Who Hears My Silent Cry
Who hears me?
Please hear my silent cry.
Who hears my self-scorns?
Who hears my heart race?
Please hear my silent cry.
Who knows the truth behind it?
My silent cry for help.
I look up, I look down,
I soundlessly join in,
Please hear my silent cry.
Who sees me behind my shadow?
My silent cry for help.
I’m begging you, hear my silent cry for help
Poem by Lucky You
We have all heard the news, one way or the other, watched the horrific videos and heard the heart-touching stories of women and girls during the war in Ethiopia for the past two years. We have rallied, stood up, and spoken out on the #nomore movement for Ethiopia. But what have we done in all this for our sisters and mothers crying in silence?
Out of all the people, the weakest part of the society are women and children, bear in mind that women are not weak as they are but due to other unfortunate circumstances they become weak.
Since early November, civil violence has ravaged Ethiopia’s northern region, which is home to 5.6 million people. Victims of war, be it rape or displacement, the government and opponents are using the victims as propaganda which has made the public completely disregard the feelings and broken souls of the victims themselves as individuals.
It is obvious that women are victims of unspeakably horrific crimes and injustices in crises. As internally displaced persons, combatants, households, community leaders, activists, and peace builders, women and men have diverse perspectives on conflict. Women do not always have the same resources, political rights, or power over their environment and needs as men. Additionally, their responsibilities as caregivers limit their movement and ability to protect themselves.
They have the least authority and position, and their fundamental needs are frequently overlooked and disregarded during times of crisis, with the fulfillment of their critical health and rights – including the opportunity to plan their families and futures – falling by the wayside. These rights are essential not just for a woman to survive in a crisis, but also for her and her family to reconstruct their lives – and finally prosper.
Rape and Famine as weapons of war
‘He was following me as I climbed the Mosebe hill, I was alone. Then he took me to the house and locked me inside. He raped me for four days in a row. Suddenly he went out to wash his feet without closing the door. I tried to escape but he shot me in my abdomen with a gun.’
Rape has been used as a weapon of war for a long time. We have heard horrific tales that occurred in Congo, Nigeria and other parts of the world. Today we have seen it, heard it and faced it within our own neighbors, families and surroundings. While rape is pervasive in all sectors of Ethiopian society, the prevalence of rape committed by war actors with impunity is particularly concerning in the current context.
How does rape serve as a weapon? Why are women and children targeted in wars?
Such a mechanism is said to have started worldwide since the Second World War. Due to its outcome in terms of facilitating war, many have taken the value of its success to create a more disastrous outcome. Numerous studies show using rape and sexually related violence as a strategy is not by itself related to contributing to winning the war. Unfortunately, in Ethiopia, the strategy of using rape and sexual violence in war has reached at its peak today.
“ They tried to rape me and I was thrown to the ground. Then, one of the soldiers fired bullets to scare me, but they hit my hand and then fired another bullet that went through my arm. I was bleeding for hours. Then, I had my arm amputated.”
Monaliza Abraha’s statement of the horror that took place in her village and left her amputated on December 4th 2020.
The case of Monaliza Abraha that took place in Tigray was heard worldwide and has left many of us traumatized but we failed to put a stop to the horror that is happening to the vulnerable females that are in the war zones once and for all; Instead, we keep on hearing those types of stories almost daily and still do nothing about it. Why are their cries not being paid attention to? Is it because it is silenced or did we stop believing to protect our conscientiousness from haunting us in the future?
Most, if not all, innocent civilians are being victims of war casualties that is taking place in some regions of Ethiopia and women are more susceptible to different types of violence such as gang rape and yet the cry fell on deaf ears, it seems. As per the statement of the UN Special Representative on sexual violence in conflict, the number of rape victims is increasing and no concrete solution is provided to date. Crimes such as rape, and other sexual violence constitute war crimes that could be considered crimes against humanity.
The economic, physical, psychological, and cultural consequences of committing rape/gang rape as a tactic are catastrophic for families and communities. Wartime sexual violence is one of the most pervasive crimes and today’s most horrifying atrocities. In many cases, sexual assault is a deliberate act of conflict, not just the act of a rogue military. Individuals, families, and entire communities are displaced, terrified, and destroyed, and women of all ages, from infants to grandparents, are subjected to unspeakable levels of violence. Survivors may suffer emotional and psychological suffering, as well as physical injuries, unintended pregnancies, societal shame, and sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. Communities are enslaved by the fear of sexual violence, which prevents women and girls from participating in public life or attending school. The effects will be felt across generations.
Most international news headlines on Ethiopia read ‘World’s worst hunger crisis. The majority of today’s food security challenges are rooted in violent conflict. The ongoing conflicts in Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and South Sudan, Yemen and now Ethiopia have continuously brought mass hunger. The majority of today’s food security challenges are rooted in violent conflict. Famine has been very common over the past three years in Ethiopia in areas specified in the northern region, it is not only that people are starving; it is the immense number of people being starved as a result of war.
