Portrait of Listros

Listros: children and young people who work in the streets of Ethiopia.

The word Listros comes from the Italian word „lustro“ and means „make it shine". The name „Listro“ is used for the young boys and girls, who, through easy tasks, earn money. Listros work not only as shoeshiners, but also as errand boys, ticket sellers, newspaperboys, animal carers, fruit sellers, maids, and waitresses. They come from the surrounding countryside to the city to get an education and support their families.

For generations, Ethiopians have looked to after-school jobs to improve their living conditions. Much of what the Listros learn for their futures is learned outside the classroom. A sense of responsibility, duty, identity, and the ability to connect to others are all things that are high on the extracurricular agenda.

Education is considered very important in Ethiopia. School attendance in itself is free, but parents must pay for school materials and the obligatory school uniforms. When their parents cannot pay for their education, the Listros take fate into their own hands and many start to work. With their hard-earned money, they can both help their families and finance their education.

Paradoxically, their initiative leads to a dilemma. Due to the additional responsibility that a job adds alongside schoolwork, the young Listros do not have enough free time. This leads, often enough, to poor school results and early school leaving. Many experience this as a personal failure, and there is a resulting lack of confidence. This, in turn, engenders passivity and a loss of incentive to shape the future.

Since 2003, LISTROS ASSOCIATION in Berlin, Germany has created interdisciplinary projects to support the youth in Ethiopia and to better their living situation. This position is enshrined in the Declaration of Principles of LISTROS ASSOCIATION. Child labor, where children are forced to work under exploitative conditions instead of attending school, is vehemently opposed and condemned in the strongest terms. Child labor is understood here as depriving children of their childhood and also a happy life as an adult. The Listros Association combats child labor, which prevents the development of the child – it must be forbidden, as children working under these conditions is reprehensible.

On LISTROS DAY 2012, the voices of the Listros will be heard. Then those who are watching will witness their greatness, dignity, and confidence.The Listros take their fates into their own hands. Despite this fact and them forming the backbone of Ehiopian society the Listros go unacknowledged and unprotected. We want to encourage them to take their concerns to politicians and civil society.