WfWI: Ashenafi, what inspired you — as a man — to work with the organization?
A: I met Tebereh at a meeting and she told me about Mums for Mums and I was so impressed by the cause that she persuaded me to get involved. I believe all men should be allies and stand up for ending violence against women and girls.
WfWI: Can you explain what is happening in the Tigray region and what the experience has been like for women and girls in recent months?
A: There have been mass killings of civilians, the burning of shelters, destruction of schools, health facilities, religious and heritage sites, as well as the widespread displacement of the Tigrayan people. Women and girls have lost their homes, income and livelihoods and no longer have adequate shelter, food or access to health services.
Women and girls have also faced sexual abuse and dehumanizing acts of violence throughout the conflict. More than 22,000 instances of rape and sexual violence have been reported as well as the deaths of pregnant and lactating women, according to the latest official statistics on Gender Based Violence in the Tigray region.
WfWI: Women and girls who survive sexual violence face further risks in health facilities and safe houses, can you tell us about that?
A: Women and girls who manage to report to health facilities are “the tip of the iceberg,” as often times rape is underreported even during normal time.
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. In these facilities, survivors face overcrowding, a lack of access to basic needs, separation from family members, and the breakdown of protective social mechanisms. Our preliminary assessment shows that women and girls who have entered safe houses have low self-esteem, and experience fear, anger, shame, sadness and guilt; anxiety related disorders, injury, depression and a fear of reintegration into society. They also remain vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
WfWI: How will a grant from Women for Women International’s Conflict Response Fund help to support the critical needs of women and girls in the region?
A: The funding is supporting an integrated solution to sexual violence against women and girls in two centers for internally displaced persons in Mekelle and Adigrat. In partnership with Women for Women International, Mums for Mums will provide medical first-aid training for first responders and trauma counselling services for victims and survivors of sexual violence. The fund will also support business skills training for women and girls as well as community awareness programs on the prevention of sexual violence.
The direct beneficiaries of the project are 1,000 women and girls survivors of sexual violence. We hope around 4,000 family members will indirectly benefit from the project in addition to 500,000 community members targeted by awareness raising activities.
WfWI: How will Women for Women and Mums for Mums support women to realize their power and learn the skills they need to provide for themselves and their families?
A: Even though it is desperately needed, providing humanitarian aid alone will not be enough for the survivors of sexual violence to lead meaningful and dignified lives in the future.
That’s why we want to provide the full cycle of support from relief and rehabilitation to helping the survivors of sexual violence in the Tigray region to see a better future and rebuild their lives after the trauma they have experienced.
Mums for Mums has a shared vision with Women for Women International: to work towards gender equality and the social, economic and political empowerment of women and girls.