Last week, the Freedom Fund’s Ethiopia hotspot was officially recognised by Ethiopian authorities for our partners’ efforts to promote the safer migration of women and girls traveling to the Middle East for domestic work.
The Addis Ababa City Administration Labor and Social Affairs Office held a formal celebration on 5 May that included a graduation ceremony for 603 returnees from the Middle East. These graduates received technical and vocational education and training, a widely recognised tool for social inclusion and sustainable development.
Over 500 people attended the celebration, including representatives from government, civil society, the media, and the graduates’ friends and family. Three of the Freedom Fund’s Ethiopia hotspot partners were officially celebrated, receiving trophies and certificates of recognition, for their work on safer migration.
“The recognition is inspirational to partners and to us,” said Daniel Melese, the Ethiopia hotspot program manager. “It’s a mark of dignified reintegration of returnees and a sign of meaningful collaboration with government.”
Ethiopian female migrant workers are among the most vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation. Seeking economic opportunities abroad, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian women and girls have travelled to the Middle East for domestic work. In transit and on arrival, these migrant workers are at high risk of falling into situations of slavery. Moreover, many returnees are in dire need of mental health support and other services.
Last year, Saudi Arabia, the largest destination country for Ethiopian domestic workers, sought to deport all undocumented migrants by the end of the year. Approximately 70,000 migrant workers voluntarily returned to Ethiopia and about 14,000 were forcibly deported. Despite the risk of abuse and deportation, scores of Ethiopian women still hope to return to the Middle East because they can’t find jobs at home to support their families.
At the returnee graduation ceremony, the Freedom Fund’s hotspot program was recognised for its efforts to prevent risky migration and reintegrate former migrant workers. Some of the 603 graduates were returnees from the recent Saudi Arabia deportations.
Looking ahead, the Freedom Fund Ethiopia hotspot will continue to promote safer migration and reduce the vulnerability of potential female migrants.
“I am honoured to wear my graduation gown and graduate in front of so many people,” said a graduate who received support from hotspot partner OPRIFS. “Now I am free, skilful and able to work in country or abroad. A few months ago, it was a nightmare. But now my hope is restored. I have no words to thank all who supported us.”
The Freedom Fund’s Ethiopia hotspot supports efforts to reduce the vulnerability of migrants and returnee women and girls to trafficking to the Middle East for domestic work. Read more about our hotspot here.
Pictured: Graduates and Ethiopia hotspot partners celebrate during the ceremony on 5 May.