Over the last 26 years, ActionAid Ethiopia has been working with women and girls living in poverty to change their situations of powerlessness at household and community levels. It has also been influencing religious leaders, local government personnel as well as men and boys to act in solidarity with women to end poverty.
Tarikuwa speaks about how ActionAid worked with Yem women and communities.
I am Tarikuwa Jala from Yem area in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples State. I am married and a mother of four. I work with the Yem Women and Children’s Affairs Office. I am the Coordinator of Gender Works in the office. ActionAid came to Yem about 14 years ago. In the beginning, it provided training on women’s rights, women leadership and other capacity building activities. The first training I attended were those organized by ActionAid. These empowered me and many other women.
The time ActionAid came, the Yem Woreda Cabinet had only the Women’s Affairs Office Head as a female member. ActionAid’s capacity building works played key role in increasing the number of female cabinet members to five. The wrong attitude that the community including myself had on women as incapable of leading is now changed. Three of the women cabinet members succeeded in winning awards for best leadership. The Woreda Finance, Health and Woreda Council were among the offices who won awards for best performance under women leadership.
We have organized women’s associations in each of the 34 villages in Yem. There are nine women in the leadership of each of the associations. In addition, ActionAid supported water facilities in Fofa and Saja towns of Yem have spared women from rape and abduction due to long journeys in search of water in the past. ActionAid and the Women’s Affairs Office capacitated women to lead the water service facilities. Each has a board with membership of nine women. These days, women are acknowledged as capable and trustworthy leaders. Women are elected to lead institutions. We are proud of ActionAid.
In the past, harmful traditional practices like abduction, female genital mutilation, rape and polygamy were rampant in our area. Women Watch Groups ActionAid initiated in collaboration with the Women’s Affairs Office worked to reduce these tremendously. There are six Women Watch Group committees in each village this time. Women Watch Group members have been fighting the harmful traditional practices teaching and even standing cases of violation. They went to the extent of investigating and exposing cases. The case of an eight -year -old girl child raped by her custodian is a good example. The culprit tried to cover the offence pretending that the child fell ill.
The Women watch Group members systematically interrogated his own children and found out that he raped her. The culprit is now serving a 12 year prison term as the women sued him on behalf of the girl child. I can say ActionAid has laid the solid foundation to eradicate such offences. A network of women is formed to support the Women Watch Groups. The network has the Justice office, police, women’s affairs and five other pertinent offices as members.
At grass root community level similar network is formed with membership of influential community members like traditional and religious leaders. Working with the community and Woreda Government, these committees are in a position to control the crime. Hence, ActionAid has established the conditions and empowered the community against the offence. I am sure that the community will continue to fight these even after ActionAid leaves our area.