"I feared for my life," Kefyalch says.

Published: Dec 7, 2022 Reading time: 3 minutes
© Foto: Mihiret Wasihun Teklu

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a serious problem in Ethiopia. Despite the fact that under Ethiopia's current laws, a perpetrator can receive up to 20 years in prison for rape, the law does not address intimate partner violence, and enforcement is the exception, not the rule. GBV increased globally during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ethiopia, compounded by the war in the northern Tigray region, from which gender-based violence spread throughout the country. People in Need helps girls with education and understanding their fundamental rights.

  • Women in Ethiopia marry at an average age of 15.7 years in the Amhara region and 16.6 years in the Afar and Tigray regions.
  • 45% of girls in the Amhara region are married before the age of 14, and on average, 40% of girls in Ethiopia are married before adulthood.

Kefyalch Miju, lives in Gedeo Zone. She recalled her encounter with gender-based violence two years ago,

"I met this man two years ago. I was in a hurry not to be late for school. Suddenly, a man appeared on the road and stopped me. I had never seen him before, and I tried to walk away, but he squeezed my hand so tightly I could barely move. He said I must marry him, and if I didn't do so willingly, he would kidnap me from my village. There was no one around to help me. The man finally disappeared. I was completely frozen with fear."
It was then that Kefyalch realised she was no longer safe in her village. The man continued to threaten her and even tried to rape her.

Kefyalch was afraid to tell her family and her class; at the time, Kefyalch was an Integrated Functional Adult Literacy (IFAL) student as part of the CHANGE project. This project targets girls aged 14 to 18, teaching them how to read, write, and count; the project also includes gender clubs where students receive information on menstruation and hygiene, gender balance and knowledge of how to report violence against girls.

Girls are usually afraid to report that they are victims of gender-based violence. The necessary services and support are not available in rural areas. At the same time, they are afraid of feeling ashamed. They are afraid for their future. The violence against Kefyalch continued for a month. "I feared for my life," she says. Eventually, she had to leave school as well. She feared for her life and didn't know how to handle the situation. Finally, she decided to tell her family everything.

How People in Need helps

Through the CHANGE project, People in Need teaches vulnerable girls how to report gender-based violence correctly. Girls can use several mechanisms, such as toll-free helpline numbers, personal reporting to a designated person, or an anonymous drop box located in every school. Through the project, Kefyalch was made aware of all the options to report the violence she suffered.

People in Need also works with local women's and children's support services, local police and some government agencies to help girls in danger.

Kefyalch's father reported everything to the local authorities with the help of the school's designated person. Kefyalch then gained the support of her family, school, and local women and girls. Her renewed confidence encouraged her to re-enrol in school.After the police began searching for the man, he fled the village.

Today, Kefyalch Miju has completed an education program for older girls and has become part of what is called the Self-Help Group, where girls learn basic financial literacy and how to handle money. 

Kefyalech concludes, "If I hadn't asked for help, he would have killed me. I encourage all the girls to report any abusive behaviour that happens to them."
Autor: Mihiret Wasihun Teklu, Veronika Gabrielová, People in Need Ethiopie

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