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Ethiopian Women  Warned of Dangers When Working Abroad - 2002-08-05

Ethiopia's government is helping launch a campaign to warn women about possible dangers of taking jobs outside the country. The campaign is run by the International Organization for Migration in conjunction with Ethiopia's Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Women's Affairs Office.

The International Organization for Migration interviewed about 600 Ethiopian women between ages 19-35. It says the survey shows high unemployment and poverty to be the main reasons Ethiopian women leave their country in search of work.

A spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, Niurka Pineiro, says most, if not all, of these women fall into the hands of traffickers.

"The traffickers take them to, for example, Lebanon or the Gulf states," she said. "And they do go to work. It is not a lie, they find them jobs. But when they get there, they are abused by the employers. They work long hours. They are not sexually, but verbally abused. Many times, they do not even get their pay."

Ms. Pineiro says that during the past two years, Ethiopian women returning home have spoken out publicly about their experiences and have described the abuse they received. Their comments, she says, have helped Ethiopia's government understand the issue of trafficking.

"The Ethiopian government is one of the first, if not the first African government who has recognized the problem and the extent of the problem," Ms. Pineiro said. "It is on board with IOM to not only help us with the information campaign, but to make changes in their laws, to help the women so that they can provide information about the people who trafficked them."

The IOM official says the organization is not discouraging people to leave Ethiopia for better opportunities. It only is advising them to leave in an informed way and to use legal channels when looking for work.

Ms. Pineiro says the campaign will rely heavily on radio to spread its information. She says a weekly radio program will feature interviews with potential migrants or with returning women. She says it also will give practical advice about how to prepare for departure and a list of addresses in case of emergency.