Women, being the mother, sister and daughter that they are, held the inevitable responsibility to feed their family. The outcome of famine impacts most women and girls of our community. Among the many women are pregnant women, nursing moms, children, and elderlies. Access to adequate medical treatment is difficult or impossible in the midst of violence and famine. A recent survey reported by the UN indicated that 79% of pregnant and nursing mothers were malnourished. Women are those who bear the heaviest burden in the community. Even more, women on the verge of famine are more likely to experience pregnancy-related problems, disability or death.
Children, women, elderlies, men, youth, people living with disabilities and people from marginalized groups all experience internal displacement differently. Over the past few years, armed war, political violence, and civil unrest forced hundreds of thousands of citizens to flee their homes. The everyday methods of war are tearing communities apart. People are driven out of their homes by intimidation, fear, murder, sexual violence, and forced displacement, leaving many lacking food, shelter, and health care.
Women are less involved in formal employment than men and once displaced, their chances of employment get worse. The same is true when it comes to girls and education. Displacement may have long-term implications in terms of the development of women and girls, as well as their families and communities. Displacement perpetuates socioeconomic disadvantages by reinforcing detrimental pre-existing gender stereotypes.
Tigray and, more recently, Amhara and Afar regions are some of the regions said to have been displaced. The conflict has led to thousands of people being displaced internally, as well as more than a hundred thousand people fleeing to bordering regions. Displacement frequently exacerbates harmful gendered social norms that discriminate against and devalue girls, which, when combined with gender-based abuse at school, at home, or in society, early marriage, and pregnancy, create severe barriers in life.
Internal displacement increases the danger of gender-based violence for women and girls by separating them from their communities and, in some cases, their families who may otherwise protect them. Due to failures in communications and engagements among communities, different levels of government and aid groups, plans or strategies are neither effective nor thorough, despite the many measures undertaken.
Emotional Distress of a Nation
This distress is not only limited to those in war zones but goes beyond throughout the nation as a whole. The nation has entered a state of mental anguish. Ethiopia, herself, is now said to be a definition of disorder where people have been broken emotionally. The stories and news we hear day-to-day has made the nation be a center of distress where it is a state of ‘here and there’ rather than moving past it through an immediate solution as a nation.
Many people, especially those who live in war or violent conflict, are exposed to horrific events throughout their lives. Around 22% of persons living in conflict-affected areas of the world are estimated to suffer from a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, where some of these people are prone to moderate to severe conditions that require immediate attention. These findings are based on a review of data from 129 research published in the prestigious medical magazine Lancet during the previous decade, and they involve 39 nations that have experienced violence. Continuous structural violence, which is frequent in post-conflict settings, has the potential to generate enormous stress, which can lead to psychological issues like anxiety, depression, fear, and difficulties interacting with others.
The war going on in Ethiopia has shaken the whole country, touching each and everyone’s life in one way or another. Whereby the tensions among communities based on differences have reached their peak. Women being a key part of the community, the ongoing effects of the war has broken the core aspect of a family due to the violence against women.
Lending unsympathetic ear: Exhibiting a sense of helplessness
How did we react as an individual? Are we sympathetic enough?
How can one be sympathetic to the silent cries?
We might have helped a particular tribe or community but what about the other tribes, have we taken a moment to consider their innocent lives in the catastrophic conflict?
As humans, we ought to pause and think those in need, be it a particular tribe or not, as the inherent aspect of humanity begins at understanding and connecting. Our unsympathetic ear has caused more problems than we can imagine, our ignorance and inactions led Ethiopia to chaos and civil wars where women and children experience the worst damage. Most of us have failed as humans by turning a deaf ear and blind eye to those who seek our support. such a sense of helplessness has made our ears and eyes so used to listening and looking at the worst impact of the war.
Helplessness as a source of catastrophe
It is obvious that people during conflicts feel helpless, where one feels lost in regards to what to act upon. Has our sense of helplessness served as justification to keep silent and move away? Could it be a reason for more catastrophe?
We should not be silent or justify our inaction. Such nonchalance behavior has been a source of ignorance ultimately impacting the nation.
For instance, recent news of a Five-year-old Rayan Oram being pulled dead from a deep well in an operation drew global attention. The news has overtaken our city by a storm where numerous people have shown deep concern for a faraway Ryan. We have to ask how such news has moved most of us, while we have kept silent on the ongoing conflict and disastrous outcome. Some people pretend as if nothing is happening, while some people acknowledge what is going on but yet act and feel helpless. Today the consequences of our inactions have become very costly and irremediable.
How do we bring a Sense of Sanity to Ethiopia?
The civil war has been going for so long that we have numb ourselves to the reality or is it a case of “it is not affecting me or my family so why say anything or act in any way?” Today, we should look into our potentials, the potential that might be as tiny as a grain of sand. We have to stop feeling hopeless and speak, shout for those silent cries kept closed. It is a matter of time before it knock on our doors. Therefore, if anything for our own and our family’s sake we must act by speaking out for justice and becoming voice for the voiceless.
Humanity is a primary step to solving conflict and overcoming the consequences faced due to war. When communities adapt their cultures and values positively by adopting intentional peacemaking mechanisms, only then can conflict be successfully stopped and averted. We as humans are not always predisposed to go to battle. There were periods in our evolutionary history that we didn’t go to war. And the result of those peaceful periods were the time where humanity created, invented and prospered, because there was space to think and stay within.
