Tue. Jun 11th, 2024

Amina is one of the many women who have experienced conflict-related sexual violence during the devastating two-year conflict in northern Ethiopia. For more than three years, she kept silent about her experience. Amina says she feared being stigmatized by family, friends and community members. “The burden was immense, affecting my health and relationships. My partner left me once he realized what had happened. My outlook on men has changed,” Amina said.

A turning point came when she attended community conversation sessions facilitated by the Amhara Women’s Association. These sessions provided psychosocial support and provided a safe space for Amina to share her experience, and she began the healing process. Through these discussions, Amina learned about gender-based violence (GBV), its consequences and the available support services. With newfound courage, she confided in others about her ordeal.

The support of case workers and counsellors also proved invaluable.  Amina was able to access vital support, including counselling, HIV testing and cash assistance, paving the way for her journey to recovery.

The Amhara Women’s Association (AWA) has been instrumental in providing support and services to survivors of GBV, like Amina, in the region. Through collaborative efforts, AWA has expanded access to essential services, including case management, psychosocial support and referrals, empowering survivors to rebuild their lives and futures.

These efforts are made possible through the Response to Conflict-related Sexual Violence Project in the Tigray, Afar, Amhara and Benishangul Gumuz regions, with funding from the Candian government. Through this project, UNFPA supports GBV programming in partnership with the Amhara Women Association in Debark, Debrebirhan, Dessie, Kombolcha and Nefas Mewcha Woredas, where five Women and Girl-Friendly Spaces (WGFS), and two safe houses are operating. A comprehensive service integrated with MHPSS services is available for GBV survivors in all WGFS.

GBV prevention and risk-mitigation activities are also addressed through awareness raising, cash-based intervention, and the provision of dignity kits for the most vulnerable women and girls. The Association of Women Sanctuary and Development (AWSAD) provides safe shelters to survivors in the region, with referrals through the region’s Bureau of Women, Children and Social Affairs. 

Adanech Shiferaw, UNFPA GBViE analyst, says Amina’s story is just one example of the transformative power of GBV support in overcoming trauma and building resilience. “Amina’s journey highlights the pressing need to address GBV and provide support for survivors in communities across Ethiopia. By breaking the silence surrounding GBV and offering comprehensive services, the endeavors of the Amhara Women’s Association are instrumental in empowering women and girls to reclaim their lives and future.”

Amina says she sees progress every day, but she worries about the current situation in the region. “I have received continued psychological support. If I continue with this and with Allah’s will, I will return to my normal health. However, the ongoing conflict worries me and I am afraid women, including me, are at risk of more violence.” she said. 

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UNFPA – East and Southern Africa.

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