40-50% of women in developed nations experience sexual violence in their lifetime and overwhelming majority of this despicable violence is committed by husbands or partners. Because of the economic status of developed nations being a bit higher than the developed nations, the statistics for such abuse would be higher in the developing nations.
The first sexual experience of some 30 percent of women is forced. The percentage is higher 45% among those who are under 15 at the time of their sexual initiation. The Physical and psychological abuses resulting in permanent damages that incapacitates women to independently take care of themselves is in billions.
Violence against women has enormous direct and indirect costs for survivors, employers and the public sector in terms of health, police, legal and related expenditures as well as lost wages and productivity. According to a study in India, a woman loses an average of at least 5 paid work days for each incident of intimate partner violence, while in Uganda, about 9 percent of violent incidents forced women to lose time from paid work, amounting to approximately 11 days a year.
The costs and consequence of violence against women last for generations. Children who witness domestic violence are at increased risk of anxiety, depression, low-self- esteem and poor school performance, among other problems that harm their well-being and personal development and that boys who witnessed their father using violence against their mother were 3 times more likely to use violence against their partners later in life.
Sexual violence deprives girls of education. School-related violence limits the educational opportunities and achievements of girls. In a study in Ethiopia, 23 percent of girls reported experiencing sexual assault or rape on the way to or from school. In Ecuador, adolescent girls reporting sexual violence in school identified teachers as the perpetrator in 37 percent of cases. In South Africa, 33 percent of reported rapes of girls were perpetrated by a teacher. Many girls changed schools or left school as a result of hostility after they reported the violence.
Violence harms reproductive, maternal and child health. Gender-based violence severely restricts women’s ability to exercise their reproductive rights, with grave consequences for sexual and reproductive health. As many as 1 in 4 women experience physical or sexual violence during pregnancy. This increases the likelihood of miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion, as well as premature labor and low birth weight. Women who experience violence tend to have more children than they themselves want. Child marriage resulting in early and unwanted pregnancies poses life-threatening risks for adolescent girls: pregnancy-related complications are the leading cause of death for 15-to-19-year-old girls world-wide. (The Facts: Ending Violence Against Women and Millennium Development Goals, UNIFEM)
Decades of advocacy efforts led by the women’s movement and grassroots organizations across all regions have led to the recognition that violence against women and girls is a manifestation of systematic gender discrimination and inequality, a violation of human rights and detrimental to development.
While an increasing number of countries have adopted laws and policies, they are rarely backed by adequate budget allocations, nor the requisite institutional, staffing, infrastructural improvements and other supports that may be needed at the national and sub-national levels to implement them. Skills and knowledge on preventing and responding to violence against women and girls, including in evidence-based programming, is often limited, particularly in resource-scarce settings. This is also compounded where high staff turnover poses additional challenges in retaining a skilled and experienced cadre of individuals. Long-term and sustained resource investments, including for strengthening expertise and building ‘critical masses’ of expertise in key areas and sectors, and improvements to remove service delivery bottlenecks are critical across sectors, in order for ‘governments to deliver on their commitments to ending violence against women and girls.
In Ethiopia, where violence against women is enormous and the unreported and underground crime is mindboggling, some conscious members of society strive to delve into this huge and seemingly insurmountable phenomenon with all their might. This month on our Focus, we feature Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development (AWSAD).
AWSAD initially carried out its program with volunteer individuals. They had been working with the aim of forestalling the prevalence of Gender Based Violence in Addis Ababa. This led to the establishment of “Tsotawi Tikat Tekelakay Mahiber”. In Jan, 2006 AWSAD established safe house in Addis Ababa and in 2011 in Oromia regional state, Adama town. This has enabled AWSAD to broaden its services and to reach more women who are survivors of physical and psychological harm. Currently, 46 technical and supporting staff members are engaged in various activities of the organization.
Mission: To promote the socio-cultural wellbeing and economic independence of women by providing psycho-social support and by strengthening the economic and social independence of women.
The main functions of the safe house are: safe home, food, medication, counseling, basic literacy, and skill development trainings. The shelter also supports survivors with psychological counseling, free legal services and reintegration of survivors to the society.
Certain criteria for eligibility to be part of this shelter are set. These are: women / girl survivors with low income who don’t have identifiable support from family or friends who have been survivors of repeated and severe violence.
Most women survivors who come to the safe house require medical support due to their physical injuries resulting from the violence. In addition pregnant survivors are provided with pre and post natal medical care.