IFSO, In partnership with CIFA, Italian based funding Organization has been engaged in the prevention of illegal migration consequences by providing BBS, Life skill And Cooperative trainings for women returnees from the Middle and potential migrants in Amhara Regional State, South Wollo Zone, Ambasel, Tehuledere and Worebabo Woredas. Accordingly, it was possible to train 300 women in the above mentioned areas of training and incorporated them to the existing Rural Saving and Cooperatives (RUSACOs) in their localities. The beneficiaries were given some initial seed money of 1500.00 which enabled them to receive loan from their respective SACCOs and engage in different types of income generating activities. The project was a pilot one, which lasted in ten months time.

By taking into account the positive outcome of the pilot project, both IFSO and its partner CIFA decided to upscale the project in terms of the number of beneficiaries, areas of coverage and project life as well. Thus, a three year project has been designed to address 600 women together with the coaching activities of the previously trained 300 women beneficiaries of the pilot project.

Sample case stories of the pilot project beneficiaries are narrated here under:

Case stories of returnees

Case 1: Fatuma Seid

I was only 14 years old teenager when I was issued passport by faking my age as I was 20 years old adult through forged Kebele identification card. Together with my peer group, we planned to migrate illegally to Saudi Arabia and our route involved crossing the sea. But, the beginning of my trip welcomed me with a series of difficulties. From my birth place, Worebabu woreda kebele 04 Dubeta to Dufti ( Afar regional state), we travelled packed in a commonly known ISUZU truck as if we were some kind of commodities After hiding ourselves for four days in Dufti town ,Afar Regional State, we were placed in a big track carrying container which took us to Djibouti. Once we entered into the land of Djibouti, we had to spend the day in the jungle and use the night time for travelling. After 21 days of trip, away from our village, we met our third broker. The broker then placed all of the migrants including myself into a boat. We started our journey once again in the afternoon. The boat has carried passengers beyond its capacity. After a long and exhausting 13 hours journey, we were able to reach Yemen. The journey was terrifying as we faced large storms on our way, which forced to leave the boat before we reached the land of Yemen. We had to cross the sea in the dark and as torch lights were seen as a way of giving signal to securities, we were not able to use them at all. We chose to continue our movement in the rural parts of Yemen. During the day time, we would hide ourselves in the forests and bridges and we would travel at night. Thus, It took us 2 months and 13 days to reach Giezan town of Saudi Arabia.

Then, I telephoned to my contact person to take me from Gizan to Medina town. After spending one week with this particular person, I commenced working in a house where my responsibility was to look after two children. The task which I was assigned was very difficult and challenging. To make things worse, the children were not well disciplined who even dare to beat their care givers. Whenever I tried to discipline them they would inform their parents. Then, the parents would check how our day went through using the hidden cameras installed all across the room. The children’s mother would frequently beat me as she thought I was abusing her precious children. Trying to escape wasn’t the most successful idea I had. Consequently, I continued to work in such a barbaric situation for four years.

Once upon a time my employer together with her husband and twin children went out to the beach for leisure activity. As the couples were enjoying themselves separately, I was babysitting the children. At one sudden moment, the children started running to the sea area and jumped into the water are. Although I was lucky enough to save one of them but the other one got into the deep area of the water. Thanks to the effort of the life savior groups, however, the child was able to be rescued from the water and was taken to the hospital by an ambulance. The parents were blaming me for everything that has happened to the child and tied my legs and hands and threw me in a dark room. The mother would threaten me saying she would kill me if anything happens to her son. As if scaring me wasn’t enough, she would beat me until I fail unconscious. With God’s mercifulness, the child was able to recover fully. But, they handed me over to the police who jailed me for three months and the deported me back to my country.

While I was in such state of condition, I heard that I was selected by the local administration to attend the 10 days business skill training which was organized by FSO which totally changed my life’s direction. The training has taught me a lot of things about business and it also taught me how to become a successful business woman. I had attended the training with enthusiasm and excitement. After every training session I would go home and talk to my husband about initiating some kind of business. We immediately decided to open a commodity shop using container and also a tea room, which enabled us, to earn good income. If I had not been attended this training, I would not have dropped the agenda for returning to migration life. I am now properly save in my cooperative and carried out the business with knowledge I got from the training. Using the profit from my tea and coffee service business, I was able to buy a fridgrator. Now, as a result of my previous experience and knowing that there are better alternatives here in our country, I do not wish for anyone a life related to illegal migration.

