Ethiopia: The Community Outreach Programme addressing stigma against victim/survivors of sexual violence

People totally forget who I was before and just label me as ‘the raped lady’ and it hurts when people identify you by what has been done to you and not by who you are as a person. says a survivor.

Despite being prohibited in Ethiopia, Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) is a critical humanitarian issue, with stigma preventing survivors of sexual violence from accessing life-saving care and leading to re-victimization and other protection risks. This has a long-lasting negative impact on their recovery and that of their communities, especially in conflict-affected areas where sexual violence often destroys family ties and social cohesion.

To improve the recovery of survivors, services like One-Stop Centers, safe houses, and health facilities need strengthening. Community outreach, awareness raising, and addressing stigma are also crucial. Misunderstanding the causes and consequences of sexual violence puts the survivors (women, girls, men, boys) and their families at further risk and reduces the ability of the whole community to recover. The social fabric itself becomes threatened by being repeatedly exposed to sexual violence, including members of the community who have been forced to witness sexual violence and other types of violence.

Local actors, including the ERCS, play a critical role in conducting community outreach on SGBV. Strengthening the capacity of affected communities to provide a protective environment and safe referrals for victims of violence, including sexual violence, is carried out together with various organizations, such as the Bureau of Women and Social Affairs, health posts, local women’s associations, community volunteers, and religious and community leaders.

We have organized 11 community outreach training sessions in Amhara, Tigray, and Oromia region to address the causes and consequences of sexual violence and stigma against victim/survivors as defined and prioritized by the survivors themselves
A total of 494 people attended the training, including community representatives, authorities, religious leaders, health extension workers, ERCS employees, and volunteers. These trained community members went on to conduct their own awareness sessions and community outreach. On average, the confidence of these community members has increased 69%, with the most notable effect of the programme being the confidence to raise sexual violence with men (98.99%).

The incident left me not only hopeless but also useless! However, after the training I feel better and eager to live more and see tomorrow. says a survivor attending the session.

The 75 selected and trained ERCS volunteers monitor reactions and behaviour change to verify that sessions have a positive impact on communities and survivors. Up to August 2023 more than 900 sessions reaching over 13,600 people were monitored and recorded, with a sample of around 20% of the total sessions conducted. Despite 35% of the participants being profiled as “likely to stigmatize”, 88% of them made specific commitments to support survivors of sexual violence.

Source : Icrc