The Press Conference & Discussion Forum
The purpose of the gathering on the morning of September 23rd at the Sheraton Addis was three-fold:
1. To give a press statement on the case of Aberash Hailay and other survivors of VAW
2. To unveil the open letter addressed to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and sign the petition
3. And thirdly, to discuss the issue of increasing levels of violence against women in Ethiopia and arrive at strategies for way forward.
If there has been a time where campaigns were successful in garnering support within the short time frame of three days, this was it. The ballroom of the Sheraton was filled with friends and family of survivors, media and concerned citizens who came out to say NO to VAW. Prominent personalities like that of Meaza Ashenafi, Eyesuswork Zafu, Serawit Fikre, Saba G/Medhin of Newa and Maria Munir of AWSAD were among the panelists that shared their outcry, with former government spokeswoman Selome Taddesse facilitating the discussion. Additionally, the family members of the three recent victims of VAW also took stage to share with the audience the brutalities committed against their family.
Some of the cases
Aberash’s uncle, in a tear jerking and emotional statement, recounted the events that led up to the dreadful day, emphasizing that she was often unhappy in the marriage and on several occasions of wanting to cease the marriage, elders had intervened to reconcile the couple’s differences until the last straw in which divorce had been filed and granted few months back.
Betel’s family member, on behalf of her mother who was inconsolable, stated that Betel Addisu remains under care at Yekatit 12 Hospital receiving treatment for the acid burns she survived a week ago. Betel had recently graduated from Dilla University and now remains with gruesome acid burns throughout her body and a blinded eye. Betel’s perpetrator remains on the run. (Birr 22, 600 was raised and given to the mother at the Sheraton event to go towards medical treatment for Betel. Thanks to all who opened up their wallets).
Sara Ahmed’s brother also recounted how his sister had been brutally murdered last week in Dire Dawa and subjected to six-bullet wounds by the very husband who minutes before her murder was declaring his love to her by phone to entice her into this trap.
Among the audience also sat other victims of violence whose cases had not found redress or remedies from concerned authorities. In addition, to the cases presented on stage by their loved ones, Zenaye Tadesse of the Ethiopian Women Lawyer’s Association (EWLA) read out the cases of other women who were victims that had sustained horrid injuries which left them unproductive in addition to fatal cases. Zenaye expressed that these were a few of the many cases of murder, rapes, battery and domestic violence reported to EWLA.
Below are a few of the memorable statements i was able to capture:
Wzo. Selome Tadesse (former government spokeswoman)- emphasized that male heroism is not poking out eyes and that this act was not shameful for women, but for men. “I miss the day when it is men who will initiate the campaign to fight violence against women”. “We need a paradigm shift that lets people know that acts and crimes like this are not tolerable.”
Wzo. Meaza Ashenafi (founder of EWLA and Chairwoman of Enat Bank) – declared that the time to act is now and questioned what we have done and what we can do. “Are we progressing or back-tracking?” We’re birthing people who do not have an awareness on human dignity and rights. Meaza stressed that VAW is not an individual issue but a collective issue as the effects are felt on numerous levels. “We need to make it known that they (perpetrators) should not and will not continue living in perpetration”.
Ato. Eyesuswork Zafu (former head of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce) – “Is this person who did this human? After marrying her and living with her, is he human?” Ato. Eyesuswork made a very key point that there exist strong laws and implementation when it comes to imprisoning for 15 years or more people who accidentally kill in traffic accidents, but that the penalty for VAW is shameful. Ato. Eyesuswork declared his support and desire to be part of the “Ahun BeAyene Meta” campaign.
Wzo. Elsabet Getachew (SVP Corporate HRM of Ethiopian Airlines) – “Although legal instruments are in place, the implementation lacks strength”. “Today it is Aberash, who’s next tomorrow?”
Ato. Serawit Fikre (TV personality) – “We should wake up quickly before we become sensitized to such crimes.” “It is men who should be ashamed in this case.”