Case 2: Anesha Mohammed

My name is Anesha Mohammed. I was born in Worebabo woreda, Gedero kebele. When I reached the age of 15, my friends from the village would constantly inform me of how one can achieve a successful life like building a house and buying a car by going to Saudi Arabia by expending a small amount of money. As a result, I was too excited about living a better life and decided to go to Arab countries. I asked my parents for some amount of money (5000 birr) to work in Arab countries. My father sold his plowing ox and provided me with the money. I paid 3000 birr to a broker. The next morning I started my journey to Dufti, Afar Regional State being cramped in a big truck. We stayed for seven days and were then transferred to another broker where he transported us in a container to Djibouti by traveling at night and hiding in the daytime. The journey was very challenging as we had to see a lot of dead bodies everywhere. We witnessed people leaving their friends and/sisters in order to survive. We would also witness girls being raped right in front of us. The majority of the people that accompanied me weren’t able to finish the journey. Most lives were lost during our journey through the desert. With the help of God, I was able to board a boat after 27 days of departing from my birth place. Despite being small, the boat was carried 300 passengers. We started our journey in the midnight. The journey was very terrifying as sleeping or taking a small nap was forbidden. Anyone who violated these rules was punished by being thrown to the sea. After long and tiresome trip, we reached Yemen. The sailor of the boat demanded that we had to leave the ship before it reached the land of Yemen. We had no other option, so we walked in the deep water that almost touched our necks. After reaching the land of Yemen many of the passengers were captured by the police. Me and few of my friends escaped and spent the days in the forest without any food or water. We would travel at night to get in to Saudi Arabia. When I entered Saudi I telephoned my uncle who is residing there, to pick me up. Unfortunately, from the nine survivors only four of us had someone to pick us up. The other five were directly taken to prison.

After two weeks of rest, my uncle found me a job in house where I was employed as a house maid. My employer was a married woman with a child. She would order me to do a lot of work day and night. Due to this, I started to feel pain around my feet and back bone. I informed my employer about my illness but she wouldn’t give attention. When the pain gets worse, I would go to bed to take a break, but my employer would beat me demanding me to carry out household activities. I worked in this condition for two years and 5 months until my uncle pulled me out of that house and got me employment to in another house.

My second employer seemed like good person and my job wasn’t very difficult as it was babysitting her child. In this house, I had a lot of time to rest as compared to the previous one. As days passed the behavior of the husband of my employer started to change. As he returned back from driving his wife to her office, he would always attempt to rape me. In order to protect myself, I would take the baby to my room and lock the door. My employer wouldn’t believe me if I told her about the situation. One day, my employer was sick and had to return home earlier than before and she caught her husband as he was struggling to open my room my locked door. But, she screamed and shouted at me, blaming me for everything that happened. She then fired me. My monthly salary and my personal properties were confiscated by the police. I was arrested for and stayed in jail for three months and deported me back to my country after I four years stay in Saudi Arabia.

My family has consumed almost all of my money that I sent them. I felt desperate with my family’s being extravagant and decided to return to Arab country using the leftover money. In the mean time, however, I heard about the organization that provides trainings for returnees from Arab countries. At the beginning, it seemed to me that the organization simply provides money. When I understood the objective of the organization, I attended the training. And thus, the ten days training brought about a tremendous change in my life. Following the completion of training, I borrowed birr 4500 from the Cooperative that I become a member and I added the money which I was allocated to migrate to Saudi. I opened a small shop and a coffee service besides it. Now I am happy about what I am doing and I am advising the disadvantage of illegal migration. Besides, it is possible to bring about change in life by involving in various works here in our place. With the knowledge I got from the training, I am able to record the expense and income of my business. I have started to save birr 50.00 to 100.00 from the profit I gained. I have a plan to open a wholesaler shop in the near future.

Case 1:- Fatuma Ali

Fatuma Ali is living in Tehuledre woreda of kete kebele. When she heard of working in abroad could generate a lot of money, in 2003 E.C, she decided to leave her husband and children and went to Saudi Arabia via Afar. To make her trip successful she borrowed birr 3500, and together with other fellow migrants, she entered to Yemen and then to Saudi Arabia. Fatuma travelled on foot and it took her about 90 days to reach Saudi Arabia. According to what Fatuma said, “My trip to Saudi was pretty tough. The brokers would ask us to provide them with money at every stopover. The thrust for water was despicable as they sold us 5 litres of water for 300 birr. We used to spend every passing night in the forest. Seeing dead body and corpse of humans everywhere on the road was a common phenomenon. As we crossed Yemen to Saudi Arabia, we were hearing frequent gun shots. I got arrested in Yemen for about 15 days. After that, we were all forced to return to Ethiopia. After being expelled from Yemen, I stayed for 8 day and started my journey once again. During my second trip, I was able to reach Saudi Arabia within 15 days. Since the time of my travel was during the time of the popular Muslim fasting month, referred to as Ramadan, I haven’t encountered much problem. Thus, I have worked for four years in Saudi and theses four years were the hardest times of my life as I experience several beatings and abuse. My employers were stressing me work for 24 hours that causing severe swellings on my leg. By working such tiresome work, I was sending money to my family only to find non remaining. When I asked them where the money is they would tell me they have lost it which brocken my heart. During that time conflict raised among family members and I did not have an option except offering pardon to family and continued living with my husband. Now thanks to God my children are attending school and my life is better than before. It is by far better to drink free water that my country provides and spend the night at secure places than getting money with illegal and inappropriate means.”

