YWCA in Ethiopia

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YWCA Ethiopia Member

Combating drug dealers and addiction for youths’ well-being and safer community

Taliyan sefer and Datsun sefer are among the most fragile neighborhoods in Woreda 2 and 5 of Arada sub city respectively where YWCA is implementing Safe and inclusive cities program in partnership with Plan Ethiopia. As part of program intervention, the youth mobilized were trained on safety skills and community safety toolkits and then engaged to develop safety profiles for their respective woredas. Thereafter going through validation processes with local authorities and community leaders and the youth developed safety planning to carryout youth initiatives. One of the safety issues identified in the community was high prevalence of youth addiction and widespread of narcotics dealers in the areas.  Yohannes Dawit, a youth association leader of woreda 02 said that

“There are different substances commonly used by youth and other community members. Shisha, Khat, cocaine and marijuana are the most common one along with non-labeled local alcohols like Areki (local gin) and Tej(honey wine). Most of the local drink makers mix bad substances for their profit. All these substances and alcoholic drinks are affecting the youth health and social well-being exposing them to anti-social activities like violence, theft and crime as most of the youth are unemployed”. 

It is normal to observe youth chewing khat on sidewalks of Taliyan sefer and Datsun sefer neighborhoods and people get drunk and chanting in front of local pubs. These people use to randomly either verbally or physically harrass women by. Particularly, the young women are physically assaulted in the day light. Helen Libsetsehay, a youth involved on safety initiatives at Woreda 05 reflected that

“In my neighborhood it is known for areki (local spirit) and khat houses. Most of the youths use to chew khat in the afternoon. They also consume tobacco and shisha while chewing Khat and then began to drink areki. These all affect their health as they didn’t take enough food. For these reason, it is regular to see young people dying on street to due to poisoning and overdose”.

Some of the Khat and Shisha houses are around schools so that school girls and young women are using such substances and this causes are primarily sexual violence and harassment against schools girls. 

Hence, the youth come up with detailed plan to carryout initiatives to tackle these community problems through mobilizing youth and community members and influencing local administrations. Subsequently, addiction prevention and life skill trainings were provided for a total of 72 youths from Taliyan sefer and Datsun sefer neighborhoods. In addition, youth discussions during coffee ceremonies were held at each locality and in addition, more than 3000 broachers develop and disseminated in the target areas as part of addiction prevention education. 

Moreover, the youths have been influencing local administrative officials and community policing offices for legal measure against addictive drug houses- shisha and chat. Yohannes Amesalu, a youth leader at woreda 02 said;

“In this case we are not Police informants rather we are community educators; we initiate our community to ask for the foreclosure of shisha and khat houses and we also lobbied community policing officers and law enforcement personnel (Denb Askebari) to take action. Now a days police officers are our allies unlike the previous hostile relationship we had with law enforcement. We encourage owners of addictive drug/alcohol houses to alter their business even we have facilitated training and material support from NGO working in our Woreda for 25 women who run areki house”.

Through their initiative the youth able to influence some changes, one of the famous shisha houses called Setan Bet which means ‘house of the devil’, where many young women and girls exposed to drugs and were sexually harassed, forced and raped; was closed and all properties confiscated and some others burnt. Similarly, more than six shisha and chat(Khat) houses were closed while 13 of the owners were told to shift their businesses. In the case of woreda 5,  various stakeholders have participated including community leaders, school principal, local security committee, woreda administration, community policing and law enforcement officers.

Kalkidan Tamiru from woreda 5 also described that:

“Besides, we are able to influence the local administration to shut down four shisha/Khat houses and the owners were forced to shift their businesses.”

Moreover, Yohannes Amesalu also believed that

“such kinds of business are not only unhealthy for the youth but become place to plot for criminal activities. Even though most of the people claim youth unemployment has aggravated the problem in my view our work culture is the core issues as most youth tend to be selective when we come to job opportunities. Thus it is important to work in skills and work culture of the youth.

Although changing the existing scenarios requires multi-level intervention from policy to family (individual) levels, the youth initiatives have stimulated the young people, community leaders and local administrations. The issues of youth drug addiction and drug dealers are getting attention and concerned parties are gearing up  to take  action towards prevention and mitigation of the problem.

In the process, the young people have used the space to learn and unleash their potential and skills they got through safety trainings. They are able to combine the mind, skill and character sets to reduce violence/crime affecting their lives and communities.   

As youth take their issues forward and influence decision makers and service providers the results yet to prevail and championing for change will continue….towards safer communities.”

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