Fozia’s escape from child labour

Family separation can occur after the death of a parent, especially if children do not get along with a new step-parent. This was Fozia’s* situation at just 13 years old.

Fozia and some of her siblings went to live with their grandparents a few hours away. Despite her previous family circumstances, Fozia was attending school and playing with her brothers and sisters. Life was relatively care-free.

But one day, Fozia’s father visited, and told her stories that led her to believe she could become rich if she became a domestic worker in the capital, Addis Ababa. She decided to make the move to the big city and managed to find work.

However, Fozia’s employer was unfair and abusive, providing her with little food or care. The tasks were physically overwhelming for a child, and she could also not speak Amharic so felt unable to ask others for help.

Fozia and grandmotherAfter her employer falsely accused Fozia of breaking a pot, she was thrown out on to the streets with her belongings chucked out of the window. Bewildered, Fozia had nowhere to go and was losing hope in making her way back home. Only a miracle could help her.

Despite the odds stacked against her, Fozia was found by a woman selling goods on the street, who communicated with her through a translator. From being taken to the police then to a government institution, she was finally sent to Retrak.

Fozia was one of the most disciplined, cooperative, and respectful girls at our centre, who benefitted from life skills, catch-up education, and psychosocial support.

After several months, Retrak’s social workers were able to trace and locate Fozia’s family before reuniting Fozia with her grandparents. Their emotional reunion was deeply moving to witness. Not one person had a dry eye.

Fozia is currently attending school and happy to be back with her grandparents. Our social workers also linked the whole family to the Women and Children’s Affairs Office, with which Retrak collaborates to ensure families are safe from modern slavery.

In Fozia’s hometown, many people are deliberately or unwittingly involved in modern slavery by supporting and encouraging girls to move to the Middle East to find work and send money back to their families. Retrak attempted to find Fozia’s father to educate him on the dangers of this work, but he had already moved on to another region.

Child labour is the equivalent of modern slavery and must be prevented. We take our responsibility to steer children away from abuse extremely seriously, and we endeavour to educate those who put children like Fozia in such compromising situations.

Today we mark World Day Against Child Labour, which addresses the global need to meet the Sustainability Development Goal of ending all forms of child labour by 2025.

We are proud that being a part of Hope for Justice opens more avenues for us to liberate enslaved children and reunite them with their families.

We rely on your generosity in achieving this goal, which we believe can be attained for all children.

*name changed to protect identity.

By Diana Clough