Ethiopia: What it takes to live a fulfilled family life
23 May 2011

Participants during a past workshop in Addis Ababa. In 2011, JRS holds six workshops to increase knowledge and skills in various areas among asylum seekers and undocumented refugees in the Ethiopian capital. (JRS Ethiopia)
"In the Somali culture no matter what the number of children already is, we give birth as much as we can believing that Allah will provide."
Addis Ababa, 23 May 2011 – Almost 30 asylum seekers and undocumented refugees who otherwise have very little access to services and information had a chance to learn what it takes to live a happy and fulfilled family life during a three-day workshop held by JRS in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. 

The workshop aimed to help participants develop a better understanding between men and women in marriage, to promote the development of stable and peaceful family life and to help parents find the right approach to raise their children. The training further sought to create a deeper respect between men and women, particularly regarding their sexual relationship.

"We have seen an urgent need among asylum seekers to explore this issue further," says Hanna Petros, Project Director of the JRS Emergency Needs Programme in Addis Ababa. "Most of them do not know any methods of family planning. Others are used to giving birth to an endless number of children because their culture expects them to do so, but they are unaware of the health risks this implies."

During the three days participants learnt about the importance of family planning and methods to improve maternal and child health and reduce morbidity and mortality by optimally planning the timing, spacing and numbers of births.

Knowledge useful for everyone

The training was an opportunity for the participants to reach a common understanding regarding the importance of family planning in regard to preventing immediate and long-term negative health, economic and social consequences. It was facilitated by a professional with a medical background from the Department of Family and Laity Ministry of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat

"The topic provoked a lot of discussion and seemed to knock everyone’s door. Every participant had some comments or questions," said Ms Petros. 

Participants were between 19 and 40 years old. Majority of them were Somalis with others coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Eritrea and Kenya. Ten were women. 

"We were misled by our culture, by irrational thoughts and legends, suggesting that the more we give birth the more we gain respect in our community,"said a Somali participant. "In the Somali culture no matter what the number of children already is, we give birth as much as we can believing that Allah will provide,"she added.

As the evaluation forms later revealed, 97 percent of the participants said the workshop exceeded their expectations. "I am happy to have discovered new methods that will help me build a loving and strong family,"said one participant. "It was a great benefit to have access to this kind of information,"said another.

Promoting behavioural change among refugees

"I encourage you to put the knowledge you have gained through this workshop into practice and to pass it on to your community," said Seyoum Asfaw, JRS Ethiopia Director when concluding the workshop. He then handed over certificates to the participants of which ninety-three percent were semi-literate and only seven literate, and for whom it had been the first time to participate in such a workshop. 

The JRS Emergency Needs Programme in Addis Ababa will continue to promote behavioural change within the refugee community through such workshops. This was the second workshop held on family planning and HIV/AIDS in 2011. JRS also helps asylum seekers and undocumented refugees improve their skills and knowledge in other areas, such as basic business skills, gender mainstreaming, female genital mutilation and prevention of diseases. At the end of the year, 150 refugees will have better knowledge in the various areas. 

Press Contact Information
Angelika Mendes
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