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A day in the life of Emu

12:00 am


Sixteen year old Emu is proud of the life she has built for herself and her nine year old sister, Betty. While they were abandoned by their parents years ago—and live on the streets of Dire Dawa by themselves—they run their own small business, selling snacks, and have managed to stay in school. Emu is in 8th grade

5:00 am

Reading books, waking up

Emu wakes very early, often 5 am, to study before she must begin work. For breakfast she eats bread with sugar sprinkled on it. If she can afford it, on Saturday mornings she takes a shower in a public toilet service.

6:30 am


When her mother abandoned them, five years ago, Emu realised that her sister’s life depended on her. For three years she took on small jobs, carrying messages and washing clothes and dishes. When she had saved enough money, she opened her own stall. While she works hard, some days the girls do not have enough to eat.

11:00 am

Helping her sister get ready for school

Betty goes to school every afternoon. Emu believes that going to school is a privilege and makes sure that her sister is neat every day. She helps do her hair and keeps her clothes clean.

12:00 pm

Proud of being at school

Emu goes to a special “catch up” school for children who did not get the opportunity to go to regular school. Class meets on Monday and Tuesday from 12:00 to 5:00 and again for a few hours each evening. Her fees are paid by a kind neighbour. Emu is proud to wear a school uniform again.

8:00 pm

Returning to the veranda, eating and sleeping

Each evening Emu feeds Betty dinner and helps her with her homework. If there is money, they buy bread and beans. If there is no money then they either eat left-overs from local hotels or eat at their neighbour’s—who gives them food  in exchange for washing dishes. The sisters go to sleep at 9.30 pm.