Meseret for Women is a UK registered charity and an Ethiopian registered NGO. It was founded in 2016 by Rachel and Tom Duke. Having been through the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia they witnessed the extreme challenges faced by single mothers who were forced to leave their homes due to shame and stigma, and live rough on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Meseret for Women runs a refuge in Addis where these mothers and babies are safe and given a chance to break free from the vicious cycle of poverty.
We are currently managed by a small team of unpaid Trustees and volunteers in the UK and 10 salaried staff at our partner NGO in Ethiopia. Our partner NGO is managed locally by Weinab Seyfu who has beein instrumental in the establishment of Meseret for Women in Addis.
“Vulnerable women often find themselves pregnant and unable to fully support a newborn child. It is our aim to allow these women the time to develop a bond with their child in a caring environment to break this cycle.” – Rachel Duke, founder.
In Ethiopia, 24% of the population are estimated to live in poverty. In addition, it is estimated that some 13 million children live in poor households in Ethiopia, 2 million of whom are in extreme poverty. Women make up a high proportion of the poorest segment of society. The lack of educational and employment opportunities for women, makes the economic situation of women challenging. As a result, female-headed families are highly affected by poverty in both urban and rural areas. Moreover, female-headed households are more likely than male-headed households to develop food insecurity or face housing constraints in urban areas.
Often poor women engage in the informal sector to make a living. However, many, especially mothers with children, turn to begging to support themselves and their families. The number of homeless women and children in Ethiopian cities is increasing and their presence on the streets is common.
Pregnant girls and young women are extremely vulnerable in Addis Ababa – pregnant girls are a burden and are often sent to live with distant relatives or family ‘friends’ where they are vulnerable to exploitation and sexual abuse. Separated from their families, terrified and alone. These girls, often hardly more than children themselves, find themselves pregnant, soon to be single mothers, without any parental guidance, family support or government safety net and are incredibly vulnerable. Young pregnant girls and women are then cast out to the street – the most dangerous and frightening life a young mother can be swept into. Heavily pregnant, often with other young children – these women have nowhere to go and feel forced to give their child up for adoption, or worse, feel forced to abandon them. Those who choose to stay with their babies face further stigma, shame and an impossible future.