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Addressing violence against women and girls in Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, 12 January 2020 - Despite some progress, violence against women and girls is still a serious problem in Ethiopia and one which is fuelled by persistent gender-biased attitudes and practices.

A 2016 Health and Demographic survey conducted by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia suggested that nearly a third of women aged between 15 and 49 had experienced either physical or sexual violence.  

It was within this context, and in collaboration with the Ethiopian Federal Office of the Attorney General, that in December the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) held the first of a series of National Consultative Workshops that will focus on strengthening the criminal justice response to violence against women and girls in Ethiopia.

In her opening address, the Deputy Attorney General, H.E. Ms Fozia Amin, stated that: "the prevalence of violence against women and girls is culturally and traditionally entrenched in society and has led to the vulnerability of women and girls to violent acts of crime". 

She added that the impact of this abuse has often led to serious physical, psychological and social scars. Accordingly, she acknowledged that the issue was a matter of priority and of critical importance for the Ethiopian Government and emphasized that “putting in place a criminal justice system that is responsive to the needs of the society and based on principles of transparency and accountability" was essential to providing effective services to vulnerable women and girls.

Attending the workshop (on 19-20 December, 2019) were over 60 participants from federal and regional government institutions, development partners, international and regional bodies, civil society organisations and the media. 

The participants shared their knowledge and experiences on good practices on the prevention and response to violence against women and girls, and provided practical examples on what could be done to provide the necessary support to victims and survivors.

The State Minister for the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, H. E. Ms. Simegn Wube, welcomed this initiative and in the spirit of partnership commended UNODC for organizing the workshop.

Minister Wube said that the criminal justice response to violence against women and girls should be given due attention including focusing on better coordination among key actors and stakeholders to effectively report, prosecute and adjudicate cases. 

To help put some context to the workshop, the Director of the Good Samaritan Association, Ms. Hirut Yibaba, delivered true accounts of survivors of human trafficking and the extreme violence and trauma they face. 

Ms. Yibaba also spoke about survivor’s courage saying that "whilst survivors are mentally traumatized, it was important to continue with support and service provision as it gives survivors a sense of hope and eventually contributes to their recovery". 

In her closing remarks, UNODC Representative a.i. in Ethiopia, Ms. Margaret Akullo, reiterated that focusing on the importance of addressing legal and policy gaps was significantly important but also crucial to situate violence against women and girls in the context of appropriate service provision to victims and survivors of gender-based violence. She added that the workshop built on the momentum of the Blue Heart Campaign to end human trafficking which was launched in Ethiopia in October 2019. 

Ms. Akullo also highlighted that the United Nations Joint Global Programme on Essential Services for Women and Girls Subject to Violence - a partnership with UN Women, UNFPA, WHO, UNDP and UNODC - is working to provide greater access to a coordinated set of essential and quality multi-sectoral services for all women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence.

At the end of the workshop, participants committed to taking the appropriate action to ensure that the rights, safety and dignity of every woman and girl who had experienced violence was addressed. 

These actions included a focus on crime prevention and a commitment towards ensuring accountability for any violence inflicted.

Responding to requests from participants from the regions, UNODC staff in Ethiopia immediately undertook a follow up visit to the Amhara Regional State at the end of December 2019. During the visit, the UNODC delegation was hosted by the Regional Office of the Attorney General, the Regional Police Commission, the Regional Prisons Administration and the Bureau of Women, Children and Youth Affairs.

The regional government bodies and partners in the Amhara Region requested UNODC to hold the second consultative workshop on violence against women and girls in Bahir Dar.

UNODC also received similar requests for cooperation from the Oromia, Somali and Tigrai regions of Ethiopia and will be following up in 2020.

See also: UNODC in Ethiopia