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Press Release

Tigray six months on; women still bear the brunt of conflict, warns IRC

A recent analysis carried out by IRC, focusing on gender-based violence and exploitation finds:

  • Rape is being used as a weapon of war across the conflict
  • There is evidence of sexual exploitation across the conflict
  • Intimate partner violence has increased since the conflict started

Six months on from the beginning of the conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia, a new International Rescue Committee analysis reveals that women and girls across the conflict are experiencing widespread abuse and exploitation against a backdrop of impunity. 

Victor Odero, Policy and Advocacy Advisor, at IRC says:

“The gender analysis shows widespread abuse including mass rape and exploitation. Women are having to engage in sexually exploitative relationships, receiving small amounts of money, food and/or shelter to survive and feed their children - this has not been given much attention by the global media or stakeholders involved in the response. With nowhere to report abuse, no protection to seek, growing economic uncertainty and instability, violence against women is on the rise.  

“Rape is being used as a weapon of war across the conflict. Multiple displaced people have given eye witness accounts of mass rape. Women who are assaulted are in need of multiple levels of care, including emergency contraceptives, and drugs to prevent HIV in addition to psychological support. With 71% of hospital and medical facilities partially or fully damaged, with many across the region looted during the conflict, medical supplies are scarce.

“Social norms in many of the countries affected by crises and conflict dictate that women are caregivers for children and family and have fewer opportunities to earn a living.  We at IRC are trying to show consideration for this, ensuring women are consulted as part of programme response. We need to be able to urgently fund  and deliver life saving services that support survivors of gender-based violence and protection services in Tigray and elsewhere.These services must be considered as urgent, life saving and essential and therefore must be prioritised as such by the international community and especially donors world-wide”

The upcoming G7 Summit provides an ideal opportunity for renewed commitments to gender equality in humanitarian settings. The women most impacted by crises are also the most resilient and are the most effective agents of change. Including women refugee and displaced leaders in the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council, is a tangible way to ensure these perspectives are included. 

High-level meetings, however, can only do so much. Local women’s organisations have the unique ability to reach and empower women and girls within their own communities on a daily basis and investments at a grassroots level have much greater impact. Without adequate funding to support these organisations, commitments made at the global level will make little difference to those on the ground. To enact lasting and meaningful change, governments must dramatically increase their partnerships with local women’s organisations and ensure at least 25% of their aid budget reaches local organisations. Even more than this, all parties across the conflict must commit to upholding international humanitarian law, including protection of civilians, especially vulnerable groups like women and girls. 

In early November 2020, military confrontations between federal and Tigrayn regional forces in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, which borders both Sudan and Eritrea, led the Government to declare it in a State of Emergency.  Since then, Ethiopia’s Tigray region has reportedly continued to be affected by incidents of armed conflict. Since early November, people have been displaced within the region and almost 70,000 have fled to Eastern Sudan.

The IRC is working in Tigray to support refugees living in two camps in the region, as well as tens of thousands of internally displaced people and conflict affected population in Tigray  with a range of services, including clean water, sanitation, primary healthcare, protection and education. 

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.