Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Moment of Reflection on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving & the Hiwot (Life) Campaign:
by: Nasir Al-Amin

“Investing In Our Shared Future”

A Moment of Reflection on Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving offers not only a time for families and friends to gather, but also a time to remember and reflect on the vital possessions that we have such as food, shelter, health and physical security. Thus, as we end this day of gathering and reflection, lets take a moment to reflect on the plight of the 4.6 million orphans in Ethiopia; on the 30 percent of girls in Addis Ababa aged 10-14 that are not living with their parents, who were forced to run away from child marriages; lets reflect on the 8,000 sex workers that extreme poverty has forced into the sex trade; on the widowed mothers that earn $7.50 a month collecting trash, which is not enough to pay for food, rent and school fees. Make this Thanksgiving different, help Alif in its effort to contribute to a family’s effort to secure food, shelter and an education for their child.

Hiwot (Life) Campaign
Is an initiative to disengage 50 children from child labor, while simultaneously affording these 50 children with the opportunity to go to school and contribute financially to their family’s survival. Additionally, the cost of school fees, uniforms and school supplies are covered through the Hiwot Campaign, as well as each family is provided with $20 a month in an effort to aid them in securing their basic necessities: food, clothing and shelter.

Click here to join the Hiwot (Life) Campaign!

A Night of Networking and Purpose

I would like to thank you all for joining Alif at Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant, for "A Night of Networking and Purpose,” on Saturday, November 18th in Alif's effort to raise awareness and funds for its Hiwot (Life) Campaign. The Hiwot (Life) Campaign is an initiative to send 50 orphans and vulnerable children to school in Ethiopia.

Through your support Alif was able to raise enough funds to educate 4 children next year! Your contribution/investment to the Hiwot Campaign will have both an immediate and long-term effect on the life of a child and Ethiopia. The immediate effect of your contribution is actualized by a poor family’s ability to secure food, shelter and other basic necessities. The long-term effect, is seen in affording a child an education, which enhances a child’s and Ethiopia’s human capital, thus aiding in breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

Again, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of you for attending and investing in a child’s life—Our Shared Future!


*Additionally, Alif would like to thank the owner of the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant for affording Alif the opportunity to facilitate this event at the restaurant. For more information about Queen of Sheba click here!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ethiopia: Steady increase in street children orphaned by AIDS

“I have not seen one good thing about living on the street. Everything is horrible,”
(Mandefro Kassa, 14-year-old street child)

Ethiopia counts one of the largest populations of orphans in the world: 13 per cent of children throughout the country are missing one or both parents. This represents an estimated 4.6 million children – 800,000 of whom were orphaned by HIV/AIDS. The country has seen a steady increase in the number of children becoming orphaned because of AIDS. In the past, famine, conflict and other diseases were the main factors that claimed the lives of parents

Grim statistics
Many street children like Mandefro don’t have access to basic rights such as proper care, education, psychological support and supervision. Often, orphans and other vulnerable children are forced to work to earn an income. They are exposed to various forms of exploitation, including sexual exploitation.
In Addis Ababa more than 30 per cent of girls aged 10-14 are not living with their parents. Twenty per cent of these 30 per cent have run away from child marriages.

Twelve per cent of adolescents aged 10-14 – of the 30 per cent not living with their parents – surveyed in two areas of Addis Ababa were domestic workers. They are very young, very vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and typically have no legal or social support.

In the Amhara region, the average age of marriage for girls is 14, while at the national level the mean age for marriage is 17. There are about 2.5 million children with disabilities.

No social net for vulnerable children
Very few government services help orphans. The primary coping strategy for communities has therefore been the extended family. Increasingly, however, the capacity of the extended family to support the growing numbers of orphans is declining.

“As more and more parents die, the capacity of the extended family to take care of orphans becomes smaller and smaller,” says Björn Ljungqvist, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia. “In all countries where you have a big HIV/AIDS epidemic, at first you don’t see any orphans at all, as they are absorbed by the traditional systems. And then all of a sudden you seem to reach some type of breaking point and you start finding these children in the streets, you start finding them working in difficult conditions, you start finding even child-headed households.”

Click here to read entire article!

Meeting: Alif’s Civic Action Forum (CAF)

Alif would like to invite you to their Civic Action Forum (CAF) that will convene this Friday, November 10th at 7PM.

CAF is an action-orientated initiative that convenes monthly with the aim to move beyond mere dialogue and debate and into the development of tangible interventions to address critical issues faced by Ethiopia’s underserved and marginalized populations.

Teachers College Main/Zankel Hall (Gottesman Library)
Room 306 (3rd Floor Russell Hall)
525 West 120th Street

I. Open Floor Part I: Discussion on issues of interest.
(30 mins)

II. Open Floor Part II: Discussion of views on selected issues of interest.
(30 mins)

III. Group Formation: The establishment of groups based on common interest. (5 mins)

IV. Action: Development of action-orientated initiatives.
(30 mins)

V. Summation: Briefing from each group and agenda for next CAF (25 mins)

We look forward to seeing you this Friday!

*For more information contact Nasir at

An Account of Street Life in Ethiopia (VIDEO)

“The street has been my home since I can remember. It’s been more than one year since I moved here (Bahr Dar) and all this time, I have not seen one good thing about living on the street. Everything is horrible,” says 14-year-old Mandefro Kassa, who grew up as an orphan on the streets of Woreta, a provincial town in Ethiopia.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Forced Labor In a 6-Year-Old’s Eyes

Via: NY Times
Just before 5 a.m., with the sky still dark over Lake Volta, Mark Kwadwo was rousted from his spot on the damp dirt floor. It was time for work.
Shivering in the predawn chill, he helped paddle a canoe a mile out from shore. For five more hours, as his coworkers yanked up a fishing net, inch by inch, Mark bailed water to keep the canoe from swamping.