Ato. Abera Tola (Former Director of Oxfam’s Horn of Africa regional office) – shared the story of his 12-year old’s reaction upon hearing of Aberash Hailay’s case, where she asked “how will this guy feel the pain?” Ato. Abera also emphasized that the campaign and struggle starts in each of our homes through discussion and deconstruction.
Dr. Assefa Bekele (Executive Director of African Child Policy Forum) – noted that Ethiopian men are also victims of a culture that nurtures an aggressive masculinity. He identified the key issues of the discussion as being:
- The existence of loopholes in the legal framework
- Weakness in implementation of legal instruments
- Lack of perspective;
- And the need for the Women’s National Movement to be strengthened in identification of legal loopholes
Below is the English version of the Open Letter to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi which was unveiled at the press conference:
September 23, 2011
Open Letter to his Excellency Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
It is noted that our government has made instrumental changes through different legal and policy instruments to correct gender discrimination that used to be sanctioned by traditional, social, political and legal mechanisms. These efforts have contributed towards making women and girls recipients of education and health services. Additionally, opportunities have been given to enable women’s economic rights, to make women’s human rights known and respected, and to make women’s voices heard.
However, we understand that according to numerous studies and media reports, violence committed against women and girls and the gravity of these crimes is on the rise. Women are being attacked by the bullet, burned by acid, wounded by knives, being exposed to bodily harm and fatalities.
The case that has motivated us to write this letter is that of an Ethiopian Airlines flight attendant Aberash Hailay, against whom an atrocious crime has been committed on September 13, 2011. The perpetrator, Fisseha Taddesse (her former husband), in a pre-meditated attack, viciously stabbed Aberash’s eyes from various directions using a sharp object, which has led to loss of sight in both her eyes.
These kind of acts violate women’s rights and create hurdles for women and girls from being productive citizens. The act is not only one that pains women but that also robs men of their humanity. Because the government’s arms have not extended towards addressing divorce related situations that create pressure on women and facilitate their loss of freedom, these situations manifest in deeds like that of Aberash when they reach the edge.
Your Excellency, you have also on many occasions spoken on the issue of violence against women and girls. The issue of gender-based violence as an issue intrinsically tied to political, economical, social and traditional issues requires the leaders in each sector to play a key role.
To tackle the issue of violence against women and girls which is spiraling out of control, we request the following steps to be taken in addition to those being taken currently and in future by the government.
- Establishment of a task force to be coordinated by the Prime Minister’s office and to include relevant governmental and non-governmental as well as concerned individuals and societal leaders which will work towards tackling violence perpetrated against women and girls. One of the actions of this task force will be to make recommendations on the implementation of laws and rules concerning violence against women and girls and to follow-up on utility of these laws by victims.
- To lay out a mechanism of accountability in ensuring that bodies tasked with investigating and penalizing violence committed against women and girls, do indeed address these cases in a speedy manner and penalize accordingly. To take the necessary steps in ensuring that perpetrators that have committed crimes against women and girls leading to physical disabilities, murders and other forms of violence, and that are not under custody are hastily found and put to trial.
- Establishment of a fund which will support female victims of violence who through the injuries they have suffered are unable to return to their productive capacities. Fund to be set up in collaboration between government and members of the public.
- Inclusion of a clause within the Criminal Code under revision or enactment of a special law which will give protection to women experiencing violence within marriages as this group is vulnerable to the absence of legal protection.
- In order to tackle the problem, strengthening the voices of women’s organizations is necessary. Therefore, we sincerely request the legal and material support of women’s organizations to enable their work in protecting the rights of women and girls, especially to eliminate gender-based violence.
With best regards,
“Ahun BeAyne Meta” Anti-Violence against Women Campaign Coordinators
Join the campaign and invite your friends to like the campaign page on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ahun-BeAyne-Meta-Campaign-for-Aberash-Hailay-and-other-suvivors-of-VAW/178969895510885)
Love & Light