“We did not know if she was alive or not. Thank you for returning our child to us”. These are the words of a mother and father whose daughter is now safely home.
Hope for Justice has reunited 14-year-old Salana* – which means sunshine – with her family after she was deceived into taking a job which denied her of her freedom.
A social worker at the global anti-slavery charity said: “As we were travelling through Salana’s hometown, it was a beautiful sight to see her eyes widen with excitement and her face light up as she saw the familiar places and pointed out things she recognized.
“When she caught the first glimpse of her parents, tears of joy began streaming down her face.”
Salana grew up with her parents in a small village in central Ethiopia. Her parents were not physically able, and her family was very poor. As the oldest female in the household, Salana felt responsible for her family’s financial stability and for their wellbeing.
So, aged just 14, she decided to take a “leap of faith” and go in search of domestic work in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Soon an employment opportunity arose working for a broker as a nursemaid, caring for his baby.
The employer promised Salana that she would earn a wage and be able to attend school so that she could get an education.
Excited by the prospect of earning some money to support her family, she started this new venture under the agreement that her salary would be sent directly to her parents.
However, as soon as she began, she was made to take on full responsibility for household chores, including cooking and cleaning, in addition to her role caring for the child.
A member of staff at Hope for Justice said: “The hope that she would get a chance to go to school faded as quickly as it came.
“Salana was forced to work excessive hours and was subjected to physical and emotional abuse.”
Salana said: “It was the constant physical beatings and emotional cruelty that made me want to get out of that house.
“And I missed my family. I wanted to be back home with my mother and father.”
The broker did not make any payment for Salana’s work. She learned that he had taken the money for himself, in exchange for her labor, education and her childhood.
One day, she decided to run away to escape the cruelty she was facing. She was found on the streets by a police officer, who referred her to Hope for Justice.
Salana joined one of the charity’s Lighthouses – short-term care facilities – where she received counselling and education.
A member of Hope for Justice’s team said: “Salana had left the only home she had ever known to try and improve her family’s prospects.
“She thought that the only way to better their lives was to enter domestic work.”
Salana said: “I now know that education is the long-lasting solution for me to secure a better life and to help my family. I cannot be apart from them anymore.”
Her parents said at the point of reintegration: “We did not know if Salana was alive or not. We had no idea where she was. Thank you for returning our child to us.”
Salana has plans to continue her education and to teach girls in her community about the impacts of modern slavery and of child domestic work.
Hope for Justice has reported the case to the police, who are investigating.
*Name changed to protect identity of victim