In Ethiopia, it is currently estimated that up to 600,000 children and youth are homeless because of severe poverty, unemployment, and family related challenges. Up to 100,000 of these children and young people are in the capital, Addis Ababa. Once on the streets, children and youth, especially girls, are at significant risk of exploitation and abuse and may also fall victim to child labour and human trafficking.
Being homeless can have a detrimental impact on mental health, attitudes, and behaviour, and can lead to substance abuse, stigmatization, and informal labour to escape feelings of hunger, thirst, and the trauma of being alone. But over the last 10 years, ChildSPACE, a project that GOAL Ethiopia, in partnership with MCMDO (Mothers and Children Multisectoral Development Organization) and Centre of Concern (COC), delivers, has supported over 18,000 street-connected children and youth in Addis Ababa and Hawassa.
The ChildSPACE project provides safe spaces, through centres and street-based work, where children and youth benefit from life-changing protection services such as daily sanitation, life and business skills training, recreational activities, sexual health education, and much-needed psychosocial support. To date, the project has
- reached 11,400+ youth through street-based education services, teaching them about sexual health, how to avoid substance abuse and protect themselves from potential violence.
- provided psychosocial support to build self-esteem and establish positive coping skills to deal with the risks children and young people face on the streets and facilitates referrals to social services for those who have experienced abuse.
- enhanced employment opportunities by training children and youth in literacy, numeracy, and vocational skills, such as tailoring, hairdressing and auto-mechanics, and organizing job placements.
- assisted street-connected children and youth to support themselves financially.
- helped over 800 children reunite with their families and enrol into schools.
- arranged for 890+ youth to engage in income-generating activities and live a more dignified life off the streets.
Speaking about the power of the ChildSPACE programme, Mandy Yamanis, GOAL’s Global Safeguarding Advisor (who visited the programme in Addis Ababa last April), said: ‘To ensure children and youth remain off the streets, we need to change their negative coping strategies by empowering them. We do this by providing the tools necessary to improve their self-esteem and belief to succeed.”
“Access to clean water or body lotion may not seem like much to somebody who lives in their parent’s house, but once children become homeless, life becomes a struggle. Our ChildSPACE project works hard to create a safe space where the children and GBV (gender-based violence) at-risk girls can come to access psychosocial support, health care and referral linkage, training, indoor and outdoor games, and other services,” continued Mandy Yamanis.
The ChildSPACE programme costs €450K to run every year in Hawassa and Addis, but funding is only now available to run the programme in Hawassa until the end of 2023, and there is no funding commitment beyond that date.
Speaking about generating funds to ensure the ongoing delivery of the ChildSPACE programme, Asefa Getaneh, Executive Director of COC, said: “It is sad to see funds drying up for such initiatives. Street children are the most vulnerable segment of urban communities. No one is there to advocate for them in the community or administrative structures”.
Biru’s ChildSPACE story
Biru, a ChilSPACE programme user, became homeless at 16 after struggling to cope following the loss of her parents when Biru was just two years old. Biru was sexually abused whilst living on the streets, became pregnant, and gave birth at just 17 years of age. On the street, Biru was approached by ChildSPACE Social Workers, who helped her find the safe space. “I was desperate to get any kind of support and their timing was perfect. Once I started to visit ChildSPACE, things started to take shape. I accessed counselling and was provided with various trainings.”
Mahder’s ChildSPACE story
Mahder’s mother was struggling financially to support her children due to the loss of her husband, so Mahder tried to find a job to no avail – until ChildSPACE approached her. She received on-the-job hairdressing training and shortly after graduation, she got her first job. “I dropped out of school in 9th grade, so wearing a graduation gown is a big deal for me. I finally feel on the right track in life. I could not believe it when I got my first salary, it is a great achievement to see my mother so happy”.
To read more positive stories of children and youth from the ChildSPACE project in Ethiopia, please visit https://www.goalglobal.org/countries/ethiopia/