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A high level Canadian Delegation led by Canada's Minster of International Development, H.E Marie-Claude Bibeau, visited UNFPA supported safe house in Hawassa City on 15 November. The safe house run by the Association for Women Sanctuary and Development (AWSAD) provides a holistic rehabilitation and reintegration service for women & girl survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

“Sexual and reproductive health and rights are human rights. When women especially the most marginalized have full, free and voluntary access to modern contraceptives as part of a comprehensive package that includes access to safe and legal abortion, they gain control over their bodies and lives,” said Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. She added that “this empowers them to reach their full potential, contribute meaningfully to their families and communities and help build a better world.”

H.E Marie-Claude Bibeau visited survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in the safe house and held discussion with them who shared personal testimonies and success stories.

With funding secured from the Government of Canada UNFPA is striving to increase access to services for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, including psychosocial counselling, legal assistance, provision of shelter and medical care. To help survivors recover emotionally and become self-reliant and to facilitate the ongoing process of physical and emotional healing, training are also provided on income generating activities to help survivors earn income by establishing partnerships and referral linkages.

The Government of Canada recently granted UNFPA more than 14 million Canadian Dollars to support a five-year Project entitled "Preventing and Responding to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence" which will be implemented in selected districts in all Regions in Ethiopia. The project will support comprehensive and integrated services on sexual and gender-based violence and sexual & reproductive health and rights.

Violence against women such as rape, domestic violence, abduction, sexual harassment, Female Genital mutilation/Cutting, and early marriage are widespread in Ethiopia. Patriarchal domination, culture, traditional practices, economic deprivation, religious ideologies and low level of community awareness are among the major reasons for high prevalence of sexual and gender based violence in Ethiopia.

During her visit Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau committed that Canada will continue to help women and children survivors of violence to rebuild their lives by providing a safe-space to recover, psychological, medical and legal services and skills-training.
Senior officials of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region also attended the event.