17 May 2018




Below is an outline for a project for vulnerable women and their children as met in the streets and brothels of Gode.

Geographical context

Gode is locatedin the Ethiopian Somali Region, in the South East of Ethiopia, in the border with Somalia. The Somali Region is the most eastern and second largest of the nine Ethiopian regions. About 86% of the population lives in rural areas, and are mainly nomadic pastoralists and, to a lesser extent, agro-pastoralists. Life and survival revolves around livestock, with people constantly moving about in the interests of their livestock.

Rural livelihoods in the SRS are changing; the region is witnessing large-scale transition in the form of rapid social, economic, and political transformation, caused by changes in the political landscape at national and regional level, increasing scarcity of resources, the adoption of farming as a complementary livelihood system, and increasing resource use conflicts. The most visible manifestation of this transition is in the shift away from pastoral activities towards more agro-pastoral and farming activities.

The region is arid and semiarid, raining only two months at year and with temperatures reaching 38º most part of the year. The lack of rain is the biggest threats for the cereal plantations. This affects in a very negative way to the animals, reducing the number of heads between 60/90 per cent in the seasons of draughts. The lack of economic resources does not allow neither to the authorities nor the communities to use the resource of the Webi Shabeelle River that crosses along Gode.

Gode is home to thousands of these former pastoralists who live in informal settlements on the outskirts of town, having migrated to Gode after losing all their livestock during the drought of 1999/2000. On the other hand, the town is also the place where thousands of young men from other parts of Ethiopia move for military service. As a consequence of their presence in the town, many young ladies work as prostitutes, contracting diseases and exposing their children to the life of the bars and brothels.

As a consequence of the low agricultural productivity, the population does not have a healthy diet, especially children present very high malnutrition rates and the infant mortality rates are also high, dying in Gode 1 of each 5 children. Millions of people have no access to basic services.

TheLiteracy percentage is only 18.2per cent of the population. In fact, only 1in 10 children receive Primary Education. Most of the children work as shepherds and the access of females to education is very low: Female literacy rate is 9.8per cent meanwhile that of the malesis 29.5%. There is also a lack of educationalinfrastructures,many children throughout rural Somali Region are sent to Koranic schools instead of formal schools because no other choice is available.

In spite of the high poverty levels, the population is also affected by the insecurity of the region, because of the conflict with Somalia. It is a long duration violent conflict between two armed rebel groups and the Ethiopian army. As a consequence, thousands of people from Somalia run away from the conflict and the draughts, arriving in Gode and the surrounded areas.

Project Rationale

The presence of the Church in such an area is in response to the command of Jesus, to proclaim both His Presence and Message “to the ends of the earth”, a command which has been underlined by our present Holy Father’s constant appeal for “First Evangelization”. 

Anyone walking the streets with eyes and ears attentive to the reality of a town such as is Gode; becomes instantly aware of the relentless need of mission, to reveal to every man, woman and child, the merciful love of a God they do not know.

The Church made its presence known in the local community during the construction on site, by visiting people in the town. Often called to visit someone sick, this has paved the way to make contact with those who have nothing and no one to take care of their basic needs. Apart from playing with the children and speaking with their mothers, we have used these conversations to discover vulnerable members of the community.

Immediately we started taking sick children and women to the local medical facilities (the regional hospital and SOS medical clinic).

In the course of such home visits we discovered that many of the people we made contact with were sick with HIV/AIDS, and so we brought them to the regional hospital for assistance.  It was then that the Hospital asked for our co operation to make contact with HIV patients who had dropped out of their ART programme. In the light of this cooperation, the Church has since entered into a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with the Hospital. This, with the full support of the Apostolic Vicar, Bishop Woldetensae.

On a short visit to Gode, the Director of HCS, Ato Bekele Moges, visited the regional hospital and met the medical professionals with whom the missionaries have almost daily contact.

Many of the women we have contacted work in the local brothel (euphemistically called a “Coffee House”). They serve as waitresses, cleaners, etc. and also as prostitutes.  These young women are often under 25, with young children, and no other means of support but what they gain in the “Buna Bet”.


Whilst most of these women are “independent” prostitutes, once in the brothel they come under the “authority” of the House “Mother”, they are fed and housed (although many still have to pay some part of their rent). They are prostitutes not by choice but by necessity, they lose their sense of self worth and self respect. They often see no other way for them. They have a vague idea of the danger they are in with regard to contracting HIV, and other diseases, but see it as a necessary risk to face the financial difficulties they have today.

These women come from many different geographical, and therefore, cultural areas of Ethiopia. We are in contact with women from Tigray, the Amhara, and Oromo regions as well as those who are from the local Somali community. The “magnet” for most of them has been the movement of the security forces heavily present in the town of Gode. Each woman has her own unique story which unfolds in the manner of a nightmare.

Objectives – A Way Forward

Our visits and initial contact with these women and their children have opened a way for us to enter into their world and bring the message of Hope in their hopelessness through concrete means, we have tried to offer:


1.    Friendship Breaking the loneliness that has come from poverty and the marginalization that HIV can bring with it. Spending time with them, being with them in their difficulties.
2.    The possibility of learning a skill which could help them to earn a living We have started a handcraft work among them hoping that they can acquire the skill they need to be able to sell the products of their labor (rather than themselves).

We have started informal classes of handcraft whereby the women learn to make purses which can then be sold. This is not only a means of income but also a means to increase their self esteem when they see the artistic and colorful articles they are able to produce. We would like to move these informal classes to the school building we are in the process of completing, thus providing an environment conducive to learning in a serious way, which would allow both

breathing space  and distance them from their normal habitat .

3.    The possibility to take care of their medical issues as well as that of their children.  
proyectoTamara4In this regard we accompany any woman together with her child (if the child is sick) to the hospital or clinic, we remind them of their appointments for ART and help them sort out the myriad requirements for various blood or other tests they might need (often these tests are not free and these women have little or no spare cash, and so we need often to pay).

4.    Regularization of the educational needs of children

i.        Because these women move often, the education of their children is haphazard and very poor. To deal with this we have managed to get some of the older children accepted in a local school (we have paid for the uniform and books and tuition fees). The other younger children we plan to accommodate in our school building in a kindergarten.

ii.        Surrounding the school are villages which are far from the town and thus small children are unable to attend school. So we would like to make our KG available also to some of the children who are in fact our neighbours. This would mean that we would plan for two KG classes (comprising approx 25 – 30 children each) to “accompany” the handicraft classes of the women.


  • As mentioned above we hope to serve between 50 – 60Kindergarten children (roughly equal numbers of boys and girls) drawn from the children of the ladies who attend the handcraft class, as well as from the neighboring community.
  • 30 vulnerable women split in groups of 10 for the first year.


From the above it is hoped:

  • To start early in the combat of poverty through education, giving the children a good start in life from the point of view of education, nutrition, and safety, (guarding them from a life on the streets, or in and around the brothels)
  • Give the ladies

«  A means by which to escape a life of degradation through learning new life sustaining skill.

«  Help with their nutrition, and general health through systematic care and helping to keep medical appointments etc.

«  Help the ladies to have a sense of order and direction in their lives.


  • Kindergarten Classes in the School
  • Liason with the hospital over medical issues
  • Handcraft Classes
  • Nursery Classes for mothers.
  • Feeding programme twice a day (breakfast and lunch)


Coordination will be carried out by a voluntary staff of three, (a religious and two young women)



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