Providing a lifeline after violence

Maria Munir | Oct 08, 2016
There are many young girls supported by AWSAD in its safe house
The safe house run by our Ethiopian partner Association for Women's Sanctuary and Development (AWSAD) opened its doors to women survivors of violence in 2006. Since then it has provided a lifeline to thousands of women and girls in need, many of whom have experienced intolerable abuse, including domestic violence and rape.

Now AWSAD runs four safe houses. They help vulnerable women and girls rebuild their lives by providing shelter and vital holistic services such as legal advice, counselling, education and life skills training, as documented in our More Than a Roof report.

Here AWSAD’s co-founder and Directoress, Maria Munir, recounts how AWSAD started, the life-changing outcomes it is helping to achieve, and her hopes for the future.

Maria shares AWSAD's story

“We decided to set up AWSAD in 2003 after running a free legal aid service. Women would come to us and ask for legal advice. The second question they would ask is, ‘Where am I going to stay today? What am I going to feed my kids?’

When a woman is abused they leave the house empty handed. They don’t bring clothes or money, only their kids. A few of us decided to set up an organisation to support women in this position, and that’s how AWSAD started.

A future for the women and girls

At the safe houses we are rehabilitating women and girls who have experienced violence and also running a pilot project, working to help students who have been abused continue their education. We have seen results with that, for example, one of the girls graduated from university last year, one has graduated recently and one is a medical student. We want to expand that project and see more girls in education. We don’t want our girls to end up on the streets or to end up nowhere. We want to help them be somebody.

The need for our services is very, very high and our capacities are limited. The police or the women themselves may call us for help, but sometimes we have to tell them we’re full. That is a big challenge for me. 

If you go around the cities you will see many women with kids on the streets, needing help. They have so many stories, maybe because of the terror on the streets or the abuse that happened in their homes. 

Making a difference

There are other big challenges, like the expensive rent we have to pay, and not having a permanent place to stay, which means we have to keep moving.

But Womankind and its supporters are making a huge difference to the lives of our women, girls and kids. Women’s lives have been saved, women who have tried to commit suicide thinking that there was nobody there for them. Women who got pregnant as young as twelve, raped by their fathers, their close relatives, strangers. Their lives have been saved.

Supporting more women

We want to expand and serve more women. There is a great need for a day care service, for example. Women cannot afford day care for their kids so they cannot work. We want to have day care in the safe house. We also want to expand our medical care provision, as many women simply can’t afford it.

I believe we can do these things. We will succeed and have what we wish. That is my plan. And I would really like to thank you all for supporting us, for being with us. That is an energiser for us, to do more and more. So thank you.“

Find out how you can help our partners to support more women to escape violence.

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