Ethiopia as a nation recently experienced and continues to experience a massive war-related disaster hence understands the horrors of war. We must change the course of history and become agents of change. Let us be the humans that we are and talk to people ceaselessly, organize a think tank and lobby for a stronger Ethiopia keeping our unity on mutually share vision. After all, a vision shared is a vision realized!
A shift must be made – from Rape as a Weapon of War to Humanity as a Weapon To War.
Fairness has often been heard for its importance uttered in the mouths of higher government officials and leaders. Justice is the same as fairness. It is a behavior that is considerate of others’ legitimate interests, property, and safety. Fairness-conscious parties usually try to come up with something comfortable and implement methods that approximate just rules. But they often forget to seek ways to guarantee that everyone including the women gets their “fair share” of benefits and responsibilities. They often forget that everyone should follow a “fair play” system. Justice is important to every well-functioning society, which may appear to be a simple matter of common sense. The subject of what justice is and how it is attained, on the other hand, is a more challenging one. The notions of fair treatment and “fair play” should regulate all types of commerce and interaction in a community, according to the principles of justice and fairness. They act as guides for enforcing the law.
The existence of strong institutions: The lack of strong institutions in Ethiopia has been a source of destruction. Although there are existing institutions to operate in avoiding war, they have slowly dissolved into ashes almost having no positive function. The politics, along with financial competition has eroded Ethiopia from having mechanisms and strategies to bring peace and dry tears. When blind spots are formed into organizational structures as a result of not having diverse teams of specialists in place when addressing a crisis, there is a significant risk to society.
From strong men and women come strong institutions. Without women institutions could never be strong, this element is necessary for the existence of peace and stability. Government mantras sing from the same hymn-sheets, ‘we are in this together but the hymn is all it is without strong institutions to operate. The goal as a nation should be to spark ideas for boosting local institution-building initiatives, as institution-building is critical to successful peace building.
Mob Mentality: Listening and moving in mob mentality has been very common in different parts of Ethiopia, particularly in cities like Addis Ababa. Praising a particular person is almost a routine driving emotion to always be at the extreme end. Judgment should be made in the character of a being, not in the person him/herself. It is obvious that our nation has been affected by mob mentality like many other nations. We have instinctive reflexes as humans, which are heightened by group forces. What we may not be able to do individually, we may be able to do as part of a group. As their mentality becomes that of the group, people may lose control of their customary inhibitions. As humans, we have basic reflexes that are heightened by social influences. What we might not be able to do alone, we might be able to do in a group. People may lose control of their usual inhibitions as their mentality becomes that of the group.
The consequences of the current conflict have brought an immense impact on the community, this cannot be denied. Weapons such as rape, sexual violence and famine are bringing the desired outcome for those who are leading the war, as their primary objective is to destroy the nation which destroys the people. Unfortunately the consequences have been used as propaganda to seek attention from other nations and organizations burying the horrific cries of women.
A shift must be made – From a Mob Mentality to a Hive Mind
The ongoing war is not one from external, but from within the country, where wars are between our brother and sisters. Such war is most common in developing nations, and more so in developing peoples if we may say. For instance, black on black crimes are usually reported in the US, similarly Ethiopia’s tragic status is now in conflict with each other.
More women should come into decision-making positions and play key political roles. We have seen the importance of women in higher status from all over the world. There exists a deception that results in the perceptible absence of women from decision-making bodies both during and in the wake of conflict. This has been to some extent done since the coming of His Excellency Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, but that is a very small portion of progress in a country having a population of around 115 million almost 50% of them being women.
AWiB has been playing its role in bringing women to take over more decision-making positions by campaigning to have 50% of women to be on board through demanding the leadership to reflect this reality. AWiB is campaigning that women be included on boards of governance at 50% and translate into public policy. Women must be full participants at the peace table as negotiators and decision-makers in a far more inclusive process. Women must be allowed to direct resources where they will be required, for example, to overcome trauma and the scars of war, or to direct practical recovery problems such as property and field restoration.
A call is necessary on religious bodies and traditional authorities to respect women’s human rights and to denounce and desist from any action that encourages or tolerates violence against women. Combatting negative images of women and working to challenge discriminatory attitudes that foster violence against women and girls, for example in the mass media, advertisements or school curricula is essential. In addition, calls must be made on communities to work with those most affected to develop and implement local strategies to confront violence against women.
Women just haven’t abandoned all hope of progress; in fact, it’s this hope that feeds their ambition to shed the victim’s hood. It is worth commemorating and chronicling how women are surviving terror and rebuilding war-torn countries in imaginative and creative ways. Our goal is to bring attention to women’s invisibility as victims, survivors, peacemakers, and leaders. We believe that this is the first step toward addressing the possibilities and barriers to women affected by war.
“Encouragement to all women is – let us try to offer help before we have to offer therapy. That is to say, let’s see if we can’t prevent being ill by trying to offer a love of prevention before illness.” – Maya Angelou
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