Gender Analysis Key Findings: Women's Exploitation & Gender-based Violence Across Ethiopia’s Tigray Crisis

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Between late February and early-April 2021, as the crisis continued in Tigray, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) conducted a Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA) with 186 clients and stakeholders across 6 refugee camps and sites for internally displaced persons (IDPs). The RGA is a critical step in the IRC’s efforts to ensure that emergency programming in Tigray is responsive to the needs of women and girls, who have been impacted differently by the crisis than men and boys. This document focuses primarily on the findings around gender-based violence, and the sexual exploitation of women and girls in exchange for cash to buy food. A more comprehensive report will be released in mid-May 2021, with more detailed findings on women’s needs, and how these are shaped by changing gender and social norms, within the camp setting.

Key Findings

  1. Women’s lack of access to food and sources of cash has led to a situation where in order to meet basic needs, female IDPs and refugees are exchanging sex for small amounts of cash – $1.25 for sexually exploitative relationships. Female-headed households are particularly vulnerable. Little has been reported on this topic in the media or INGO reports.

  2. While gender-based violence (GBV) was taking place in the community, respondents also reported a spike in Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) (including verbal, physical and emotional abuse) perpetrated by husbands and partners.

  3. There is evidence that sexual harassment, assault and rape were prevalent not just during the conflict, but have continued – Not only were there previous Gender-Based Violence (GBV) violations, but an increase in and continuation of the same.

  4. A number of factors are contributing to ongoing GBV, including a breakdown of traditional accountability mechanisms, increased exposure to and normalization of GBV and acts of sexual violence, economic uncertainty and lack of economic alternatives for women, increased alcohol consumption, an emphasis on basic needs which sidelines conversations on GBV, a lack of GBV reporting mechanism, and healthcare workers, with training in case management.

  5. Health findings show significant limitations in healthcare services across all sites visited. The healthcare sector is under significant strain and has experienced a drain in skills as experienced personnel have fled. Some healthcare workers do not see GBV as a serious health issue.

  6. Lack of women’s health was a consistent theme and there is evidence that pregnant women died on the way to safety and that unattended births are taking place in camps. Pre-natal and post-natal care is a major gap and infants are missing vital immunizations.