He last ate the day before. His broken wooden paddle was so heavy he could barely lift it. But he raptly followed each command from Kwadwo Takyi, the powerfully built 31-year-old in the back of the canoe who freely deals out beatings. “I don’t like it here,” he whispered, out of Mr. Takyi’s earshot.
Mark Kwadwo is 6 years old. About 30 pounds, dressed in a pair of blue and red underpants and a Little Mermaid T-shirt, he looks more like an oversized toddler than a boat hand. He is too little to understand why he has wound up in this fishing village, a two-day trek from his home. But the three older boys who work with him know why. Like Mark, they are indentured servants, leased by their parents to Mr. Takyi for as little as $20 a year.

Until their servitude ends in three or four years, they are as trapped as the fish in their nets, forced to work up to 14 hours a day, seven days a week, in a trade that even adult fishermen here call punishing and, at times, dangerous.
Mr. Takyi’s boys — conscripts in a miniature labor camp, deprived of schooling, basic necessities and freedom — are part of a vast traffic in children that supports West and Central African fisheries, quarries, cocoa and rice plantations and street markets. The girls are domestic servants, bread bakers, prostitutes. The boys are field workers, cart pushers, scavengers in abandoned gem and gold mines.

By no means is the child trafficking trade uniquely African. Children are forced to race camels in the Middle East, weave carpets in India and fill brothels all over the developing world. The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency, estimates that 1.2 million are sold into servitude every year in an illicit trade that generates as much as $10 billion annually.

Studies show they are most vulnerable in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Africa’s children, the world’s poorest, account for roughly one-sixth of the trade, according to the labor organization. Data is notoriously scarce, but it suggests victimization of African children on a huge scale.

A 2002 study supervised by the labor organization estimated that nearly 12,000 trafficked children toiled in the cocoa fields of Ivory Coast alone. The children, who had no relatives in the area, cleared fields with machetes, applied pesticides and sliced open cocoa pods for beans.

Click here to read the entire article!

Forced Labor, In a 6-Year-Old’s Eyes

Mark Kwadwo, 6, in the small dark room, where he sleeps on the dirt floor and rises before dawn to work on Lake Volta, a two-day trek from his family home. “I don’t like it here,” he whispered to a visitor, out of earshot of his employer.

Photo journal: Ethiopia shoe-shine girl

Via: BBC
Interviews and photos: Amber Henshaw

Meskerem, 12, is one of the few shoe-shine girls in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.
Her mother earns about $7.50 a month collecting rubbish, which is not enough to pay for food, rent and school fees.
At first Meskerem wanted to work as a domestic servant but she was advised to try shoe-shining. She likes being self-employed.
"Shoe shining is not difficult. It is easy for me because I have the power. If I want to work I can work," she says.

Shanty town
Meskerem lives with her mother, her uncle and four siblings in a one-roomed mud shack in the city centre.
It’s in a sprawling shanty area just behind the five-star Sheraton Hotel.
Meskerem’s father died just over a year ago.

Meskerem’s mother, Bercha Yanaga, 29, says life was hard when Meskerem was younger.
"When she was a child I raised her in difficult conditions but now she’s growing up and helping me I feel so happy.
"My husband was a drunk and we were fighting about money all the time."
He died when Tigist, right, now two years old, was just a few months old.

Meskerem shines shoes after school and all day at the weekend.
She charges 1 birr (11 US cents) to clean a pair of shoes. On a good day at the weekend she can earn between 5 to 7 birr.
"When I first started the boys came up to me and told me to go away," she says.
"They told me they would earn less because I was a girl and men would prefer to come to me. The boys threatened me. Sometimes customers and passers-by insult me and make me cry."

Long day
"I wake up just before 0700 and go to a food centre. If they have food I have breakfast, if not I just go home.
My mother leaves home for work at 0600 and gets back at 0800. I sweep the floor and do other chores until she returns.
Then I go to school until 12.30 and come home for lunch. If there’s lunch I eat, if not I go back to school for the afternoon session, which lasts until 1530.
Then I go home to collect my shoe shine boxes and work until 1800. Then I sleep.

Meskerem uses some of the money she earns to pay her school fees - of 15 birr ($1.65) a month.
"I had to go to school because I want to get knowledge - knowledge is how you become somebody," she says.
She hopes to become a teacher one day.

The government and donors are trying to increase the number of girls who go to school in Ethiopia.
Muluembet Gebereyes is the head teacher at Meskerem's school.
"There are more girls than boys at this school, which is private," she says.
"The boys go to other schools and the girls go here because it is close to their homes. Parents worry about girls getting abducted [as brides] so they like to keep an eye on them. It is unusual for girls to shine shoes. I admire Meskerem very much.

"Sometimes I play with my friends and my sister Guenet, 9, (far right)when I came back from work at the weekend.
"I am frightened that bad things will happen to me if I leave the compound, so I always stay here to play," Meskerem says.
"Once I tried to teach her how to shine shoes too and I wanted to buy her a box and some materials but she couldn’t do it, so I am the only one in the family shining shoes."

*Click here to see the rest of the pictures and interview!