Four friends from school have teamed up in the fight against child trafficking and unsafe migration. Lielt Mohammed (16), Bethelihem Girma (15), Fekadu Mehari (20) and Tigist Mulu (16) hail from Azezo, a rural district just south of Gondar town in Amhara Region, Ethiopia. Poverty is endemic in this area, and moving away in search for better opportunities has almost become the norm for the youth. As the Azezo Youth Advocacy Group, the four friends sensitise their community on the dangers of risky migration under the Girls Advocacy Alliance programme.
“Child trafficking and unsafe migration is a problem in our district, and many children in Azezo area are at high risk of being recruited into trafficking.“ Because of its proximity to Sudan, with Azezo town lying near the intersection of the main road heading straight to the border, children and young people frequently visit the border town Metema. This is considered as an easy way into Sudan, in the hope to get further north to the Middle East and Europe.
Peer pressure to drop out of school and migrate is high. Two of the youth advocates have previously dropped out of school themselves, and migrated to Metema. This real life experience was very challenging and has inspired their dedication to sensitise their peers on the dangers and risks.
Azezo Youth Advocates have committed to create a school environment free of Gender Based Violence, one of the major contributors that push students to drop out. Better understanding of the dangers in addition should minimise risky migration in their district, specifically of girls and young women. What drives them, is the power of togetherness: “We will be together with the community through volunteerism to fight human trafficking. If we join hands together, we can better fight against unsafe migration and we can move forward in terms of achieving our goals.”
Weekly, the youth advocates can be found at hotspot places of movement, in particular the main bus station. Not only do they sensitise the public, but they also mobilise them to spot and report. They specifically appeal to the youth, and make them responsible for identifying risky migration by children and youth. Community engagement has grown, and the public has started to flag suspected cases of unsafe migration, such as unaccompanied minors who are on the move, and the presence and activities of brokers.
Azezo youth advocates have been under the wings of the Girls Advocacy Alliance programme since 2018. A total of 41 children on the verge of risky migration have been identified by the group and prevented from travelling to Metema. The youth advocates furthermore intercepted 22 children already on their way to Metema and guided them on the challenges and consequences of unsafe migration. This awareness alone has equipped the children to protect themselves from harm due to unsafe migration.