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In commemoration of March 8th – International Women’s Day

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Professional Alliance for Development [PADet] Presents this Article with the Support of the European Union Civil Society Fund III

Alemitu’s Story: Prevention of Violence against Women in Chifa Kebele of Ankober Woreda, North Shewa Zone, Amhara Region

  1. Project Background

PADet has been implementing a project with the financial support of the European Union Civil Society Fund III (EU-CSF III) entitled, “Amplify Efforts for Equal Opportunity and to End Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG)”. This project intends to benefit women and girls living in Ankober Woreda of North Shoa Zone, Amhara region, and Seba Boru Woreda of Oromia Region. The objective of the project is to increase the participation of women and girls and their organizations in the development and democratization process. Specifically, it aims to empower women’s and girls’ voices and to reduce VAWG in the project areas in the two regions. This article discusses interventions and case stories from Ankober Woreda of Amhara Region. The Woreda has a population of 94,463, of whom 48% is female, and  has a total of 24 Kebeles. 87.5% of the population lives in rural Kebeles.

  1. Status Before the Intervention

Early marriage and gender-based violence (GBV) are among the most harmful traditional practices (HTP) in Ethiopia. Their consequences include health problems, denying girls’ education opportunities, negative psychological impacts and economic insecurity, thereby disempowering women and girls. They also reinforce other forms of gender-based violence and abuse. Before PADet’s intervention in the area implementing the project supported under the EU-CSF III grant, GBV was widespread with significant negative physical, psychological, economic and social impacts on women and girls. The community generally believed that there was “no prospect for girls to attend school as they are destined to caring for their husbands and children.”

Alemitu is among the thousands of victims of these harmful traditional practices. She was forced to get married at the age of 16 when she was abducted by five men and forced to marry an older person. She gave birth at the early age of 16. Her family had neither prevented nor complained about this incidence due to the socially acceptable practice of marriage by abduction, leaving her with physical and emotional scars.  

  • The Project Intervention

Among the different activities PADet planned and implemented with its partners Action Aid and Rift Valley Children and Women Development under the EU-CSF III project was the organization and delivery of a five-days’ capacity building training on leadership, advocacy, gender, and women’s and girls’ rights to the leaders of Women’s Watch Groups (WWGs). The training was practical through group discussions and exercises as well as theoretical. The training was facilitated by experienced trainers assigned from PADet and North Shewa Women, Children and Social Affairs Office. 

After attending the leadership training, Alemitu became energetic, motivated and acquired a changed perspective on the rights of women and girls, which increased her commitment to fight against early marriage and GBV. She now knows the different tools, approaches, legal provisions, stakeholders for alliance building and how to mobilize men and women to stand for vulnerable women and girls.  She is also actively participating in various community awareness creation campaigns and discussions. She has become a committed activist and mobilizer of the public during relevant events such as 16 days of activism against GBV and international women’s days at district level.

Alemitu had the opportunity to attend an event organized by the European Union Delegation to Ethiopia (EUD) in Addis Ababa as part of its 16 Days of Activism celebration in December 2022 in which she had the chance to meet development partners and women from other regions, and to explain the status of GBV, the challenges women and girls face and the achievements of WWGs established in her locality. This experience has strengthened her determination even further to continue with the cause she stands for with full confidence.

 WWG Leaders’ Training Participants

Capacity building training given for women enhances their political participation and improves their participation in decision-making within the family and the wider society and their access to their rights. Equipped with better knowledge and skills as well as encouragement and support from the project staff, Alemitu went ahead to work with other stakeholders such as community facilitators, the Woreda Police, the Woreda Administration and the Women, Children and Social Affairs office. She also reached out to community-based groups such as Idirs to increase awareness of traditional harmful practices. The Idir is a very powerful local structure that can influence social norms, values and beliefs and can enhance the meaningful participation of women and the community against VAWG. Following her repeated efforts with collaborators, the Idirs in Ankober Woreda have now included articles of penalty in their bylaws against any of their members who practice early marriage and GBV.

Following the implementation of different activities by the project, early marriage, girls’ school drop-out rates, and violence against women and girls have all been significantly reduced, and a wife is considered to have equal rights in decision-making on family land and property. Women’s participation in economic, social and political issues has also improved. Due to the strong commitment and action by WWGs and leaders like Alemitu, only a few cases of violence against women have been reported in the last two years, and rates continue to decrease. The awareness and perspective of the community have also changed positively.

Currently, seven out of ten WWGs are actively involved in the fight against factors that hinder women’s  and girl’s rights, such as VAWG & HTPs, through the promotion of  gender equality. As a result, the Woreda’s Women, Children and Social Affairs Office has provided recognition certificates to the better performing groups. The award motivates WWGs to be more creative and energetic in performing activism and voluntary work in their localities. WWGs are playing an important role in strengthening and sharpening the role of women in the fight against VAWG and HTPs. This project has empowered women and girls to protect themselves, to eliminate VAWG and HTPs, to fight negative social attitudes and norms against women and to advocate for gender equality.

This Article has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. However, its contents do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Responsibility for the information and views expressed herein lies entirely with the authors.

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