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Inside Displacement Settings

Date posted: Monday, October 3, 2011

Linking economic activities to gender-based violence in Ethiopian refugee camps.

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    Slide1

    A Shimelba resident selling Tej (an alcoholic drink for men) from her home. She is catering to a male, potentially intoxicated, clientele and is a potential risk for gender-based violence (GBV).

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    Slide2

    This woman used to work in a café, a formal income-generating activity once sponsored by an NGO that closed after the 2009 NGO law. She now sells homemade crafts and is also a birth attendant.

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    Slide3

    This woman is an Eritrean refugee in Shimelba camp. She braids hair.

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    This woman lives in the Somalian community, a group struggling to survive on a meager stipend distributed by the UNHCR. Somalis are not allowed to work in Ethiopia.

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    Slide5

    Walking from the water collection station in Shimelba.

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    An Eritrean refugee in Shimelba who wants to sell injera, the staple bread for Ethiopians and Eritreans. To get the right resources she must trade some of her UNHCR rations.

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    Slide7

    A social worker at home with her children. Her job exists because of an “incentive” program run by the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The positions are few and hard to get.

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    Slide8

    Makeshift BINGO game in Shimelba refugee camp.

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    Women preparing injera at dawn in Shimelba. Some are able to earn a small income by selling injera to other households within the camp.

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    Slide10

    A group of Somali refugees at the Somali Community Center in Addis Ababa. Most of these women have sick children and cannot afford to pay for either medicine or physician care.

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    Slide12

    Children in the Shimelba refugee camp surround a blanket full of drying teff, the grain used in the preparation of injera.

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    Slide11

    A view of the Shimelba refugee camp.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The above images were taken this January inside the Shimelba and Addis Ababa refugee camps in Ethiopia as part of a research project that examined the link between economic livelihood activities and gender-based violence (GBV) risks among women and children in displacement settings.

My group conducted individual interviews and larger focus groups that would allow us to recognize which, if any, components of formal and informal money-making strategies inside the camps increase female vulnerability to GBV. Risk-creating situations are jobs that require women to walk through isolated locations and inconvenient and sometimes dark pathways, as well as involvement in projects that concern sensitive and culturally taboo topics. Our goal was to establish some means of protection for these risk-ridden situations.

A law enacted by the Ethiopian government in 2009 that limits the activities of Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Ethiopia has made our work very difficult. Many NGOs working inside Ethiopian refugee camps have been eliminated because of a measure packaged in the “Proclamation to Provide for the Registration and Regulation of Charities and Societies” (CSP).

According to the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law website, CSP restricts those NGOs working in Ethiopia that receive more than 10 percent of their funding from international sources from “engaging in essentially all human rights and advocacy activities.” The limited NGO presence greatly diminished any formal income-generating opportunities in the camp, and we had limited opportunities to observe them and thus study their links to GBV. We found it difficult to obtain information because the humanitarian practitioners who are still working on the ground in these camps are hesitant to speak openly about work pertaining to GBV, women, and human rights.

Most of the refugees portrayed in these photos come from Eritrea, which gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1991. The Eritrean government functions without a constitution and has instilled a system of compulsory military service for all men between the ages of 18 and 54 and women between the ages of 18 and 47. The length of one’s military service is arbitrary and indefinite, and those caught trying to avoid it (or those deported while seeking asylum from other countries) are imprisoned, tortured, and eventually executed. Freedoms of speech, press, association, and religion do not exist in Eretria, and hundreds of citizens have been persecuted for their political views or activities. In Ethiopia, these refugees are not allowed to work and have limited support from humanitarian organizations.

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Nicole Schilit has a background in documentary photography, which she studied at Oberlin College. She recently graduated from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, where she concentrated on Human Rights and International Media, Advocacy, and Communications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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