Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ethiopia: Supporting women that are victims to violence in Ethiopia

Source: Norwegian People's Aid (NPA)

Supporting women that are victims to violence in Ethiopia

"My uncle locked me inside his compound and prohibited me from going to school. Though it was late, I managed to escape and reached Addis Ababa", says "Emita".

"Thanks to AWSD Safe House and the training I obtained there, I now live a better life by selling k'ollo (toasted grains) to customers".

"Emita" is a 22 year old woman, born in a small village around Jirru town. When she was a little girl she was brought to Jirru to be raised by her uncle, but things didn't turn out well. "My uncle made me his servant and I had to work without rest. Some neighbours advised me to disappear and search for a better life in Addis Ababa".

When "Emita" reached Addis she was employed by an old woman as a house maid. Unfortunately the woman died soon after, and she moved in with a bachelor. "I had my first sexual contact with him because he said he would marry me. But instead he beat me and forced me to leave his house when he discovered I was pregnant with his child".

"I hid my condition and found employment in a new house", says "Emita, "but after delivering my baby I was forced out and ended up in the streets". She had to make ends meet every day by begging for food. Two weeks later somebody told her about the AWSD Safe House, where she received treatment, care and protection. "The five months I have stayed here have made a real change to my life", says "Emita".

"Emita's" story is not unique. Many young girls end up in the streets of Addis Ababa. Association for Women's Sanctuary and Development (AWSD) is the first safe-house for women in Ethiopia, with 50 beds for victims. There are also many children at the shelter. AWSD works closely with the police and the Ethiopian women lawyers association (EWLA).

Everybody who comes to the safe-house learn that they have rights in the national Constitution. For example Article 35: "Rights of Women ", states that women have the same rights and protection as men in marriage, property rights, etc. This is something many of the women have never heard of before.

In addition to legal counselling, the women at the safe-house learn life skills such as setting up small businesses, make handicraft and learn how to advertise and sell their products in the market. In addition the women learn taekwondo, which helps strengthen their self esteem and enables them to defend themselves against physical and psychological abuse.

The women also learn to communicate better with others, by explaining, discussing and listening. They do role-plays and practice good communication techniques. When they leave the shelter, many women do it with a straightened back and increased self-confidence in addition to life-skills. Many have become able to provide for themselves and their children. Some of them have also been supported to go to school to complete their basic education.

NPA has supported AWSD since 2007 with staff salaries, covering a percentage of the running of the centre and various trainings the women can take part in. AWSD is part of a network of NPA partners who work to fight violence against women in various ways, among them HIBIR who arranges taekwondo/ women's rights courses for girls and women.