Etenat Awol and Fikir Getachew, two women poets from Addis Ababa, got up on stage to read a poem they had written about the verbal abuse they face every day because of their gender while walking the streets of the city.
They described how their bodies no longer belonged to them and instead belonged to the males who catcalled and shamed them for things over which they had no control, and how humiliating and demoralizing it was to be the object of their attacks.
When presenting their poem, Fikir’s goal was not only to discuss how to stop the catcalling and verbal and physical abuse, but also to draw attention to the larger issue of patriarchy that allowed it to happen in the first place.
“Our fight cannot be selective, and we cannot just speak up when it is convenient to do so,” Fikir said. “This is something we go through every day, and it’s an ongoing fight. A woman doesn’t have to be bleeding for you to notice that there is structural and cultural violence that is hindering women.”
Menberemariam Hailu, another poet, also took the stage to tell her tale through poetry. She noted that rather than implying that women are incapable of succeeding or only discussing the reasons why they are hampered, it is important to highlight the strengths and accomplishments of women despite their challenges.
She says she has been to many events and read her poems in many different places, but this was the first time she went to one that was about gender and violence against women.
“It was a great opportunity to not only speak of my experiences through my poems, but to also listen to the other poets’ experiences, which I was able to learn a lot from,” Menberemariam said.
At a show titled “Her Stories,” the artists delivered works from the heart, including poetry and music. The event was organized by the German Embassy and the Ethiopian Human Rights Defender Center as part of the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.
People from all around the world come together for these 16 days, which began this year on November 25th, to share experiences and stand against the various types of assaults that women experience on a daily basis.
By featuring a roster of poets, musicians, and artists that are entirely female, the event aims to empower young women. They can discuss the various forms of violence they experience as a result of their gender in this way by using their work.
“Our economy, financial status, and social status contribute to gender-based violence. So we thought, why not empower instead by giving young talented talented women the platform. This is also a place where people can discuss, share, and express the things that they go through,” Kalkidan Tesfaye, senior advocacy and communications department of the Ethiopian Human Rights Defender Center, said.
The event had a repertoire of poets and musicians in addition to images from the “Bored Cellphone” photography group on Facebook, which was selected as it was started by a group of young photographers.
Through the viewpoint of young people, it depicted the hardships faced by Ethiopian women. The top twenty images that best captured the experiences of women in Ethiopia from many perspectives, including displacement, poverty, disabilities, and more, were chosen.
One of the attendees, Bethlehem, mentioned how the explanations for the photographs on exhibit were a lovely aspect of the occasion.
She particularly admired the image’s narrative, in which an elderly woman is depicted carrying her child through a perilous route to a nearby monastery, where she will ask for forgiveness. The woman believes her child is ill and that her misdeeds are to blame for her illness.
“Women face many things throughout their lives. These photos gave me an insight into just how many things they go through in their daily lives and opened up a whole new perspective on their battles,” Bethelehem said.
Bethelehem claims that there were aspects of the poetry recitals that she could identify with because she had experienced them herself. “I genuinely loved being able to witness and hear these issues being discussed through works of art produced by women.”
Her Story strives to establish a space for representation, progress, and movement towards a better future for women by hearing about the various hardships that women go through in the performances and via the various conversations about the gender-based violence that women encounter here and around the world.