The Root of Violence

Mar 2 , 2019
By Tsion Fisseha

Currently, Ethiopia is one of those rare countries where half of the ministerial cabinet positions are composed of women. The nation’s head of state is as well a seasoned diplomat, Sahlework Zewde, who is the first female president since the position was introduced.

Despite the symbolic significance, the facts on the ground stay the same. Discrimination against women, gender-based violence in its worst form, continues to lurk in the shadows, making life for women and girls tasking. It is a problem that is all too common that we have come to forget each episode like a fleeting occurrence that concerns only a luckless few.

Undeniably, laws are in place to protect against such attacks and the public is sympathetic to most victims. But the fact that gruesome violence persists should call attention to the need for a new way of safeguarding women and girls from being victims of horrific acts.

Girls and boys are raised differently. This is true here in the country and most parts of the world. Girls are told to play with their dolls, braid each other’s hairs, stay in close quarters and, if something goes wrong, to seek their brothers or fathers for protection. Boys, on the other hand, are told to play soccer and stand for themselves. They are told that if it has to come down to it, they have to fight and prove their worth.

Girls are also taught to never slouch, laugh or speak too loud. They are told to quit arguing and excuse themselves from food that is offered. Girls are taught that they have a place in life and that it would be inappropriate to cross the line that has been drawn for them.

These upbringings play a significant role in children’s transitioning to adulthood. Although the reasons behind gender-based violence can vary, how children are raised to become adults plays a significant role.

“We boys have been raised to believe that we can pretty much get away with anything,” a lawyer friend said during a conversation. “We have been told that we are strong and need to use that strength to get what we desire.”

He went on to explain that because of this mentality, the act of violence is spreading like wildfire.

There is also salt tossed on the open wound, the questions asked after the crime has been committed.

“What did she say or do that provoked him to commit the act,” to which the obvious response should be why does it matter what she did, what she wore or what she thought?

This constant act of blame shifting and focusing on matters that do not bring justice has been counterproductive to generations of women.

The icing on this distinctly sour cake is the many that are indifferent to the matter, with the attitude “I am the only one person, what could I possibly change.”

There is only a handful of people in a few institutions paying sacrifices to put an end to the cultural and political roots of this problem. Most, at best, are sympathetic but unwilling to concede anything in the hopes of seeing a more just and fair word, while others are at a loss to explain what women have to complain about.

The antidote is not equipping our daughters with knives that can be disguised as combs or pepper spray that can be taken for perfume. It is not in telling girls not to stay out late and dress appropriately. The solution is to introduce the changes we want to see at a national level at home, to raise our boys to become adults that realise violence is a sign of weakness on the part of the perpetrator.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 02,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 983]

Tsion Fisseha is a writer and head of foreign languages in the news department at a local TV station. She has been a part of a pan African poetry slam competition representing Ethiopia and is a member of a rock band entitled the Green Manalishi. She can be reached at

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