Many Ethiopians living in the Diaspora have to work up to 16 hours a
day to make ends meet. More often than not they have to travel long distances to
reach work in time. The problem is exacerbated when they give birth to children.
It is usually very difficult to find baby sitters and even harder to afford the
expenses. Therefore, some Ethiopian parents try to invite their mothers or
grandmothers to help them raise their children at least until they are old
enough to express their wishes.
A significant difference between Ethiopia and Belgium can be seen in
the aspect of raising children and respecting their rights to begin with. The
population of Belgium, which is a little over 10 million is growing at less than
one per cent annually. The decline is of great concern. Families are encouraged
to procreate as much as possible. One way of encouraging women is to give them
maternity leave in advance. An expecting mother is given a preparation allowance
of more than 1,100 euros to be used to buy the necessary clothing and nursing
When she delivers, the mother is visited by congratulating colleagues
toting toys and dolls, apart from the stipend she gets from the government. If
she is a secretary or an employee with insurance benefits she gets a maternity
leave of at least 5 months with full salary payment. Should her doctor feel that
the mother needs more time either to tend her baby or her own health, the leave
can be extended further.
The inspectors of the commune (kebele) visit the home to make sure that
there is enough room for the family. In cases where families dwell under
congested situations, the community service does everything possible to help
them secure a better place to live by giving them priority of leasing a house in
There are institutions or even private nurseries where baby-sitting
services are given on payment. These baby-sitting nurseries take the
precautionary steps for child care in accordance with the established standards
and child-care regulations. The nurseries play a very important role in molding
the child in keeping with the norms of health care.
These institutions have grades or categories that match the ages of the
children. In and around Brussels, children learn to speak in French. Ethiopian
parents face the challenge of imparting their mother tongue while bringing up
their children which is rather taxing, given the circumstances and the
environment under which they are raised.
Date of birth is an essential factor not only in the life of a child
but also in one’s own life. As far as children are concerned even the birthday
gifts are designed according to ages and gender. Birthdays are celebrated in
every family and friends and family members are expected to participate.
One can not carry or hold the hands of a child and walk the streets of
Brussels. Children are, by law, transported in trolleys from place to place
until they reach a certain age. City buses or trams are designed in such a way
that they can accommodate the requirements of the little rolling cots. They have
doors on the same level as the sidewalks so that the mothers can easily pull in
or push out the trolley while boarding the bus or tram.
If a child misbehaves or acts rough, parents cannot physically punish
or beat the child. Various methods of counseling have to be applied to raise the
child in the best manner possible. Incidentally, the government gives
remuneration of at least 90 euros per month for each child if the parents have
jobs and 140 euros if they are jobless (There are families receiving as much as
1500 Euro per month for their children). These child allowances are subsidies
paid apart from the first maternal payments and debited to the accounts of the
parent in charge of raising the child. The children are cared for to the extent
that many Ethiopian parents fear that such attention tends to spoil the child.
Seen from the Ethiopian perspective all the toys and dolls accumulated
and possessed by the child could inculcate the sense of materialist and self
-centered attitude in the minds of the children. This concern is aggravated by
the fact that the children keep on watching and stay glued to the TV children’s
In the Ethiopian context for example, children are expected to be
obedient to their parents. The practice helps them to be physically fit and
develop a healthy relationship with their parents. Washing hands and faces or
dressing oneself or cleaning shoes can be little activities that help the child
to feel responsible for certain routines. If we talk about Ethiopian children in
the rural areas the story is completely different. There they help in the farm
by tending some domestic animals or running errands. In fact the very essence of
giving birth to a child is essentially to have additional supporting labor. The
more children they have the more labor they would have for their farm.
Responsibility sharing begins developing in the minds of children although a lot
of them could be vulnerable to child abuse.
When a child, grows to the level of maturity and gets somewhere in the
field of education the attachment to parents dwindles and comes to a low level.
When children grow to adulthood and as soon as they graduate from school, they
start living on their own.
Except in few cases separation from families is almost impossible due
to many reasons chief among which is the lack of having employment
opportunities. Even if they get jobs somehow, the chances of getting houses to
live in are very remote. Many families keep their grown ups as dependents
sometimes up to the age of 30 years or even more. In fact some experts argue
that dependency on families and guardians is a factor that perpetuates poverty
at grass roots level and above.
They advise that parents should inculcate the sense of self-reliance in
the outlooks of their children when they raise them.