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Article: Supporting women and girls survivors of violence


On a dusty suburban street, two houses rise up behind tall walls and barbed wire, just like countless other residences in the Ethiopian city of Adama. But this address is special because its walls surround a safe home for women and girls who are survivors of violence and sexual assault.

This women’s shelter in Adama was made possible by the support of Denmark and UN Women, who have been working together for years to improve the conditions for female survivors of violence, where women and girls of all ages can seek refuge.

Helping women and girls recover and resume their lives
According to figures from the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey from 2016, nearly 1 in 4 of all Ethiopian women have been the victims of physical violence, while 1 in 10 has been victims of rape.

Since its opening in 2015, the women’s shelter in Adama has helped 680 women, girls and their children to rebuild their lives and move on from a past haunted by violence. The women and girls are provided with accommodation, medical treatment, psychological support and counselling, legal aid, education, vocational training, and lessons in self-defence. The shelter is helping the women to become self-sufficient and resilient in the world outside its walls.

A safe space for hope and dreams
Eliana, age 14, is just one of the many girls and women to have received support at the women’s shelter. After Eliana’s father murdered her mother, Eliana and her siblings were in a very vulnerable situation.

“My father killed my mother because she discovered that he was sexually abusing me. After that, we didn’t have anybody to take care of us because our mother was dead and our father was in jail,” Eliana explains.

The women’s shelter not only supports the survivors of gender-based violence escape from their difficult situation; it also supports efforts to restore their self-esteem and give them hope for a better future.

“I never imagined that I would ever have a home like this. It hasn’t been easy for me, but after I arrived at the shelter, I’ve regained hope. Now I know that even if you fall, you can get back up again,” says Eliana.

Eliana’s stay at the women’s shelter has revitalised her spirit and joy for life, and she now believes in a better future for herself and her siblings.

I want to be a good role model. I need to be that for my sister and brother, but also for the other children and young girls at the shelter. I dream of becoming a doctor, because I want to help people – especially women and girls who have been through the same things as me,” says Eliana.

Improved investigations of violent crimes
Since 2015, the women’s shelter in Adama has also provided training to police in handling cases of violence against women and girls. This training programme has helped 764 police officers and 1,115 police academy cadets to improve their ability to handle cases of gender-based violence and offer counselling to women survivors of violence, their families and the local community. “We are seeing a major change in the local community.

When the population is well-informed, they can change society. They have no interest in being a society with rampant crime, but in the past, they didn’t know how to respond to the violence. Now we get more help from the community, and this is what society must be built on,” says Deputy Superintendent Ms. Sintayhew Botela, who heads the local police division for the protection of women and girls survivors of violence.

The cooperation with the local police has improved their ability to investigate violent crimes, and thanks to coaching at the shelter, the women and girls are now more confident when testifying against the perpetrators in court.