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Supporting Women in Ethiopia

Through our Conflict Response Fund, we’ve reached thousands of women survivors of violence in Ethiopia.

When the civil war in Ethiopia broke out in 2020, cities and villages were air-bombed and elderly men and women were conscripted into armies as soldiers carried out mass slaughter. The war reached horrific proportions as government forces took control of three rebel-dominated towns in the northern region of Tigray. The government’s blockade of the region only worsened the humanitarian crisis, forcing 2 million from their homes and cutting off access to food, telecommunications, electricity and banking. The United Nations reported that the present level of need was staggering, with over 13 million requiring basic human services in Ethiopia’s northern region. 

The conflict produced a death toll of hundreds of thousands and raised the risk of sexual exploitation and violence against women (VAW) as women and girls in Tigray, Amhara and Afar tried to escape. In October of 2022, the United Nations warned that children were at a high 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.

Our Conflict Response Fund (CRF) worked with three organizations based in Ethiopia, supporting survivors of sexual violence and war in conflict-affected regions. Now, our CRF in Ethiopia will be coming to an end. We are grateful to have been able to reach thousands of women with the support to rebuild their lives after surviving trauma and violence from war.

Through our CRF, Women for Women International took a non-partisan approach to partner with three organizations supporting survivors of sexual violence and war in Ethiopia, especially near and in the regions of conflict. These organizations worked with women and girl survivors of violence to provide safe housing, health services and resources for incidents of violence against women (VAW).

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

We worked with the Agar Ethopia Charitable Society to expand the capacity of a safe house in Bahir Dar, Amhara. The safe house provided women and girls with food, clothing, medical care and treatment, psychosocial support and a chance to learn how to achieve economic independence. 

Our partner connected women and girl survivors of violence with local agencies to increase their access to justice.

Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development (AWSAD) 

AWSAD is a pioneering change agent helping survivors not only overcome VAW but also become more resilient through social and economic empowerment. Based in Addis Ababa, AWSAD is recognized for its building capacity to address violence against women in regions throughout Ethiopia.

Through our CRF, we expanded the capacity of the safe houses in Addis Ababa, Adama, Oromia, Hawassa, Dessie and Woldea to provide holistic care, support, economic opportunity and reintegration services for women and girl survivors of violence.

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 VAW in communities.  

Our partner provides physical and mental first aid and long-term psychosocial support and addresses the needs of a range of age groups. Through the program’s rights-based approach, survivors became rights-holders who decided and shaped their lives.


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. 

Thank You to Our Donors

We are incredibly proud of the work that we have accomplished through our partnership with Mums for Mums, Agar Ethiopia Charitable Society, and AWSAD, and we extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported us in our work in Ethiopia and Tigray region over the last few years. Your generosity, dedication, and commitment have made all the difference, and we are deeply grateful for your support. We look forward to continuing to work alongside you as we invest in the power of women survivors in other parts of the world as they transform their lives and inspire generations to come.

Women like Meron, who like many of the women we supported through Mums for Mums, whose life was changed after being caught in the crossfire of the war in Tigray. 

Meron, pictured outside of her coffee house.

Excluded by her by her family, Meron launched a coffee house which provided her with economic support in her isolation. Three months after the launch of her coffee house, she learned from a mentor at Mums for Mums that she was eligible for a cash grant to expand her business. Since then, she has used the cash grant to expand her coffee house’s services and has seen an increase in customers. Meron has also opened her own savings account.

“I was sensing then that life as I knew it was changed. Against all odds of [my] life, I have never faltered on my dream of having [my] own source of income.”


And women like Birhane*, who faced significant challenges when she lost her husband.

Birhane began to struggle with health complications, which made it difficult to perform her job as a daily laborer and earn an income. As a result, she and her children became homeless. After she was raped by a stranger in the middle of the night, Birhane experienced severe mental distress and was referred to the Agar Ethiopia Charitable Society for support. Through the Agar Ethiopia Charitable Society, she underwent rehabilitation and received training to prepare her to earn an income. After completing the training, she received a fund to open her own shop. Thanks to this support, Birhane was able to rebuild her life and provide for her family.

Women's Opportunity Center - crafting handmade goods
We are thrilled to offer exquisite hand-crafted creations by women in our Rwanda program! From bright foldable tote bags to one-of-a-kind bracelets, every purchase supports talented women survivors of war on their path to self-reliance.