School girls and gender rights in Ethiopia

I joined the gender club at my school in Ethiopia over a year ago, because I knew girls who were victims of sexual abuse, including my friends and relatives. I wanted to do my part to help prevent this problem. The clubs were created to help such girls and support them as they rejoin their communities. The clubs also help educate other people about the problem.

Fighting stigma
Sometimes girls who have been abused are afraid to talk about what happened, and they are treated badly by society. This is because some people believe that the victims intentionally engage in the problem or that maybe they caught a contagious disease.

To help fix the problem I always try to create a friendly environment and encourage girls to share their story with me, so I can step up and inform people who can help.

For example, a friend of mine was being sexually abused by her teacher. Some of her friends excluded her because they thought she brought it upon herself. She was even forced to leave her parents’ house because of the shame she thought she would bring her family.  When she told me what had happened, I reported it to the school. The school authorities pursued the case and punished the perpetrator.

If you had a problem with a teacher at school this is I how I would help: firstly, I would make friends with you so you can share your story with me over time. And you won’t have to worry that this will affect your education — we take the necessary steps to prevent that, and ensure that cases are confidential.

Girl sitting at school table in Ethiopia with an open notebook in front of her
©UNICEF/Ethiopia/2018/SewunetKalkidan, (14) is a school student and a member of her school’s gender club in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

I do not know a lot about this campaign, but I have heard that some people in the film industry deceive girls with false promises, of employing them as actresses, and sexually abuse them. So it helps to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault, especially in the workplace. Some people in authority abuse their power and tell lies just to abuse girls and women. I hope the campaign will be fruitful.

In my country the laws about sexual abuse are not strong enough. The justice sector should give more attention to closing the gaps to eliminate these crimes. We also need to raise awareness with communities about the issue and how they can assist girls.

Kalkidan is a 14-year-old student and a member of her school’s gender club in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 2015, UNICEF began supporting the Ministry of Education to develop a national code of conduct for gender-based violence in schools, to build a system to report on violence and abuse, to strengthen the capacity of gender clubs to put reporting channels in place, and to include men and boys into the clubs so that they can also play a central role in combating gender-based violence.


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  1. Kalkidan you have what it takes to be a victorious, independent, fearless woman and when someone tells you that you can’t, turn around and say ‘watch me’