Ethiopia’s famous white ‘shamma’ shawls, made with soft cotton and embroidered edges, have been made in the Gamo and Dorze regions of southern Ethiopia for decades. But child labour in this traditional industry is rife, with poverty and trafficking networks driving young boys to Addis Ababa and Chencha, the centre of the trade.
Daniel* was just 12 years old when he became one of thousands of boys trafficked to the capital to work illegally. Originally from the Dita region of southern Ethiopia, he had dropped out of school after Grade 2 (the second year of primary school). This is common in Ethiopia, where 95% of children start primary school but only 54% complete it and just 25% of 15- to 18-year-olds are in secondary school. His lack of education and his family’s extreme poverty made Daniel vulnerable to promises of a better life.
Those promises came from one of Daniel’s own relatives. Move to Addis Ababa, he told Daniel, and I’ll get you a well-paying job. But when he arrived, Daniel found himself trapped, forced into the weaving trade.
The work was physically demanding: moving the shuttle, continuously pressing the pedals, and threading the cotton through the weft by hand. For two whole years, Daniel did nothing else, and received no payment.
“We were detained by them all day”, Daniel described. “We received one loaf of bread a day”.
Thankfully he was able to escape, but when the Hope for Justice outreach team encountered Daniel, he was in poor health. After two years of constant work, kept indoors and barely fed, he was mentally and physically struggling.
Once the team had earned his trust, Daniel felt able to share his story with them and he took refuge in one of our Lighthouses.
Initially, Daniel was shy and suffered from low self-esteem. But he has been able to receive trauma-informed therapy, individual and group counselling, to recover from the hardships he has endured and life-skills training to prepare for a brighter future. Still aged just 14, Daniel has taken part in the catch-up classes, art and sport activities at the Lighthouse, recovering something of a childhood he had been denied.
*Name has been changed to protect survivor’s identity