Adolescent girls and young women in low- and middle-income countries are migrating from rural to urban areas in ever greater numbers. This increase in migration has given rise to a “migration industry” that includes brokers, informal labor intermediaries, and recruiters who facilitate migration or help new arrivals with employment.
The Population Council conducted a large-scale study of rural–urban migration among girls and young women in Ethiopia. The research included a sample of brokers, documenting for the first time their role in the migration experience of girls and young women. The study revealed a continuum—from brokers who are well-intentioned to those who deceive, sexually exploit, or traffic female migrants into commercial sex work.
“Girls who migrate pique your interest. She may be a virgin.… There is a saying that goes, ‘Brokers don’t let go of girls without sampling them first.’ It is true. You invite her for coffee or tea … while you are having coffee or tea together, the time goes. You tell her that you are going to get a room for her and that she is going to sleep there. She will say OK because has no other option.… If she is unsure, you create some strategy to persuade her and control her mind.… I have done this to 60 girls.… maybe more than this.” —Male broker
Building on these findings, Population Council researchers are implementing Selam Medireshachen (Safe Arrival)—a program to tackle the risk of violence and trafficking among migrant girls. The program is located in main bus terminals in Addis Ababa which are the primary entry points for migrating girls and where a large concentration of brokers is found. With the goal to disrupt the pattern of sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking, the pilot program creates a support network of certified “safer brokers” and female “arrival allies” drawn from market women in the bus stations. Law enforcement and transport authorities also receive training.
Researchers are tracking the feasibility and experience of the program using in-depth interviews with female migrants, brokers, and market women. This is a novel project addressing an under-researched topic. Results will fill a significant knowledge gap on the dynamics of migration and trafficking.