Over the past year, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has called for the increase women’s leadership and political participation, the strengthening of women’s economic power, to end violence against women and girls, and to ensure that women play a central role in decision making processes.
February – March, 2021:
As Ethiopia emerged from the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, an EHRC assessment carried out in November 2020 found that the pandemic may have led to an increase of harmful traditional practices (HTP) prevalence nationwide and to a slowdown of actions deriving from country level plans to prevent Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriage.
In February, the Commission used the findings of the study as a springboard to call on authorities to redouble efforts to implement national plans aiming to all forms of violence against women and girls.
March 8, 2021:
With national elections due in June 2021, International Women’s Day was a good opportunity to call for concrete steps to be taken to prevent gender-based hate speech and violence against women participating in electoral processes. Building on various partnership activities that it carried out with UNWOMEN, CEHRO and other civic society organisations, including training of trainers, women electoral officers and workshops for women candidates, the Commission highlighted the findings of a study that was just concluded which showed that women candidates and electoral officers were at a higher risk of gender based violence offline and on digital platforms.
April – May, 2021:
The first ever High School Human Rights Moot Court Competition had just concluded and EHRC was proud to announce that both members of the winning team were young girls: Hanna Arega & Hillary Melaku.
The 11th graders from Etege Menen Boarding School put in stellar performances with passionate arguments to seal top spot out of 40 teams of two students from across the country!
Find out more here!
June – July, 2021:
On June 19, 2021, International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, EHRC expressed its solidarity with survivors of sexual & gender-based violence in Ethiopia.
Condemning all forms of violence against women, men and children in the context of the Tigray conflict in particular, EHRC called for the immediate reinforcement of necessary medical, psychosocial and legal services to survivors.
The Commission also drew attention to the special needs of women detainees, internally displaced women, women with disabilities and older women in all its monitoring and investigation reports, statements and other communication products.
In line with the amended EHRC establishment Proclamation No. 1224/2020, the appointment of a Deputy Chief Commissioner and three thematic Commissioners, three of whom women, and one of whom a woman with disability, marked the great strides the Commission has made in terms of implementing its institutional reform and capacity building efforts.
Efforts which include designing human resources policies that provide equal opportunity to women candidates and applicants with disability as well as a gender aware allocation of financial and other resources for all related operational and administrative activities.
The expansion of the Tigray conflict into neighboring Afar and Amhara regions, as well as unabating armed attacks against civilians in Oromia and Benishangul- Gumuz Regions continued to cause large waves of internal displacement, civilian deaths and injury and property destruction.
All of which expose women and young girls to further human rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), shortage of food, shelter and other basic necessities; shortage of sanitary items and services including lack of basic health services.
In calling for immediate humanitarian relief to and for urgent intervention to protect persons displaced with specific attention to persons with special needs, EHRC also reiterates the importance of bringing perpetrators to justice and guaranteeing the full protection, security and safety of residents.
In September following alarming reports of the detention in Metekel Zone, Benishangul Gumuz Region, of 19 women and their young children, the Commission’s swift intervention and close monitoring with regional authorities secured their release on bail. A positive response from the authorities duly acknowledged by EHRC.
During the same period, prompted by findings of a comprehensive monitoring report of prisons and detention centres across Oromia Region and those of a prison monitoring mission with a specific focus on the situation of women detained with their young children, EHRC launched a nationwide advocacy work. Using an established practice by federal and regional law enforcement authorities of pardoning eligible detainees on the occasion of New Year as an opportunity, the Commission called upon authorities for the inclusion of as many women detained with their young children as possible in the 2014 Ethiopian Calendar round of parolees. The authorities and in particular the Federal Prisons Administration Commission, recognized that indeed the number of women in such situations was significant and committed to implement the recommendations put forth by EHRC.
Both of these instances demonstrate the importance of collaboration with both federal and regional authorities for the promotion and protection of human rights.
It was in November that the Report of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC)/Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Joint Investigation into Alleged Violations of International Human Rights, Humanitarian and Refugee Law Committed by all Parties to the Conflict in the Tigray Region of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, was published.
This report and the Commission’s Investigation into Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Violations in Areas of Amhara Region affected by the Conflict, also published this month, have underlined women and girls have been most affected by various acts of violence during the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia.
The Commission also placed particular emphasis on the need to include the voices of women and girls during all stages of ongoing and planned peacemaking processes, recognizing them as equal and indispensable actors in the design and implementation of solutions in the rebuilding process and elimination of violence.
EHRC continues to monitor the situation of media personnel and other persons detained in connection with the State of Emergency- still in force at this time- and advocating for persons with special needs, including expectant mothers and persons requiring medical supervision.
This month EHRC was awarded “A” Status Accreditation by The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) after a rigorous review process. The “A” status accreditation reaffirmed EHRC’s full compliance with the “Paris Principles”, one of which was to ensure plurality and representativeness of its human resources- including in terms of gender balance.
The Commission also organized the First ever Human Rights Film Festival in Ethiopia on the occasion of and on the margins of Human Rights Day. Screened films included films written and directed by women, films addressing gender roles and problems faced by women as well as films depicting strong female roles.
Concerned by the short and medium term ramification of the continued closure of schools, first due to the Covid-19 pandemic and then by ongoing conflict in various parts of the country, on children and their future, EHRC called for a multi-faceted intervention including alternative teaching avenues such as the establishment of temporary learning centres, distance learning and other technological solutions.
Covering a wide range of issues including Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), leprosy and related disability rights, right to water and its implication on the rights of women, the Human Right Concept of the Week- a brief informative product disseminated on the Commission’s social media platforms, provided a further women’s rights awareness raising and promotion opportunity.
It was also this month that the appointment of our Director for Disability Rights and Rights of Older Persons, Belain Gebremedhin, as one of the Commissioners at the National Dialogue Commission (NDC) was announced.
March 8, 2022:
It is in this vein and strong from the lessons of the past year, that EHRC marks #IWD2022 themed: Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow!
In the words of EHRC Chief Commissioner, Daniel Bekele, “the Commission’s unrelenting commitment for equal opportunity to, equal pay for and equal participation of women in decision making processes is made possible thanks to its men and women who translate policies into achievements.”