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I was left alone with 5 children. The Women Watch Groups gave me the chance to get up and regain my dignity as a woman and mother.

The precious work of ActionAid's Women Watch Groups

In Ethiopia, 71% of women have experienced violence in their lifetime. Since we began our efforts in the country in 1989, our programs have been directed towards women's empowerment with the creation of women’s groups in communities that guarantee support through listening and awareness building throughout a large part of the territory.

In the course of our work, we met Elfu, a 30-year-old woman with 5 children, who shared the story of how her life changed thanks to this initiative.

Among our first endeavors in Ethiopia, was the foundation of the RACs, Reflection Action Circles: these are groups of impoverished women who meet to analyze the reasons for their struggles. We know that the first step on the road to women'sempowerment is to raise rights awareness, especially among women.

Women are taught the principles of saving and credit, and, through RACs, they receive funds to start small businesses that can generate an income.

In addition to RAC’s, many women who experience violence often suffer from the lack of a safe place to go. This is why the Women Watch Groups were born, to teach women skills during a 10-day course to learn how to manage the potentially challenging situations. The Women Watch Groups also organize interventions in schools to educate children and communities about gender-based violence: since their establishment they have helped more than 165 women to save their lives.


Elfu and her new life

Elfu is a 30-year-old woman who lives in the village of Ambelta Godeti. She was married with 5 children, and the only income they had came from the family farm. When her husband decided to take a second wife, Elfu was left alone with her 5 children, without a livelihood and home.

Elfu started selling sugar cane to survive living with her children on the streets.

"While we were in this situation," Elfurecalls, "I heard about the existence of groups of women in the village who were in charge of supporting women and fighting to enforce our rights. I contacted them telling my story. The next day I met Aberu, the guide of the group. She came to see me and saw that we were living in the mud in the rain. She told me it was a situation she could never tolerate."

Aberu accompanied them directly to the district, gave Elfu and her children a bit of money and a temporary home. After that, the skills Elfu gained from her RAC training were put in to practice. She began to sell sugar cane, bananas and oranges in the markets. The first money she earned was completely dedicated to the survival of her family.


"After the training, I got a piece of land and maintenance for my children. I moved to the city and now my life is different."

Today, Elfu sustains herself and her family from her plot of land. The advent of Covid-19 has made it dangerous to carry out work in contact with the public. This inspired Elfu in the last year to dedicate herself to agricultural activities and the sale of firewood. Today, she manages to pay the expenses for her house in Beke, for her children, including school fees, books and uniforms.

"I want to thank Aberu and the Women Watch Group, because they gave me the chance to get up and take back my dignity as a woman and mother."


Photocredit: Alemenesh Tadesse/ActionAid