Since November last year, conflict between the Ethiopian government and forces in the Tigray region has threatened the lives of women around the country. As of 24 May, nearly 2 million people have been internally displaced across the Tigray region and more than half of displaced people are women and girls.
The conflict has disrupted the lives of millions of Ethiopians, access to food has been severely compromised and cases of sexual and gender-based violence against women have surged.
“Women and children are the most impacted by this crisis, with malnutrition rates for children soaring and women facing widespread sexual and gender-based violence across the region,” reports Tinebeb Berhane, Country Director of ActionAid Ethiopia.
Amidst the conflict, rural women are struggling to protect their livelihoods even as the pandemic has increased economic hardship. Now, locust swarms have descended upon their farms destroying the rest of their crops.
Kaleita Wendim is a 35-year-old mother who lives with her four children in a rural village in Ethiopia. Usually, her family survives off the produce from their farm but this year, her family was forced to flee their home and their crops were ruined.
“Desert locusts invaded and destroyed the crops when I was getting prepared to harvest it. Moreover, all the harvested crops, my house and all household materials were ruined and burned during the conflict between the federal and regional governments. Thanks to God, luckily myself and my children are alive as we fled from our home as it was within the war area,” Kaleita says.
In the face of these hardships, women have come together at Reflect Circles supported by ActionAid to talk about their challenges and find ways to overcome them as a collective.
Through the Circles, women like Kaleita can access essential supplies like seeds, tools and cash grants to begin to rebuild their lives.
ActionAid is working in Ethiopia’s conflict affected zone, Southern Tigray. So far, 18,000 people have been reached with emergency food assistance and 1,455 women and girls have been provided with dignity kits to ensure their needs are not forgotten during a crisis.
Kaleita and her family are among those who have received support from ActionAid.
“Thanks to ActionAid, I have got 75 kilograms of wheat flour. This is critical support for my family. I will use the flour for Ambasha (local bread) and cook Genfo (thick porridge) which are favorite foods of our community,” Kaleita says.
At the Reflect Circles, women learn about their rights and gain the skills and courage they need to speak up against gender-based violence. Young people, people with disabilities, internally displaced persons and refugees are also receiving emergency support.
Dignity kits are being distributed to women and girls, water points are being established and damaged water sources are being repaired to improve access to clean and safe water, in addition to the promotion of hygiene practices.
But as the crisis continues to escalate and locusts wreak havoc on food supplies, ActionAid is looking to grow our Reflect Circles so more women don’t have to face these challenges alone.