Now, Fatuma is happy with the training she attended and with the knowledge and skills that she has got from the training. She has started sheep and goats breading with the 2000 birr loan she has gotten from the cooperative that she is a member.

 Case 2:- Hawa Jemal

Hawa Jemal is living in Kete Keble of Tehuledere woreda. In 2007 E.C, she left her two children and her husband and went to Saudi Arabia legally. She tells her trip and the situation after reaching Saudi with her own words as follows:-

“When I went to Saudi, my daughter and my son were 3 and 4 years old respectively. I had planned to work as a house maid in Saudi Arabia. My husband had it hard as he had the responsibility of taking care of our children. My daughter didn’t make it easy for him as she was crying very always for she was not seeing me at home. I borrowed 10,000 birr to spend for the travel. In Saudi, I worked in a family comprising of 14 members where three households living together. As a chance, I was assigned to take care of an old disabled woman. The old woman neither eats food nor defecates by herself. When I assisted the old woman to ease her in toilet, I suffered with the bad smell. And the fact that the lady wanted to be fed every hour has made the situation worse. It had only been 3 days since I started working but that was enough to get me sick. The people there took me to a health institution but that didn’t help me to get back my health. The reason for my inability to recover was the fact that I had work day and night for full 24 hours. When my situation got worse, I decided to change my working place. But the people there didn’t allow me to do what I have asked. As a result, I came back to my country after only working for a month. Since I haven’t been fed properly, I had lost too much weight. After I reached home my family welcomed me with open arms and tears

As we continue our lives, I was informed that I was selected to attend training in business and life skills. But I did not think that the training was useful and didn’t have that much of motivation. . However, I was very enthusiastic when I started attending the training. I got important lesson about saving, separation of household and business expense and the like. I regret that fact that I dint get this opportunity before leaving to Saudi as this would have changed my life. Of course, I had intended to engage in small business activity and the training had further ignited me to work on business. Following the completion of the training, I bought high breed milk cow which gave birth to a calf. By taking the milk to town in rental form with 300birr/liter, I am able to get 1200 birr per month. Now I am leading a very good life.”

She has already submitted her business plan to her cooperative to borrow birr 3000.00 in order to engage in sheep fattening in addition to tending the milk cow.

Case 3:- Zebeba Teferi

Her name is Zebeba Teferi and she is living in Bededo Kebele of Tehuledere woreda. She is 23 years old. In 2008 E.C, with her family’s consent, she legally travelled to Saudi Arabia. When she reached there she faced unexpected situation. The following words of her depict the situation:-

“In Saudi, I worked in a family that consisted of numerous males. Among the children one of them was specifically disturbing. When I realized that these were too hard for me, I decided to return back to home. After I came back, however, I faced with a hard choice in deciding what kind of job I wanted to do. At this critical moment in my life, I was fortunate enough to hear that I was selected to attend training. At first, I didn’t give it much of my attention as I thought it was the usual drill of the kebele members telling us to engage in creating different kind of jobs. But I was very surprised to be pleased and satisfied with the training given to me within 10 days. From the training, I learned that how saving is important. I have also learned that respecting every work is as equally important. Apart from these, the training had provided me with a skill of communicating with people and helped me become social friendly. Immediately after completing the training, I engaged in running a small shop business by the money borrowed from my family. My working place is near to the main road and I am getting considerable amount of profit just by working in small scale. Even the profit I get from selling bottled water is something worth mentioning. I want to thank the organization for all the support and help it provided me.”

Zebeba is one of the strongest members of SACAOs. She has borrowed birr 5000.00 in order to expand her shop business.

