If you turn on the television or browse the Internet, you are sure to see articles on Ebola posted everywhere! It’s the main topic of discussion in most households. If not, it probably will be.
It’s hard to think of Africa currently without also simultaneously thinking about Ebola. While it is understandable that a negative connotation has been made because of the virus, there is also a reason to see the positive contributions coming out of Africa, as well.
I recently interviewed a gracious woman from Africa who is on a mission. She is Serawit Friedmeyer. Those who know her call her “Cherry.”
Friedmeyer is the Director of a nonprofit organization in Ethiopia, called Women at Risk or E-WAR. She has been with the organization since 1994.
Friedmeyer said she aspires to see the need around her and to help others in need. “I have been blessed growing up and I have my faith and my experiences to share,” said Freidmeyer.
Friedmeyer’s organization is doing great things for an often overlooked segment of the population. The organization’s vision is to renew hope for those young girls and women of Ethiopia who find themselves victims of prostitution.
The staff of Women at Risk (Photo Credit: w-a-r-e.org)
The mission of E-WAR is to “Love, accept and reach out to urban women in prostitution, with a view to building community through relationships, improving their quality of life and challenging civil society, about the issues they face through effective prevention and educational programs.”
E-WAR is a Christian-based organization that believes the issues of prostitution in Ethiopia are not that much different from the rest of the world. Poverty, lack of education and job opportunities, the breakdown of the family, teenage pregnancy, and sexual, emotional and physical abuse round out the top reasons why some females in Ethiopia turn to prostitution.
Factors that lead women in other parts of the world to the trade are gender discrimination, race discrimination, poverty, abandonment, debilitating sexual and verbal abuse, poor or no education and jobs that don’t pay a living wage.
Friedmeyer describes the program as one in which her organization first approaches the women on the streets, not in a condemning or judgmental way, but one that allows the organization to build rapport and trust with the women.
“If a woman shows that she is really interested in leaving prostitution then we invite her to our offices,” Friedmeyer said.
Women will be invited to attend weekly meetings at the nonprofit’s office in order to participate in group meetings. These group meetings will teach those in attendance about the ills of prostitution and how the lives of women are detrimentally impacted by remaining in the trade.
The group meetings also allow the organization to pinpoint who is really steadfast in wanting to leave prostitution.
Once it is determined that a woman is onboard and committed to getting out, then there will be a formal interview process. A woman will be asked to sign an agreement stating that she will not participate in prostitution during the organization’s year-long program.
In return, the organization will provide the women with a place to live, therapy, Christian-based worship, job assistance, and childcare among other valuable services that the women need in order to make the transition into a better way of life.
Once the women have successfully made it through the program, E-WAR follows up with aftercare to insure the likelihood that the women will not return to a life of prostitution.
E-WAR depends on charitable donations from Christian churches and other Christian organizations, along with private donations from the public.
The women in the program also make scarves, jewelry, purses and other items, the proceeds of which, go toward funding the E-WAR program and the women it serves.
Friedmeyer also indicated that her organization is working on a new program to add to the existing E-WAR program. “Our organization is looking to make a bigger impact by introducing a new program,” Friedmeyer said.
This innovative program will focus on deterring girls and women from turning to prostitution in the first place.
Once the organization has a clear picture of what the individual is facing and why they may seek a life as a prostitute, it will go into full prevention mode to proactively stop the issues before they are allowed to grow.
It is believed that the new program will require more interaction with the entire family, introduction of parenting skills, and a reduction of all other issues that may lead the females to enter the prostitution trade initially.
It would appear that Friedmeyer and E-WAR are going to be even busier in the near future then they are now.
Plans are already underway to erect a new building in Ethiopia that E-WAR can use to conduct group counseling and to house additional women that enter their program
If you are interested in donating to the current program, the new program, or if you are interested in donating to help erect the new building, donations may be given at www.moreforher.org.
Friedmeyer believes that her faith in God has served her well at E-WAR and relies on God to bring many more projects to fruition in Ethiopia in the future.
She also believes in the people she works with in the organization and is optimistic that there will be more wonderful things to share from Africa by way of this God-driven organization.
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