“I have lived everything there is to be lived in this city. Now I need to leave because all that is left for me here is misery and I want a better life for my child.”
It is with these words that Tizita, a 21-year-old mother-of-one from Gojjam in northern Ethiopia, described her dismay at life in Addis Ababa when I interviewed her in 2022. After living in the Ethiopian capital for eight years, she had had enough. Tizita was set on moving to one of the Gulf States, a part of the world from where many of the women she met on the street had returned from and were planning to re-migrate to. Having previously worked as a domestic worker in Addis Ababa, and having learnt that sex work was the only way to make “real money” in the city, the young woman remained focused on meeting the fundamental purpose of her migration project: transforming her life.
For Fikadu, a 27-year-old man from Wollega in western Ethiopia, the strain of life in the city is similar, yet different. Unlike for young women like Tizita, whose income-earning activities are overwhelmingly limited to domestic work, petty street work, commercial sex work and begging, the fractions of the informal economy available to migrant men are slightly wider. Nevertheless, this is not to say that times have not been hard. Having previously worked as a street vendor selling second-hand clothes, Fikadu has had to downscale his work and is struggling to meet the rising costs of food, rent, sending money to his family of origin, and realising his plans for the future:
“Our supplies disappeared and when they were back, the price went up by more than double. That was the end of it. Now I pay for my life here by selling socks, but I don’t let that dismay me. I remain focused on my plans of transforming my life here, and once things improve I will start saving for my own metalwork shop.”
The testimonies of Tizita and Fikadu form part of a longitudinal qualitative research project that maps the livelihood strategies of a sample of migrant youth in Addis Ababa at two points in time between 2018 and 2022. Drawing on these findings, this blog outlines some of the ways in which rural-urban migrant youth between the ages of 15-27 experience and counteract pressure. Through an exploration of migrants’ everyday strategies of navigating the city, findings presented here show how dealing with the intricacies of urban life relates intimately to the lives rural youth left behind and the imaginary futures they aspire towards, the ways in which youth relate to the social and economic responsibilities they carry, and the manner in which subjective pressure experienced by women and men has a compounding effect that further exacerbates the challenges migrant youth face.Read More »