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Women leading the way towards gender equality within UNOV/UNODC

Addis Ababa, 8 March 2021 

Lelise Terfasa 

Associate Programme Management Officer, UNODC Programme Office in Ethiopia 

In this interview we spoke to Lelise Terfasa, Associate Programme Officer at the UNODC Programme Office in Ethiopia. Prior to joining UNODC, Lelise worked as a Team Leader of a special prosecution unit for crimes against women and children in Ethiopia and was Deputy Head of the Federal Attorney General branch office.  Please read about her motivations, her achievements and how she commemorated IWD 2021. 

What was the “a-ha” moment when you realized there was a practical reason for promoting gender equality? How is that translated in your work? 

Lelise Terfasa: In my childhood, a bright young girl who was very close to me dropped out of high school because she had to take care of her young sibling and help with household chores. In later years, this made me realize the scale of discrimination women face because of their gender and the resulting vulnerability and violence they can face in society. When I became a Team Leader of a special prosecution unit for crimes against women and children in Ethiopia, I kept this childhood experience in my heart.  Over the years, I had developed a deep sense of trust for women who were reporting violence against them and in the process, I strongly advocated for their case to be investigated and prosecuted. I also worked with UN Women where I delivered targeted training for law enforcement agencies working on cases of violence against women. The law Enforcement Officials were willing to act and bring the necessary institutional changes against violence against women in a comprehensive manner and one that captured survivor-centred interventions. 

 How would you encourage other colleagues to lead the way and be actively involved in promoting gender equality? 

 Lelise Terfasa: I would like to encourage colleagues especially women in leadership positions to go out of their way, in addition to day-to-day activities and take the time to teach ways to promote equal opportunities for women in the society, government and non-government organizations.

 How do you commemorate International Women’s Day, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic? 

 Lelise Terfasa: Women are increasingly suffering from violence, especially from domestic violence and which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  An acceleration in responses to violence against women is needed to address the escalating issue, so let’s commemorate International Women’s Day by urging everyone to take prompt action in the prevention of violence and protection of women. 

UNODC in Ethiopia is glad that the International Women’s Day celebration also coincides with its support in a drafting session to develop subsidiary laws for the implementation of Proclamation No. 699 on the Protection of Witnesses and Whistle-blowers. UNODC will use this opportunity to advocate for the protection of women vulnerable to violence from the drafting committee, who is led by a female Director of the Witness Protection Directorate at the Attorney General Office in Ethiopia.