New book on Ethiopia details child slavery

Ethiopia women struggles. New book highlights child slavery in country.

Aug16, 2012, CAIRO (Bikya Masr): A new book published in the United Kingdom has detailed child slavery in Ethiopia. Author Judie Oron, a journalist, had rescued a young Ethiopian Jewish girl from slavery in 1992, paying $111 for the then 17-year-old.

Today, that girl, Wuditu, lives a life in freedom, away from the struggles that formed her early years.

That story was brought to the London Public Library’s Wolf Performance Hall as part of the Investing in Children’s week-long book camp.

Oron took Wuditu into her family (not her real name since Oron continues to protect her identity) and kept her story secret to shield her from publicity. But three years ago, Wuditu asked Oron to write about her journey from slavery to draw attention to the problem of child slavery in Ethiopia.

The result was the award-winning book for children and teenagers, Cry of the Giraffe, which follows Wuditu’s story “in her own voice,” a story based in fact but delivered with some fictional elements, such as dialogue.

The story begins when Oron was working as a journalist at The Jerusalem Post, which had established a fund to purchase basic goods for the Ethiopian Jews who had fled Ethiopia’s repressive Marxist government, trekked across hundreds of kilometres and waited in Sudan’s refugee camps to be airlifted to Israel.

On another occasion, Oron was asked by an Israeli Embassy worker in Ethiopia to look after a young girl, Lewteh, who had been separated from her family. The child’s father’s health was failing and he asked Oron to raise the girl, which she did. The father had paid another man to go back to Ethiopia and search for another lost daughter. The man returned and said she was dead.

“For two years, Lewteh never asked about (her older sister) Wuditu,” Oron recalled.

“Then one night I found her crying in her room, writing a letter to her allegedly dead sister and she said she didn’t believe the man who said her sister was dead was really telling the truth. She said, ‘I can still feel my sister breathing.’”

So Oron returned to Ethiopia and eventually found Wuditu, narrowly escaping a mob that had just discovered Wuditu was a Jew and was going to harm her.

The sisters were reunited and Oron, the mother of two boys, now had a family of four children.

Today, Wuditu is in her late 30s and Oron won’t reveal much about her, except to say she is now a case worker helping other people who’ve gone through similar experiences.

–Bikya Masr