Women Find Hope in Safe House

In the town of Adama, women and children violence survivors find shelter and a way to make a living, using skills learned at a safe house supported by UN Women.

Adama, Ethiopia

Sahara* ran away from home when she was 10 years old and spent years living on the streets of Adama, in central Ethiopia, finding work as a cleaner when she could. Homeless and unemployed, she was 20 when she arrived at a safe house run by the Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development (AWSD), which is supported by UN Women.

“I was living on the street with two young children, all alone, with no one to help me,” she says. Sahara sought out the safe house to give her children up in the hopes that they could have a better future.

When Sahara arrived, she found a warm and welcoming environment, abuzz with the laughter of many children like her own.

“I’m so glad I went there, because they gave us a home, and taught me to cook.”

Between the safe house in Adama and another in Addis Ababa, nearly 2000 survivors have escaped violence and dire poverty as a result.

“To control their own lives and reach their full potential, women need to be financially independent,” says UN Women Representative in Ethiopia, Letty Chiwara. “This is the premise behind UN Women’s economic empowerment programming, but financial independence is also vital for survivors of gender-based violence to heal and lead fulfilling lives. The safe houses help them do just that.”

The safe house provides skills training based on their own choice, for every woman and girl who stays there, whether it’s food preparation and cooking, computer literacy, hairdressing, or sewing and embroidery.

Sahara learned to cook and today, at 21 years of age, she manages a small cafeteria as part of a cooperative of nine survivors of violence, trained to cook at the safe house. They serve traditional Ethiopian food like injera (flat, soft bread); wat, a deep-red spicy stew, and of course, ceremonially prepared Ethiopian coffee.

Sahara is emotional when she speaks about her experience with the cafeteria: “At first, managing the business was a challenge, but when we started making profits, it was a very exciting feeling. I was so, so happy!”

*Names have been changed.