Empowering Families in Ethiopia through International Medical Corps’ Gender-based Violence Response Program

Originally from Afmedobe, Somalia, Zahra, her husband Yusef and their five children fled the war in their home country and have been living for a year in Boqolmayo Refugee Camp in neighboring Ethiopia.  Zahra and Yusef have been married for 11 years and unlike many couples in Somalia, did not have an arranged marriage. The two fell in love when they were both very young and decided to marry and start a family.  Yusef gives his wife all the money he makes working odd jobs and does not take any for his personal use unlike many other husbands living at Boqolmayo.  Zahra considers herself very lucky to have a husband as “kind and caring a husband” as Yusef is.

However, one night last year, Zahra had a serious argument with Yusuf over a minor issue. The situation escalated and led to Yusuf hitting Zahra, who is expecting her sixth child. She admits that she hit Yusuf first when he made her angry, and he retaliated, hitting her quite hard. Although this was the first time that a violent altercation had taken place in their home, she made the decision to seek help right away.

Since September 2009, International Medical Corps has been implementing a prevention and response to gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) program in Boqolmayo Camp.  As part of our response program, International Medical Corps provides psychosocial support and referral services to help GBV survivors cope with their trauma and to find ways to move on from their experience.

Previous to the violence in her home, Zahra had attended International Medical Corps’ daily “tea-talk” sessions in the camp on various occasions and had learned about types of GBV and how to report cases. She knew that she could receive help from International Medical Corps and visited our staff first thing the morning after her fight to begin counseling sessions with our trained social workers.

“I heard that they uphold human rights and so I came to International Medical Corps for help,” she says.

Today, Zahra feels that both she and Yusuf have learned a lot from the whole experience and mutually respect and understand each other’s needs and rights better than before. Zahra is grateful that an organization like International Medical Corps was able to help her exercise her rights and she promises to continue attending awareness-raising sessions on GBV and human rights to continue to empower herself and her family.  Zahra feels confident and secure with Yusuf and looks forward to having a caring and respectful relationship with him going forward.

To date, a total of 17 GBV cases have been managed by local social workers at Boqolmayo camp that were trained by International Medical Corps during the project period; 82% of the cases managed were domestic violence cases.

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