Wednesday, April 20, 2005

How Poverty is Pushing Teenagers to Prostitution

She was approaching her teens when her elder sister came up with a suggestion. "Why don’t we use the beauty we are blessed with to make money and grow rich?" Rahe, who only wishes to be identified by her first name, recalls her sister asking her.

They were fetching firewood on a hill overlooking Moyale Town, sweat dripping down their young faces. The two girls marvelled at each other’s beauty as they digested the idea.

They had seen their agemate and neighbour cross the border every evening and within a short time, her family members all had new clothes.

Now aged 17, Rahe and several of her friends from their remote village in southern Ethiopia joined some local girls in selling their bodies at the Kenyan border town of Moyale.

Rahe’s father was killed on suspicion of being a member of the proscribed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) fighting the Ethiopian Government. Their mother is a peasant farmer barely able to put food on the table.

About three years into the business, Rahe’s decision on that hot afternoon has often returned to haunt her.

The Standard

"The major factor fuelling the worst forms of child labour is poverty. And when you have unemployment here of around 25 percent, the parents themselves sometimes force their children into this as a survival strategy. So you can see living in Addis Ababa there are a lot of children living on the streets and there is child prostitution."

-Michel Gozo is the head of the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Ethiopia, 2003

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