I am Generation Equality: Hirut Yibabe, Co-founder and Executive Director of the shelter for gender-based violence victims of human trafficking in Ethiopia
Billions of people across the world stand on the right side of history every day. They speak up, take a stand, mobilize, and take big and small actions to advance women’s rights. This is Generation Equality.
Date: Friday, June 25, 2021
Three things you can do to increase women’s participation in climate issues:
- Promote the end of women and girls trafficking as a top priority.
- Condemn actions which expose women and girls to gender-based abuse.
- Be the voice for the voiceless. Empower women and girls including the abused, to speak out.
Why do you speak up for women’s rights?
I began to involve in fighting for women’s rights and gender equality immediately after I graduated from the University. Then, HIV/AIDS was a new phenomenon in Ethiopia. As HIV/AIDS became more prevalent, gender inequality increased women’s and girls’ vulnerability. It was the time when a voice to amplify their needs for medical, financial and psychological support was critically needed as they were surrounded with fear and disgrace. As a gender activist, I believe, I was among those who broke the silence and fought for many survivors to get medical, financial and material support.
What are the most urgent issues of our time?
It has always been my concern that women and girls are less empowered than their male counterparts. I believe gender equality is a human right issue. This includes the freedom to move for better work opportunities. In 2005, I collaborated with like-minded female friends in Ethiopia to establish the Good Samaritan Association. The shelter targets trafficked girls and migrant domestic workers returnees who are survivors of gender-based violence by smugglers, brokers and by their employers in the host countries. The shelter provides psychological counselling, medical treatment as well as basic life, and business skills trainings. It also provides startup capital for the survivors to start their own businesses and to sustain their livelihood. The services at the center especially focus on women and girls who are physiologically, mentally sick and injured with unwanted pregnancy. Seeing these women and girls is what most breaks my heart. Hence, I speak up for their rights to heal the wounded and to prevent more victims.
What is your advice to young people on actions they can take?
Young people have the energy and the desire to make a difference by being innovative and creative. Most of the time traffickers, smugglers and migrants are young people. They need to keep themselves informed of local opportunities before becoming involved in unsafe migration. They may face various socio-economic challenges. To face the challenges and to contribute in solving the problems, their commitment is required. They also need to play an active role to make policy makers consider their engagement in sustained development initiatives.
“Everyone should be part of the solution by trying to step in the victims’ shoes and feel the agony.”
What can everyone do to stop trafficking and unsafe migration?
Everyone should be part of the solution by trying to step in the victims’ shoes and feel the agony. There are cases when female migrants reveal the decision for their movement is a collective one where parents, extended families, friends and the community are involved. Similarly, the approach for the solution should involve all those concerned. There is a need to equip women and girls with skills and competencies to increase their economic development opportunities. Policy makers must strengthen the capacity of relevant local sectors to bring sustained development. Maximum protection to women migrant workers should be extended.
How can men be a part of the solutions?
Men should unite with women and girls to face the challenges of achieving gender equality. They should be alerted of activities that exclude women and girls from development and expose them to gender-based violence, not to be perpetrators of gender-based violence but to become advocates for prohibition of women and girls trafficking. They also need to be involved in providing other livelihood options to smugglers and the likes.
Why should everyone be a women’s rights activist?
Women’s rights are fundamental for survival. There is no development without empowering and acknowledging women’s rights.
Hirut Yibabe is a 59-year-old Ethiopian, co-founder of Good Samaritan Association(GSA). Currently she is the Executive Director of GSA. Good Samaritan Association is one of UN Women’s implementing partners. It provides shelter and health care services focusing on gender-based violence victims of human trafficking and migrant returnees.