Ethiopia: From peace in the home to peace in the world - Sixteen Days of Activism Against SGBV
13 December 2012

Two young girls enjoy themselves at the swings of the Refugee Community Center (RCC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that is run by JRS. (Christian Fuchs/JRS)
Incidents of sexual or physical assaults, rape, forced marriage, emotional; abuse, denial of resources occur in families and communities worldwide.
Addis Ababa, 13 December 2012 - Despite increased awareness and action to combat Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), women and men continue to experience violation of their rights. Incidents of sexual or physical assaults, rape, forced marriage, emotional; abuse, denial of resources occur in families and communities worldwide.

These were some of the issues that were in focus as more than 200 refugees from different nationalities gathered together at the JRS Refugee Community Centre (RCC) compound in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 10th December to commemorate 16 days of activism against gender based violence. The colourful event that was attended by many women and children saw the Women Association of Yemeni refugees play a big role in the commemoration.

The theme for this year's commemoration was "from peace in the home to peace in the world". The program was carried out in close collaboration with Administration for Refugee/Returnee Affairs (ARRA), UNHCR, Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission (DICAC) and JRS, who were the main organiser's of the event. The aim of the event was to raise awareness about gender based violence and human rights, preventing future violence , taking a personal stance against violence and building a network of organizations committed to creating a community free of violence against women.

Entitlement to human rights. The UNHCR representative Magda Medina in her message said each person is entitled to the equal enjoyment and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. She further added, "Your rights include; the right to life; to equality; to liberty and security of person; to equal protection under the law; to be free from all forms of discrimination; to the highest standard attainable of physical and mental health; to just and favourable conditions of work; not to be subjected to torture, or inhuman treatment or punishment".

Medina further said, "I believe together, we can all make meaningful efforts to respond to SGBV in our homes and communities. The day's event commemorated efforts by UNHCR, partners and other stakeholders to raise awareness through the 16 Days of Activism against SGBV. Hopefully, we have all come forward to renew our commitments to jointly address SGBV among refugees, and to find effective solutions to fight and eliminate sexual and gender-based violence in our community".

Call for an end to violence. The JRS representative Hanna Petros, the RCC Project Director, speaking at the event called for an end to violence against women and children. "Together, we can and must do more to prevent violence against women, provide services to survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are punished", the JRS Representative added.

Petros went on saying, "We women are often asked whether ending violence against women is possible given the incidence and persistence of these crimes. Our answer is yes. It is possible. But we can only do it together. We are all responsible and it is time for leaders to fulfill the promises made to women".

On her part the Women Association representative Rakia Ali echoing the other speakers said, "Today on this day to end violence against women, we call on all leaders to take a stand to end violence against women and girls."

There was also an Art competition for children aged between 10 and 15 years, which made the event very colourful. The children's drawings symbolized the theme of the year with twenty of them participating in the competition where four of them were picked as winners. The drawings were very interesting and everybody was impressed by them. Each winner gave an explanation of their drawings and how it relates with the theme of the event. The art competition encouraged the refugee children to show their talent and improve their drawing skills.

Finally, the winners of the Art competition and Great Ethiopian run for Refugee Children held on 24th November were awarded prizes for their wonderful performances. The incoming JRS Ethiopia Country Director Fr. Debrework Endashaw SJ gave awards to the winners. At the end of the award ceremony, he said that the event clearly showed that JRS and other implementing partners work very well together against sexual abuse to protect refugee women and children. He also mentioned that he is happy to work together with refugees and promised to join the JRS team soon. The four winners'drawings were given to four partner organizations. Each organization appreciated the way the event was organized and promised to encourage and promote the talent of these small children.

By Hanna Petros JRS RCC Project Director, Addis Ababa

The Refugee Community Centre (RCC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was established in 1996 to provide a safe community environment for refugees and asylum seekers living in the city. The centre is particularly focused on children and young people trying to rebuild their lives in spite of displacement. The spirit of JRS hospitality has continued over the years and the RCC continues to be a stabilising force; in 2011 it provided childcare, recreational and cultural activities, psychosocial support and vocational training to more than 900 refugees and asylum seekers. In the years since the RCC was started, over 8,000 people have benefited from JRS support and care.

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