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The Freedom Fund and LSHTM launch partnership in Ethiopia

September 14, 2015 / Blog, Guest Contributions, Ethiopia Joanna Busza

As part of the Ethiopia hotspot program, the Freedom Fund is supporting local organisations in two areas known for being source and transit locations for young women seeking to emigrate for domestic labour, most often to the Middle East of Gulf States. The first, Amhara Region, is a vast, mountainous area with a population of over 17 million people, most living in rural areas where they rely on small-scale subsistence farming. Many girls and young women seek alternative opportunities, and domestic labour in the capital city, Addis Ababa, is one option open to them.

Their first port of call may be Addis Ketema, a sprawling urban district containing both Ethiopia’s largest bus station and Africa’s largest market. It is here that many job-seeking young women will jump off one of the battered long-distance minibus from Amhara and hope to find a broker to place her in a family as a domestic worker or cook, or perhaps help her to go further afield. Working overseas is seen as a means of earning more money quickly, and also as a chance to see the world.

Reducing the risks involved in these journeys and increasing safe migration outcomes require a multi-pronged approach. The Freedom Fund’s hotspot program aims to improve useful and accurate information available to potential migrants and their families, provide skills that might secure better work conditions in destination countries, and offer rehabilitation to women who have been exploited abroad and thus might be especially vulnerable to repeat migration into unsafe situations. Working through community based organisations to deliver these prevention and mitigation services, the hotspot program hypothesises that combining these activities will reduce unsafe migration overall.

But how will we know if this program is successful? As a researcher with a focus on implementation science – which tries to measure the effects of complex interventions delivered in real-life settings – my expertise contributed to finding a realistic way to track all the different strands of activities to see what their overall effect might be on the attitudes, decision-making, and behaviours of potential young migrants and their families.

In other contexts and for some types of interventions, we like to set up a randomised controlled trial, the “gold standard” of evaluation. Here, it would mean that women identified as looking to leave the country would be allocated to either receive the newly funded activities or to rely on existing support, and then they would be tracked over time, including to their destination countries, to assess whether those who undergo to the intervention have demonstrably better outcomes.

But unfortunately this is impractical, primarily because once women leave the country, it would be very difficult to maintain contact with them, particularly those who might find themselves in dangerous or exploitative conditions. Randomisation is also tricky – women are part of dense social networks and likely to share information, which would muddy the waters in determining who had or had not received the information and training from hotspot providers.

Instead, we are planning a prospective qualitative program evaluation, meaning that we will collect information in whole communities before, during, and at the end of the hotspot program and in doing so, seek to respond to a set of critical questions including:

  • How is migration for domestic labour conceived, planned, and executed by young women, and what seems to make a difference to their decision-making?
  • What appears to have led to positive or negative migration experiences among those who have already travelled overseas for work?
  • Based on the above, are the hotspot components providing the right kinds of information and support to those who are likely to be most at risk of negative outcomes?
  • Are activities delivered as planned, i.e. on time, with good quality, and how are they perceived by those who participate?
  • Are the attitudes and behaviours changing in areas targeted by the hotspot program compared to similar areas where no new services are being provided?

Over the three years of implementation, we will work alongside those working with prospective and returned migrants and their communities. We will talk to the people directly affected by migration, those involved in making it happen, the staff managing support services, and local leaders to find out whether the messages, skills, and safety nets making up the hotspot approach are reaching the right people, influencing their plans, and changing their behaviours. We will also gather information from other areas that are not part of the program but that we feel are similar in many ways in order to compare migration trends over the same period of time. This will provide us with a different type of data to what a randomised control trial would have; it will provide us with data which will be of critical importance to such relatively new complex intervention, to start indicating whether hotspot efforts collectively appear to reduce vulnerability, and if so, through what means.

Dr Zimmerman and Dr Busza from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will lead the evaluation of the Ethiopia hotspot. The School will partner with Addis Ababa University to conduct field research.

Freedom Fund