Hossana Self Help Groups

In September 2012 Retrak, with our partner Cordaid began piloting a 3-year community project in Hossana, designed to give additional support to children living on streets and facilitate their safe return home. Monitoring of our work with street children had highlighted that 30% of the children that we were working with were being reintegrated back into the SNNPR region in Hossana, Ethiopia.

The project works with street children and their families in two ways – through our work in outreach on the streets and the drop-in centres in Addis and Hossana; and through a new community prevention project where we are working with highly vulnerable families and communities in three woredas (districts) in Hossana to prevent children from leaving their families and coming to the streets.

When we asked our project workers to single out a case study to help illustrate the success of this project, just one woman who came to mind- Elana. She has seven daughters and two sons. However her husband is old and refuses to work. To make ends meet Elana sold food at the local market. Life was tough and looking after nine young children soon began to take its toll.

However all this changed when Elana joined one of Retrak’s Self Help Groups – one of the six in the area. Within a month she was able to save 345 Birr and take out a loan from the group, allowing her to scale up her petty trade. At the meetings she also received training on parenting skills, including better ways of dealing with their misbehaviour. It was during one of these sessions that Elana stood up and thank Retrak for their intervention, “The way I used to raise my children is very different to what is being taught here. I used to punish my children by hitting them very hard…cursing and insulting them relentlessly”

She then told the group how this behaviour affected her 14 year old daughter. One day her daughter had made a mistake preparing food for the market.  She was so afraid of the punishment and the curse that would come from her mother, she left home. With each passing day she feared greater retribution. Things reached a tipping point when Elana found out that her daughter had become pregnant at the age of 14. Allowing her temper to boil over Elana chased her daughter through the neighbourhood with an axe, cursing her for her stupid behaviour.

She confessed that she has contributed to the problem, “My children are not the one who made the mistake. It was me who made the mistake. Had it been I continued down this path, all my children may have left home and gone to the street.” She then left the meeting to call her pregnant daughter and ask her to come back home.

The following week her daughter returned to the family home. Currently Elana is taking greater steps to create a loving and safe environment for her children. Her daughter also testifies to this change in behaviour, “My mother has changed a lot. She still gets annoyed but now she calms down much quicker. She has stopped hitting us and is encouraging us to think about our futures. Because of this I have also decided to continue my education next year.”

Elana’s story perfectly encapsulates how Retrak, with funding from its partner Cordaid, is transforming the lives street children and their families. Her testimony is a living, breathing reminder of how Retrak is helping local women become financially and socially empowered to become better parents, reducing the push factors that drive children to the streets in the first place.

Names and pictures have been changed, but they are all happy for us to share their story with you.


Freelance travel photographer