking.

The counter-trafficking committees are made up by people who work in and around the bus terminal areas, who have the potential to come in contact with children who are being trafficked. They include bus drivers, bus owners, job recruitment agencies, hotel receptionists and others. The committees are given the tools they need to spot children who may be being trafficked, to explore more deeply where they have suspicions, and to intervene in order to help them reach safety.

Why is it important?

Ethiopians have an elevated risk of trafficking as a result of years of war, civil strife, famine, poverty, and gender inequity. According to the Global Slavery Index, over 600,000 Ethiopians are estimated to be living in modern slavery – an industry fed by a high rate of human trafficking, which trafficks adults and children both nationally and across borders.

Child trafficking in Ethiopia can be driven by a range of factors – from personal reasons such as fleeing child abuse or family breakdown to economic reasons such as poverty and high unemployment. When children in these situations are promised a bright future by child traffickers – who are profit from their situation – they can be tempted to start out on these dangerous journeys.

Unfortunately, the experience that awaits them is rarely a positive one. On the way they run the high risk of being robbed or raped by the traffickers, border officers or others. More broadly, trafficked children are highly likely to miss out on their basic rights to education and healthcare.

How does it work?

Members of the community committees monitor girls and boys under 18 as they arrive at bus stations. They interview the child and the person accompanying the child to ascertain whether the child is being trafficked. The committee members have received training on appropriate interview techniques so they are more likely to be able to spot the signs, even when they are not immediately obvious.

If the evidence confirms it is indeed a trafficking case, the trafficker is referred to the police station, whereas trafficked children are taken to the committee’s office, both of which are located within the bus terminal. There, an FSCE worker accommodates them in one of the Forum’s temporary shelters – typically for no more than a week – until the children’s families are traced and reunited with their child. While in the shelter, a psychologist sees the children, who can also be taken to the hospital if they are sick or have been raped. If the child does not have a family to which they can return, FSCE provides shelter and vocational training to prevent them from exposure to the risks of human trafficking.

By empowering communities to fight back against child trafficking themselves, FSCE are putting them in the driving seat for making change happen. In a year, the committee intercepted 450 children who were later reintegrated into their communities.

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