By Daniel “Skiff” Skiffington | The Mocha Club

(Prostitute on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

(Prostitute on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

The streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia bustle with activity during the day. Shoppers crowd markets, taxi cabs dash across busy streets and Arabian-style music booms from office towers. For the most part, Addis seems to be an ordinary city. But as the sun sets, remaining illusions of normalcy disappear. Young girls, some between the ages of 12 and 15, line city streets in hopes of finding a customer or two for the night.

What makes Addis different than cities in the U.S. with prostitution problems? The answer lies in the statistics. More than 150,000 women walk the streets each night. Many charge $1 per trick, making them accessible to both Ethiopians and those on business from the West. In many ways, prostitution here is a result of poverty. Unemployment is over 50 percent. Ask a woman to leave the streets and she might go months, years or even decades without work.

Through a partnership with an organization called Women at Risk, Mocha Club supports those wanting to leave the life of being a prostitute or “sex worker.” The idea is simple: befriend women and encourage them to live a better life. The actual process is much more complicated. Through the dedication of local staff members and volunteers, Women At Risk’s goal is to get these women off the streets, counsel them, and equip them with job training so they are empowered to support themselves and their children in a new way, encouraging them to leave behind the life of prostitution forever. We’ll spend the next week with the organization and the people it helps. Stay tuned.

(The Mocha Club Experience: Starting November 1, 2009, Seattle Pacific University recent graduates Daniel “Skiff” Skiffington and Charlie “Char” Beck visit all of Mocha Club’s current projects in 7 countries and take Mocha Club supporters and friends on a three-month virtual adventure to experience real life in Africa.)