AWSAD Offers More Than Shelter To Violence Survivors


The Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development (Awsad) provides holistic services for women and girls who have survived violence in Ethiopia.

Women and girls who have been abused need a range of services to help their recovery, including medical care, counseling and legal aid as well as training in life skills and employment, according to a report by Womankind Worldwide, More than a roof. A shelter in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, offers this holistic approach.

The Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development (Awsad) provides holistic services for women and girls who have survived violence in Ethiopia. It supports hundreds of women and girls each year and has two safe houses in the capital, Addis Ababa, and two in Adama. Every few years the association has to move premises to keep the location of its shelters secret. Although it has capacity for only 50, the safe house in Addis is supporting more than 80 women and 35 children. Awsad provides 24-hour medical care, counseling, training and legal aid. When they feel ready, residents are encouraged to undertake life skills and employment training, literacy classes, self defense sessions and social activities.


The World Health Organization estimates that one in three women have experienced violence in their lifetime. In Ethiopia, the most recent figures how that more than 48% of women aged between 15 and 49 had experienced physical violence by an intimate partner, and 59% reported sexual violence. Sindu, 25, a resident of the Addis shelter, says her husband used to drink and stay out late. In a fit of temper one night, he knocked boiling water over their daughter. He later threatened to kill Sindu and eventually threw her out of the house. She left with her daughter,

‘I was standing and weeping by the side of the asphalt road when a man approached and asked me what was wrong,’ says Sindu. ‘When I explained the situation I was in, he took me to a shelter in Addis Ababa, where they referred me to the safe house I now live in.’ At the shelter she has received counseling and now wants to become a chef. She is also taking her husband to court.

Awsad, set up in 2003, was the first organization to open a women-only shelter in Ethiopia to support survivors of violence. ‘We have the safe house as women-only as [it] is very important for the women and girls to have a safe space,’ says its executive director, Maria Munir Yusuf.

Awsad has a teacher and a stock of learning materials to run classes. But the organization also works with local schools to try to get girls into formal education. Fifteen residents are being supported by a charity to go on to higher education and will stay at the shelter until they have completed their courses.

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In its report, Womankind is calling on donors to offer more long-term funding to organizations supporting survivors of violence – money that can be spent as the organization chooses. Awsad says each day it has to turn away between 10 and 20 women from the shelter.