News/Ethiopia: Ethiopian NGO Fights Child Prostitution

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Subject: News/Ethiopia: Ethiopian NGO Fights Child Prostitution
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Jun 14 2000 - 13:19:38 EDT


                 Ethiopian NGO Fights Child Prostitution

OTC 4/7/00 2:12 AM

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) (Panafrican News Agency, April 6, 2000) - The
commercial exploitation of children in Ethiopia mainly involves them in the
sex trade such as prostitution, according to the director of a local NGO
working in support of disadvantaged children in Addis Ababa from such
abuses and exploitation.
    "Children are not only sexually abused, but there is also a profit
arising from the transaction where the child is considered a sexual and
commercial object," Fassil Wolde- Mariam, director of Forum On Street
Children in Ethiopia, told PANA.
    The Forum is an umbrella organisation fighting against the worst forms
of child labour in the country, Fassil said.
    He said child prostitution and sexual exploitation in Ethiopia, as in
other African and Third World countries, are rooted in extreme poverty. As
a market element is involved in the supply and demand of child sex, Fassil
pointed out that there are factors that aggravate the supply.
    Among these, he cited the economic condition in rural areas where
poverty is much more rampant, rural to urban migration, early marriages
that end up in divorce, loose social values in extended families in care
and support of children, and family disintegration due to the rapid spread
of HIV/AIDS and other problems.
    Fassil's agency was among 81 organisations that set up in September 1999
the NGO with the objective of fighting the worst forms of child abuse - the
commercial sexual exploitation of children and youths in the country.
    The Forum last week held its second meeting in Addis Ababa, devoted to
the exchange of experience among 50 organisations that participated,
representing local and international NGOs under the auspices of the
International Labour Organisation and UNICEF.
    During the Forum's day-long meeting on 30 March, it was agreed to
strengthen the forum's steering committee, which co-ordinates the efforts
of member organisations for efficient utilisation of resources and greater
effectiveness to meet the needs of street children in Ethiopia.
    Fassil stated that problems of child prostitution in Ethiopia are
further aggravated by the negative attitude the general public and
different sectors of society have towards these children.
    In this regard, he said the areas of concern of his agency range from
advocacy, civic education through public awareness to pilot and model
children support projects and a child resources development centre,
"entailing research, training and documentation for networking."
    He explained what his agency has been doing since its establishment in
1991 by a group of 12 like-minded young Ethiopian professional
psychologists, sociologists and social workers.
    "We were all concerned about the problems of the ever- increasing number
of street children in Addis Ababa," he said.
    Fassil, 39, is a sociologist. He was working with Save The Children-USA
in Ethiopia when he decided to join in late 1995 the Forum which he helped
to found, as a full-time executive director.
    The Forum at present runs two projects on preventive and support
programmes for sexually abused and exploited children in Addis Ababa.
    These are intended to enable the children to defend themselves "from
abuses and health risks through information and counselling on HIV/AIDS and
help them develop risk education behaviour," he said.
    A Drop-In Centre, which was opened four years ago, caters for 100 child
prostitutes by providing them daily services such as counselling, informal
education and preventive and curative health services.
    "They are allowed to remain at this day-care centre until they show
behavioural change from their child- prostitution predicament," he said.
    The other is a "safe-home" programme which was opened a year ago. It is
a boarding facility that protects the child-prostitute from physical and
sexual abuse at night and provides her with a conducive environment for a
chance to change her life-style and become self-supportive.
    "Here the children are provided with counselling services, skills
training and some stipend to prepare their own food," Fassil said. "Once
they complete training, our organisation finds them placements to enable
them to become gainfully employed."
    Fassil declined to give figures on the number of street children in
Ethiopia, nor the numbers of those involved in commercial sex work.
    "It is not the numbers that matter but what local and international NGOs
and others concerned can do to help as many children as they can from their
predicament."
    The Forum is part of a world-wide effort to End Child Prostitution,
Child Pornography And Trafficking (ECPAT). The first international assembly
of ECPAT was held in September 1999 in Bangkok, Thailand.
    Fassil was appointed at this assembly as member of ECPAT representing
Africa in his capacity as director of Forum.
    By Ghion Hagos


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