Case 1:- Hadiya Hassen

My name is Hadiya Hassen. I was born and raised in Ambassel woreda 01, kebele “genda sefer.” My family forced me to get married and as a result, I dropped out of school from 8th grade. My marriage life, however, I did not stay long and I moved to another area called Afedre, Afar Regional State. Here, I remarried with a person who is a member of the Ministry of Defense. I lived together with my second husband for four years and we opened a small tea room in a locality called Logia and tried to augment our income. Meanwhile, I got sick and returned to Wuchale. When I was in Wuchale, I heard that my husband lost his life as he got in a fight with a certain person. The death of my husband was the cause for me to lose all the properties I and my husband had. During my tough times, my sister was the only help as she supported me financially. The financial aid my sister gave me allowed me to go to Qatar after paying 14,000 birr (fourteen thousand birr) to a broker, aspiring to have better life by working in Arab countries. Life in Qatar was pretty tough due to the workload that was loaded on me. And all this distress caused me to fall ill. Of course, I tried to change working house but the broker was not willing to facilitate for me. I was then forced to return home after 4 months with nothing in my hand. I paid a broker again to go to Oman for another chance and this time I had to pay 19,000 birr (nineteen thousand birr). The situation in Oman was not better from the situation in Qatar. To make things worse, I heard my daughter, whom I have left with my sister, had fallen ill. This information forced me to return back to my country within 2 months stay of my second trip abroad. After sitting idle for an entire year I started a small business by borrowing money from people who were capable of lending a good sum of money. That is when I heard that IFSO has started to provide business skill training to woman returnees from Arab countries. Accordingly my local administration selected me to participate the mentioned training for 10 days. Following the training, I became a member of a Denka Saving and Credit Cooperative Association and I borrowed 5000 birr from the Cooperative and adding 1000 birr from my personal saving, I started horticultural activity with a total capital of birr 6000. The business skill which I got from IFSO has helped me run my business successfully and as the result, I was able to pay back the money which I borrowed earlier from individual lenders. Besides, my children are able to pursue their school without any problem. My only problem now is lack of store and selling place. If these problems are solved my income increase undoubtedly.

The business skill training which I received has significantly contributed in managing my horticultural business properly and leading a good life.

I am very much regretful regarding the time I wasted in Arab countries. The training I got has helped me at a great extent to have strength and initiative and thus, I would like to express my gratitude for the opportunity that I have got.

Case 2:- Mulu Abebe

My name is Mulu Abebe and I am residing in Ambassel woreda, “Genda” kebele. Since my family is economically poor, I was not able to go school and this denial of access to education made me unhappy. In the mean time, I got married and became the mother of two children.

Before I went to gulf countries, I gave birth to my child. At that time I and my husband didn’t own any land for cultivating crops. We used to rent a land from an individual to grow crops. We, unfortunately, weren’t successful at it. As a result, I borrowed 7000.00 birr from my relative and went to Dubai to work as a maid. Working in Dubai wasn’t easy. As I lived and worked for a year and five months, I was forced to work long hours. My employer would force me to work from early morning up to midnight. As if abusing my energy wasn’t enough, they used to insult and beat me bitterly. As a result, I had returned back to my country before finishing my contract agreement with my employer.

Immediately, following my return to my country, I was lucky enough to be selected and trained for a 10 days business skill training which was facilitated by IFSO. Following the training, I became a member of Denaka Saving and Credit Cooperative, which allowed me to borrow birr 5000.00. With starting capital birr 6000.00 (birr 1000 added from my personal account), I have engaged in cereals trading.

I have started saving my income which was earned from my hard work. Within the last three months my initial capital was raised to birr 8000.00. The business skill training helped me to register the expense and income activities of my business. My husband has always been by my side. I have realized that I could be a great role model to all the other Ethiopians aspiring to travel to Arab countries in order to work. I have proven that it is possible to work in one’s own country and change one’s life.

Currently, I have confined to sell grains in market place and I would be very successful and happy if I get permanent separate selling quarter.

Case 3:- Almaz Sisay

My name is Almaz Sisay and I am one of the residents of Ambassel woreda, “Golbo” kebele. I dropped out of school from 10th grade due to an early marriage. Despite losing my education to a marriage was quite disappointing I maintained to have a happy marriage life. Before I migrated to Arab country, I was a house wife with my husband’s help in managing household activities.

The idea of having or seeking a better life drove me out of my country, taking me to the Middle East, specifically, Saudi Arabia. It was an irony that life there was completely different from what I have aspired. Working in Arab countries was as simple as selling one’s own dignity. When I was unable to bear the daily phenomena of beatings, insulting, disrespecting, and engaging in hard works and loss of ample sleeping time, I returned to my country after only working of four months.

While I was working in a small commodity shop, I learned that the kebele administration had selected me to attend train in business and life skills for ten consecutive days, which was organized and delivered by IFSO. The training, therefore, has boosted my moral, allowing me to become member of Gubahara rural SACAO, which gave me a loan of birr 4000.00. The loan I received from the cooperative has helped me further strengthened the shopping business.

Since my business has become successful and that enabled me to start saving in both cooperative and in the bank. The skill which I got from the training benefited me in doing the business and as the result I become a modern dealer. In near future, I have planned to start new additional businesses. The moral which IFSO equipped us to work hard and the possibility to improve one’s life in one’s own country helped me to look forward and become champion of life. For this, I would like to thank the organization.