The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in collaboration with the Tigray Regional State Women’s Affairs Bureau, organized a consultation on March 12, 2024, in Mekelle. The consultation aimed to collaboratively explore strategies and efforts to meet the urgent needs of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) victims/survivors in the region. The event brought together a range of stakeholders including international, national and local organizations actively engaged in SGBV-related services along with representatives from the Tigray Justice Bureau and Health Bureau.

EHRC shared its rapid assessment findings on SGBV-related human rights monitoring in Tigray and emphasized the importance of providing victims/survivors with comprehensive and lasting assistance. During the presentation by Tigray Regional Women’s Affairs Bureau, challenges related to provision of emergency aid and packages, limited recovery programs and a lack of accessible support services for SGBV victims/survivors residing in remote areas were highlighted.

Participants of the consultation

The regional health bureau acknowledged the existence of a draft standard operating procedure (SoP) on the issue, but cited resource constraints, availability and accessibility issues in medical interventions, as well as the proper functioning of one-stop centers and safe houses. To address these concerns, Dr. Amanuel Haile the head of the Tigray Health Bureau recommended equitable budget allocation, formalizing the SoP, strengthening and expanding one-stop centers, and establishing a strong coordinating body.

Participants shared their experiences regarding support mechanisms for SGBV victims/survivors, which encompassed medical care, psychosocial counseling, legal aid, safe shelter and long-term socio-economic integration. They underscored the need for community engagement in prevention efforts, awareness-raising and destigmatization initiatives. Representatives from both international and national organizations have affirmed their commitment to collaborative efforts. They also expressed their commitment to work with the Women’s Affairs Bureau to ensure that services are comprehensive and evenly distributed.

Attendees of the consultation

EHRC’s Commissioner for Women, Children, Older Persons and Disability Rights Rigbe Gebrehawaria, in her welcoming remarks, highlighted EHRC’s initiatives in addressing human rights concerns in the context of conflict-related SGBV in the Tigray region. She emphasized that responding effectively to the needs of SGBV victims/survivors necessitates the collective support and coordination of all stakeholders.

In her closing statement, Freweyni Gebregziabher, the head of the regional Women’s Affairs Bureau, underscored the importance of strategies that focus on rehabilitation, economic empowerment and successful reintegration into society.

Additionally, EHRC convened a side meeting involving the Tigray Regional Supreme Court President and Vice President, and heads of the Justice, Health, and Women Affairs Bureaus. During this session it was strongly recommended strengthening the existing national SGBV response steering committee chaired by the Tigray Bureau of Women’s Affairs.