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Case Studies Enku’s story: Regaining her childhood after being rescued from domestic work

Enku’s story: Regaining her childhood after being rescued from domestic work

A 12-year-old girl has reclaimed her childhood after police rescued her from domestic work and abuse. 

Enku* was trafficked from her parents’ home to the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, to work for her aunt. She was promised a better life and education. She would be paid a monthly salary of 500 Birr – the equivalent of less than £7 or $9. 

However, she was forced into child domestic work, babysitting the young children of her employer and cleaning rooms in the home. 

Over time, the trafficker began to verbally insult Enku, then started emotionally and physically abusing her. Enku could not stand it any more, and she ran away – despite having nowhere to go.  

Thankfully, Enku was found by police officers who knew about Hope for Justice’s work. They referred Enku to one of our Lighthouses – safe shelters for children who have faced, or who are at risk of, exploitation and trafficking. 

Enku was staying at a Lighthouse that specifically supports girls aged seven to 18 who have already been trafficked or who have been exploited as domestic workers. 

While in our care, Enku received holistic support, which included having her basic needs met, psychosocial support and individual counselling, group therapy, life skills training and access to medical services. 

A member of our staff who works at the Lighthouse said: “After accessing these services, the survivor frequently asked her counsellor if she could be reunited with her family. In this instance, we determined that this was in the best interest of the child. One of our social workers began the difficult task of finding the location of her family home. This process took a long time because the survivor had been separated from her loved ones for many years. We sought help from the government department, The Ministry of Women, Children and Youth. Finally, we heard good news and managed to trace her parents.”  

Enku was reunited with her relatives at a community event to mark Thanksgiving Day. Our staff member said of the occasion: “The entire community was excited about the reunification of the survivor with her parents. So, at the end of the Thanksgiving event, all those gathered began to sing worship songs to give thanks to God that this survivor was now safely back home.” 

On being reunited with her family, Enku was registered to start her formal education. She is doing well, both at home and at school. 

Enku is just one of the many survivors we have supported after the exploitation they were sadly forced to live through. Misgana* was trafficked under similar circumstances in Addis Ababa. She was just nine years old. You can read her story here

A report by The Freedom Fund, published in 2022, found that, on average, child domestic workers in Ethiopia are carrying out 55 hours of domestic work per week. 

Furthermore, two in five (43%) of the girls first entered into domestic work at the age of 14 or younger. While the Ethiopian Labour Law does not cover domestic workers, it does prohibit work for under-15s. 

A study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) states: “The exclusion of domestic workers from coverage under national labour laws remains widespread, systematically limiting their rights and protections and denying them access to legal redress.” 

This is among the reasons why Hope for Justice is working globally to bring about wide-reaching national and international policy reform. 

*Name changed to protect identity of the survivor 

young girl