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H.E. Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary General kicks-off Blue Heart Campaign activities in Ethiopia at a breakfast dialogue hosted by the Kingdom of Norway

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 21 October 2019 – As the Government of Ethiopia launches the Blue Heart Campaign this week, 150 men and women from the Ethiopian Government, United Nations and the International community, Civil Society, art, culture and academic sectors,  gathered at the Residence of the Royal Norwegian Ambassador to Ethiopia for a breakfast dialogue underlining the transformational role of women in responding to human trafficking - a heinous crime that sees women and girls disproportionally affected.

The Royal Norwegian Ambassador to Ethiopia, H. E. Ms. Merete Lundemo, and the Royal Norwegian Ambassador to the African Union, H. E. Mr. Morton Aasland joined forces to host the event entitled “The Transformational Role of Women in addressing Human Trafficking: Looking at gender dimensions”.  

The event provided a space for women and men from all walks of life, including policy makers, experts and implementers, survivors of human trafficking, influencers and activists, to discuss the contribution and role of women in preventing and addressing human trafficking with an emphasis on the need to have gender tailored and responsive solutions. Both Royal Norwegian Ambassadors, in their respective addresses, set the tone of the event by underlining the immoral and degrading nature of the crime, while emphasizing the commitment of Norway to fight all forms of human trafficking - a commitment that is rooted in a deep respect for human rights, inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. Amado Phillip de Andrés, providing introductory remarks on behalf of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), stressed the importance of meaningfully engaging women in the design and implementation of interventions and services in order to generate solutions and policies that are pro-women, pro-poor, pro-families and pro-children, which in return generates safe environments that decrease the risk of women and girls being trafficked. Appreciating that women and girls are at the centre of the crime and that they represent over 2/3 of victims, Mr. de Andrés, in his call to action, said “…, I also feel a great responsibility to listen, contribute and advocate for this crime to be curbed, and for prosecution to be successful.  This is personal to me.  I hope that as you think of women and girls in your community you will feel the same urge to say:  No more - I need to be part of the prevention and the solutions”.

Dr. Gedion Timothewos, Deputy Attorney General of Ethiopia, addressed the audience and reaffirmed the national resolve fight and ultimately end this crime, saying, “We need to attack human trafficking with all of our might”. The Government of Ethiopia leads on national collaborative efforts to prevent and fight human trafficking and under the auspices of the Federal Office of the Attorney General, an Anti-Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants Taskforce was established in 2015 (Article 40 of Proclamation 909/2015).  The task-force brings together over 40 organisations pulled from international organisations, civil society organisations, religious institutions as well as government bodies and is mandated to design policies, strategies, action plans and measures that enable the protection and assistance of victims in collaboration with appropriate government organs, aid partners, and when necessary, with international organizations and implement them upon approval by the national committee. It is also tasked to develop the National plan of action for the prevention and control of the crime and obtain approval of it from the national committee, supervise its implementation and submit reports periodically. The task-force collaborates with relevant stakeholders to ensure that appropriate mechanisms are in place for the rehabilitation, assistance and reintegration of victims with the society.

Her Excellency Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations and keynote speaker at the event, applauded the leadership of Ethiopia in being the first Sub-Saharan country to join 30 other countries in supporting the United Nations Blue Heart Campaign and recognised the importance of a movement such as #EthiopiaHasAHeart.  

While underlining and thanking men for their presence and show of support at the event, she also underlined Ethiopia’s regional leadership in advancing the participation of women in public life, including through a political cabinet that is half female. The Deputy Secretary-General reiterated the imperative need to empower women to ensure they take their just and meaningful space to continue to contribute to the realization of the 2030 agenda. She said, “Harnessing the energies, skills and resources of all parts of our societies to address global challenges and achieve the SDGs means enabling women to have a voice and an active role”.

Understanding the horrific nature of the crime that is human trafficking, and appreciating the myriad of interventions that are required to prevent it, the Deputy Secretary General recalled that “multiple targets under the SDGs call for addressing human trafficking, to prevent abuse and exploitation, eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls, eradicate forced and child labour, and stop transnational organized crime.

While pressing on the need to work together to enhance the meaningful participation of youth, to empower women and girls to promote justice, including to prevent and counter human trafficking, as a means to unlock the great potential of Ethiopia and the region, she did recall the words of the UNODC Regional Representative for Eastern Africa, Mr. Amado Phillip de Andrés, and reminded all that preventing human trafficking starts with oneself - it is personal.

The event, structured as a dialogue forum to provide a platform for all attendees to engage on the matter, was moderated by Ms. Munit Mesfin, a celebrated Ethiopian singer and songwriter. To trigger an interactive session, Ms. Mesfin invited three national champions, all working in preventing and addressing the needs of victims of human trafficking. Ms. Fetiya Seid, Head of Secretariat of the Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce for Ethiopia, Ms.  Hirut Yibabe Zawde, a founding member of the Good Samaritans, an Ethiopian organization which works to combat human trafficking, and Ms. Mahlet Hailemariam, Executive Director of the Organization for Prevention, Rehabilitation and Integration of Female Street Children (OPRIFS).  These national champions provided their views and technical expertise on the gender related dimensions needed to address this crime, as well as the gaps in the response and the challenges to tackle comprehensively the problem from root causes, to prevention and successful prosecution.

The event was closed by Mr. Wegayehu Yireda, Director General of International Organisations Directorate of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Dr. Markos Tekle, State Minister for Foreign Affairs. He underlined the seriousness of the crime and appreciated the proportionate measures and efforts of the Government of Ethiopia to bring an end to human trafficking. Mr. Yireda invited all in attendance to join the thousands of committed men and women that will gather on 24 October 2019 at the Millennium Hall for the official launch of Blue Heart Campaign in Ethiopia. Indeed, the occasion will be an unprecedented one - a gathering apt and proportional to the scale of the commitment of the Government of Ethiopia.