On the streets of Ethiopia’s capital, the city’s commercial sex trade is flourishing. It is estimated that around 150,000 girls and women work on the streets – or one in ten females over the age of 15. Most have been forced there by poverty – though what they earn will never release them from its grasp.
In this context, Tearfund’s partner Ellita – Women at Risk (E-WAR) seeks to enable women involved in prostitution to exit the work through rehabilitation and livelihoods training, and to improve community awareness through education so that fewer women are likely to enter the commercial sex trade to earn a living.
Tearfund Australia’s support for E-WAR focuses on the second agenda – prevention. To reduce the lure of prostitution for girls, they have enlisted the assistance of two powerful forums for change – churches and schools. Through training of Christian pastors, teachers and parents, E-WAR addresses common misconceptions about prostitution and sex, which lie in everything from gender roles, to ethnicity, language, and health awareness.
They do this with a firm Christian perspective that all people – women, children and men – are made in the image of God, and their unique gifts and abilities reflect this image. E-WAR see their role as enabling women involved in sex work to realise this within themselves, and so strive to fulfil their God-given potential.
E-WAR recognises that to affect long-term, sustainable change, knowledge is not enough: hearts, minds, and attitudes must be changed at a community level.
E-WAR recognises that to affect long-term, sustainable change, knowledge is not enough: hearts, minds, and attitudes must be changed at a community level. The training program covers discussions around the religious, social, and cultural approaches to sexuality – including the role that male demand plays, the low social status of Ethiopian women, and the prevailing negative stereotypes toward prostituted women. They find that through this training, the participants also experience personal transformation through the revelation of God’s love for all people.
So how do you change attitudes? Many of the staff and trainers at E-WAR have themselves worked in the sex industry. As women who have experienced the horrors of the work, they are able to offer personal insight into what happens on the streets and the difference that change can make.
Yetnayet Andarge, E-WAR’s Prevention Education Coordinator, shares: “Women involved in prostitution are often rejected by their families and community, they are unloved, beaten by police and experience much discrimination.
But we seek to treat people equally, staff and working girls. E-WAR has unconditional love as a value, and respects people regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, or politics. We also see women as whole people and take a holistic approach to their reintegration into society. E-WAR receives them and gives love and care, which has a great impact on the women. Before, they feel like they are hopeless and society considers them useless, but E-WAR gives a different message.”
Under very difficult conditions, E-WAR’s strong Christian motivation and commitment to reach out with love and compassion is making a difference – enabling women to live a fulfilled life with self-respect and dignity.
Pray with Yetnayet Andarge, the Prevention Education Coordinator: Did you know coffee is a traditional part of Ethiopian culture? Next time you sit down with a coffee, please take time to pray for E-WAR and the wonderful transformation they are bringing to the lives of women on the streets, and to the place of women in society.