Meet Rahel Gettu, Country Community Mobilization and Networking Advisor, UNAIDS-Ethiopia and a featured blogger for our participation in the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign that has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women.
UNAIDS and its partners work for the elimination of discrimination against women and girls; the empowerment of women; and the achievement of equality between women and men, particularly as partners and beneficiaries of development, peace and security, human rights, and humanitarian action. By placing women’s rights at the center of all its efforts, UNAIDS leads and coordinates United Nations efforts to ensure that commitments on gender equality and gender mainstreaming translate into meaningful action. Within the organization, I work for UNAIDS Ethiopia as a community mobilization and networking advisor. My position entails creating and maintaining relationships with communities on the ground, particularly women living with HIV, sex workers, young people, and LGBT communities.
Women in Ethiopia continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV due to economic constraints and gender-related discrimination. Domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation, early and forced marriage, and abduction are still shockingly prevalent. The spread of HIV and harmfulness of its effects continue to be driven by gender inequalities and harmful gender norms. These norms promote unsafe sex and reduce access to HIV treatment as well as to sexual and reproductive health services for women. In addition to their greater physiological susceptibility to HIV acquisition, the pervasive social, legal, and economic disadvantages women face reduce their ability to protect themselves from HIV infection, and diminish their access to essential HIV and reproductive health services.
Although we are far from achieving success, there is a general consensus on the need for significant change in societies and institutions around the world in order to stop violence against women and the subsequent spread of HIV. In Ethiopia, the country acknowledges that gender equality is vital to an effective HIV response, but there is still a need for focused investments and enhanced political leadership to reach the global goals of eliminating gender inequalities, eliminating gender-based abuse and violence, and increasing the capacity of women and girls to protect themselves from exposure to HIV. The necessary changes revolve around empowering women and girls; transforming social norms; and ending both the tacit and explicit acceptance of violence against women. Though there has already been some change in society’s attitude to holding perpetrators of violence against women accountable, more change is still needed.
Changing attitudes and practices when it comes to violence against women is a process that must engage all of society if it is to be successful. The Vital Voices network can join hands with the UN family in the movement to prevent and stop violence against women through different platforms.
Connect with the amazing women of the Network of Ethiopian Women’s Association on Facebook.
Get involved at the grassroots level with the National Network of Positive Women Ethiopians and the National Coalition for Women against HIV/AIDS.