Girl, 10, reunited with parents after being turned into domestic slave

A 10-year-old girl has been reunited with her mother and father after running away from an abusive relative.

When she was aged six, Selam* moved to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, to live with a wealthy relative who had promised her parents to provide for her every need.

Being poor, and believing that this family member was offering their daughter the chance of a better life, they arranged for Selam to leave their rural village for the city.

STREET SCENE: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

But when Selam arrived at her relative’s home, she was forced into domestic servitude. Aged just six, she was put to work caring for an infant, preparing food and cleaning the property.

A member of Hope for Justice’s team said: “This relative had lied to Selam’s parents, making false promises of a new life in Addis Ababa.

“At an incredibly young age, her childhood was taken away from her and she was forced to carry out domestic tasks, which included looking after a baby. She wasn’t allowed to attend school.

“She was only given scraps of food to eat and often went hungry. She was beaten without reason.”

After several years of enduring this hardship, and with no prospect of being returned to her parents, Selam decided to run away, though she had nowhere else to go.

She was found wandering in the streets by a policeman, who referred her to global anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice.

Selam was placed in the care of staff at one of the charity’s Lighthouses – short-term care facilities – where she received friendship, support, medical treatment, schooling and counselling.

A member of Hope for Justice’s team in Ethiopia said: “Selam was very shy at first and unable to express her feelings.

“Once she had been here for a little while, she gradually began to talk more openly and was soon participating in group activities.

“Selam had been with us for about one month when she began talking about going to see her parents.”

Hope for Justice has since reunited Selam with her parents.

“Her mother couldn’t believe her eyes,” the member of staff said. “She didn’t know that her little girl had gone missing and couldn’t believe that the relative would do something like this. Her parents were very emotional and relieved to have their daughter back with them.

“They said they were incredibly thankful for everything that Hope for Justice is doing.”

Selam is due to start school in the next term.

*Name changed to protect identity of victim