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Supporting Women Survivors in Ethiopia

Through the Conflict Response Fund, we’re reaching survivors of gender-based violence in Ethiopia. 

Cities and villages air-bombed, elderly men and women conscripted into armies, waves of soldiers slaughtered: the civil war that started two years ago in Ethiopia has now reached horrific proportions as government forces have taken control of three rebel-dominated towns in the northern region of Tigray.  

The government’s blockade of the region has only worsened the humanitarian crisis, which has forced 2 million from their homes and cut off access to food, telecommunications, electricity and banking. The present level of need is staggering, says the United Nations, with over 13 million requiring basic human services in the north. 

The ongoing conflict has produced a death toll of hundreds of thousands and raised the risk of sexual exploitation and gender-based violence (GBV) as women and girls in Tigray, Amhara and Afar try to escape. In October of 2022, the United Nations warned that children are especially at risk of being trafficked, especially in the Tigray region, where hundreds have been separated from their families. 

Back in 2021, nearly 26,000 women and girls across Ethiopia reported sexual violence, though many were hesitant to pursue justice because of social stigma.

Through our Conflict Response Fund (CRF), we work with three organizations supporting survivors of sexual violence and war in Ethiopia near and in the regions of conflict. Our CRF has aided women survivors including a breastfeeding mother, who had her one-month-old baby with her when she was raped by a group of soldiers. She now lives in an internally displaced persons (IDP) center in Mekelle, though the physical and emotional damage from her ordeal makes it difficult for her to care for her child. Through our partnership with Mums for Mums, she and other survivors of sexual violence are receiving psychological support and referrals to a local clinic.  

By taking a nonpartisan approach to help women rebuild their lives after surviving war, Women for Women International partners with local organizations to serve as many women as we can – no matter what side of a conflict they are on. 

Through our Conflict Response Fund, Women for Women International works with 3 organizations supporting survivors of sexual violence and war in Ethiopia, especially near and in the regions of conflict. These organizations work with women and girl survivors to provide sexual and GBV services and empower their futures. 

Our Partners & Programs 

Agar Ethiopia Charitable Society 

Agar Ethiopia Charitable Society
Agar Ethiopia Charitable Society provides safe houses and services to women and girl survivors in Amhara.

Photo courtesy Agar Ethiopia

Through our fund we are helping to expand the capacity of a safe house in Bahir Dar, Amhara. This safe house provides women and girls with food, clothing, medical care and treatment, psychosocial support and a chance to learn how to enhance their livelihoods through economic independence. 

Our partner supports women and girl survivors to gain access to local agencies and increase their ability to pursue justice.

Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development (AWSAD)

We are also expanding the capacity of the safe houses in Addis Ababa, Adama, Oromia, Hawassa, Dessie and Woldea through our fund to provide holistic care and support, economic opportunity and reintegration services for women and girl survivors.   

AWSAD, our latest partner in Ethiopia, is a pioneering change agent helping survivors not only overcome GBV, but also become more resilient through life skills training and empowerment. AWSAD is also recognized for building capacity to address violence against women in each region.  

Mums for Mums 

mums for mums student sewing in tigray ethiopia
A woman takes part in a vocational training course in Tigray. These skills will help her earn an income and support her family.

Photo courtesy of Mums for Mums

Supported by our Conflict Response Fund since October 2021, Mums for Mums provides survivors in Mekelle and Adigrat, Tigray with counseling services, one-stop centers and safe houses. Additionally, the program supports many children and other family members and drives awareness of GBV in communities.  

Through the program’s rights-based approach, survivors are regarded as rights-holders in deciding and shaping their lives rather than regarded as passive beneficiaries of humanitarian services.  

Our partner provides physical and mental first-aid and long-term psychosocial support and addresses the needs of a range of age groups. 


Providing the Full Cycle of Support

Mums for Mums’ executive director explains how partnership with Women for Women International helps local organizations respond to the urgent needs of women. 

“Women and girls have lost their homes, income and livelihoods and no longer have adequate shelter, food or access to health services in Tigray. They have faced sexual abuse and dehumanizing acts of violence throughout the conflict.  

Survivors who report to health facilities are hosted in temporary safe houses to reduce the risk of further abuse and reduce the stigma that victims and survivors face. But in these facilities, survivors face overcrowding, a lack of access to basic needs, separation from family members, and the breakdown of protective social mechanisms. They remain vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and experience fear, low self-esteem, anger, shame, sadness and guilt. They may suffer anxiety-related disorders, injury, clinical depression and a fear of reintegration into society. Those who manage to report to health facilities are just the tip of the iceberg.”

-Ashenafi Asmelash, Mums for Mums’ Executive Director

The Impacts of Safe-House Work

 Girl survivor at an Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development safe house in Ethiopia.
Our partners not only care for GBV survivors but can also provide them with opportunities to learn life skills and achieve economic empowerment. 

Photo courtesy of AWSAD

Humanitarian aid alone is not enough for the survivors of sexual violence to recover and lead meaningful and dignified lives. Our partners provide the full cycle of support - from relief and rehabilitation to helping survivors of sexual violence see a better future and rebuild their lives. 

For women, it’s supporting the healing process and finding a future by starting their own business. 

For elder survivors, it’s making it possible to reach their families through the Internet and lift their spirits. 

For children that have faced the horrors of war, it’s spending time with them every week, telling them stories or helping them with homework. 

For girls like Amira, a girl of high school age who was working at a coffee shop when she was assaulted, it’s learning what happened to her was gender-based violence. After she went through the awareness program with our partner Mums for Mums, she was able to share her story with others and begin to move on from her experience. 

The Safe House: How Women Recover from the Trauma of War

Imagine you are a woman from a village under attack in Ethiopia’s civil war. You’ve lost communication with your husband and your children are crying for food but there is none. You try to leave for the safety of another village, but on the way, you are accosted, brutalized and subjected to sexual violence. You’re not sure who to trust anymore, and what little strength you had has now been sapped. 

Rwanda portrait

Your monthly gift of $35 provides a woman with skills to support her family and creates sustainable change.