Report Release: They Snatched From Me My Own Cry: The interplay of social norms and stigma in relation to human trafficking in Ethiopia

18 March 2021

Embode is pleased to announce the publication of our research focusing on social norms and stigma in relation to human trafficking in Ethiopia.

The influence of Social Norms and Stigma

Despite being one of the fastest growing economies in the region, Ethiopia continues to remain one of the poorest countries globally. With limited education, employment and financial opportunities especially in rural villages, migration offers a potential solution for young people aspiring to improve their lives. Migration is, however, not risk-free and both male and female migrants with little or no formal education bear a higher risk of exploitation during the migration process as well as throughout their work experience abroad. Additionally, due to entrenched harmful patriarchal and engendered socio-cultural norms, returning migrants face shaming and blaming for being perceived as ‘failed migrants’ and not as victims of trafficking. This stigma prevents their safe and complete reintegration into their communities and is a significant barrier to obtaining and receiving essential assistance in their recovery and future ambitions of marriage, inclusivity and security.

Commissioned by IOM (the International Organisation for Migration)

Embode undertook research to study the links between migration, trafficking, social norms and the barriers to reintegration of returnees to support IOM’s ‘Assessing Stigma for Prevention, Improved Response and Evidence Base (ASPIRE)’ project in Ethiopia. The research was conducted in the Jimma and Arsi Zones, Ethiopia.  Interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with returned male and female migrant workers and other stakeholders and duty bearers.

Key Research Findings

The salient findings of the research pointed to the fact that harmful social norms and stigma can render migrants vulnerable to trafficking, and become barriers to their safe return, reintegration and rehabilitation. Both men and women were frequently abused physically, psychologically and sexually, and lived under inhuman conditions, with no recourse to help. Returnee migrants are deprived of care from service providers and communities due to a lack of awareness of the risks and harms of migration and trafficking and inadequate national and local government migration and counter-trafficking frameworks.

Embode has made multiple strategic recommendations in the report that directly address each of the issues raised within communities and at governmental level. These aim to strengthen mechanisms for increased safer migration channels and targeted services for returnees, both formal and informal. These include an adaptive gender-responsive approach pre, during and post migration to reduce exploitation, raise awareness of risks and improve structural frameworks for both men and women. Intensive awareness-raising measures are recommended to ensure that existing harmful socio-cultural and religious norms are addressed. In addition, practical measures are proposed to prevent prospective migrants being vulnerable to exploitation. In the case of trafficked victims, the role of the government and civil society becomes vital in order to create an environment for safe homecoming and rehabilitation. Owing to a lack of income generation options, men and women opt for unsafe migration and this clearly calls for creation of job-opportunities which the report also recommends.

The report, its findings, together with all recommendations can be accessed here.