Years of war, drought and famine have left the northern part of Ethiopia vulnerable to extreme poverty. Unable to make a living, many mothers end up on the streets where they turn to begging or prostitution to survive, facing great risks including starvation and HIV/AIDS.
This jeopardises the welfare of their children. Mums for Mums, together with other organisations, is working hard to change this reality.
Mums for Mums is based in Mekelle, Tigray Province, and has been working since 2001 to protect children by tackling the root causes of poverty in the region.
Through its training centre, Mums for Mums gives young women the skills they need to earn a living, helping to break the cycle of poverty for both themselves and their families. The training covers traditional disciplines like embroidery and tailoring. It also includes innovative programmes to help women improve their families' nutrition as well as increase their income. Examples include the pioneering use of the cactus leaf as an effective alternative food source, and giving loans to enable women to set up small businesses.
Although Mums for Mums' primary focus is pre-emptive intervention, the organisation has responded quickly and effectively to the needs of the local community by running a successful food scheme for orphans and vulnerable children in partnership with the World Food Programme. The organisation has also taken on the management of the Geza Margerita home, providing vital shelter and support for 50 street children.
Mums for Mums provides HIV education training, as well as care and support to people living with HIV through its door-to-door campaign staffed by specially-trained young female volunteers. Many of these young women began as beneficiaries of Mums for Mums programmes.
Mums for Mums looks after thousands of orphans and street children each year, and helps many young mothers escape the downward spiral of poverty. About 100 women benefit from training courses every year, 80% of the whom have gone on to find regular employment or set up small businesses or co-operative work groups. Others have gone on to become trainers themselves. Through the additional income raised, they have been able to support their children and protect them from the risks associated with poverty.
Mums for Mums has divided the Impact Award between improving services for vulnerable children and mothers, investing in the future of Mums for Mums and improving its technological capacity.
Developments have included living, nutrition, education and medical support for street children, completion of the drop-in centre and hostel for street children and the purchase of a kiln for the pottery skills training facility. Another part of the fund was used to cover the running costs of a street child centre, as well as building a small wing for boys at the centre.
Importantly, Mums for Mums used a portion of the Award to conduct a full assessment of the needs of the 3,000 orphans and vulnerable children it supports in order to strengthen delivery of services. The published report is now being used by other NGOs and UN agencies in Tigray (Nothern Ethiopia) working on similar issues.
Mums for Mums has invested the remaining portion of its Award funding locally through shares of a bus company which generates dividends to provide financial stability for the organisation.
Photos: Andy Aitchison