Monday, 30 December 2019 17:16

Ethiopia has made positive changes for women’s equality, but will it tackle sexism and harassment head on?

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The outfits hanging along the wall are simple: a long dress, a purple shawl, a checkered T-shirt. Most are also quite small because the girls who were raped while wearing them were all in their teens at the time – some as young as 12.

The exhibition “What She Wore” at the Addis Ababa Museum in Ethiopia’s capital is an attempt to tackle the taboo topic of rape and sexual harassment in this deeply traditional society and counter the widely held notion that a woman’s clothing invites assault. 

The girls’ stories hang next to their empty clothes. Meklit, 16, a domestic worker, was raped while she was asleep. Rahel, 12, was raped while running an errand and then told by her uncle it was her fault. Bethlehem, 16, was raped at work by her boss’s brother and accused by her colleagues of seducing a family man.

Part of a 16-day campaign opposing violence against women in Ethiopia, the exhibit funded by the United Nations and the Swedish embassy comes as the country undergoes profound democratic reforms after decades of authoritarian rule – reforms that could have implications for gender equality.
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