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Executive Summary: Gender and Conflict Analysis (Ethiopia)

The USAID/Ethiopia Resilience Learning Activity (RLA) recently completed the “Gender and Conflict Analysis. The Effects of the Northern Conflict on Women and Men in the Amhara Region”. You can read the executive summary below. 

Executive Summary

To enable learning and adaptive management under the USAID/Ethiopia Resilience Learning Activity (RLA), this gender and conflict analysis provides an in-depth analysis of the gendered impact and coping mechanisms taken up by women, men, and youth who were affected by the civil war that began in Tigray in 2020, which had spillover effects across the rest of Ethiopia. The target audience for this report are USAID and its implementing partners (IPs) who operate resilience related programs.

This gender and conflict analysis is a result of a desk review and primary data collection in North and South Wollo communities to generate in-depth qualitative information on gender’s intersection with conflict and recurrent multiple shocks. Data collection design was guided by the principles of ethnographic research in seeking to understand how targeted PSNP households and their communities currently cope with the everyday hardships of poverty and chronic food insecurity in addition to the 2020–2022 civil war and its compounding shocks.

Led by an ethnographer and research team from South Wollo University, three research questions guided the study, with the analysis concluding the following:

  1. A Systems Maps showing Factors 
 with circles and Connections with arrows.
    Master Systems Maps showing Factors and Connections
    Gender’s Intersection with Armed Violence: In what ways, and to what extent, did reported wartime roles and behaviors of men, women, and youth vary?

The analysis reported little to no significant change in the civil war’s intersectionality with traditionally expected gender-based roles and responsibilities. Wartime household exigencies largely reinforced common gender norms that delegate combat roles exclusively to able-bodied men, while women perform all domestic work and related civilian roles. When Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) took control of communities, men migrated outside of their homes to fight or find safety. Yet, during this time, women did step into roles as breadwinners in managing the household and its assets while also representing their households in community affairs. Not surprisingly, the absence of sufficient male labor and the additional responsibilities to support war efforts posed a significant time burden on women, particularly those in female-headed households.

2. Gender Dimensions of Conflict Impacts: In what ways, and to what extent, did women, men and youth suffer differently?

Our findings confirm the consensus that the civil war had varying effects on every person, regardless of sex, age, and social mobility. Community members recognized the additional burden of work posed on women, whether wives in male-headed households or heads of their own households. Both men and women spoke of the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war as civilians and TDF combatants deliberately raped and sexually assaulted wives, female family members, and close relatives of “wanted, high-profile men” to avenge similar atrocities they presumed to have happened in Tigray. Despite women and girls being disproportionately affected by these acts of sexual violence, communities empathized most with young men (aged 18–35) who were emasculated by these acts of sexual violence on their loved ones and spouses while also being heavily targeted to fight as combatants in defense of their country.

3. Conflict and Women’s Engagement in Local Institutions: What are the customary local institutions and cultural mechanisms that communities use for coping with recurrent climate shocks in addition to violent conflict and political instability?

Our study found that in the process of responding to and recovering from conflict and compounding shocks, rural people frequently drew on customary community mechanisms and social institutions to mitigate impacts. This included religious and cultural institutions that relied on their members for both physical and emotional support during recurrent climate-related shocks, economic impacts from political instability, and coping with the death of loved ones because of violent conflict. While these institutions remain deeply entrenched in traditional gender norms, these existing structures offer IPs the opportunity to leverage them in aiding rebuilding efforts among households and social transformation across these communities.

The research team also conducted a systems analysis based on secondary and primary data collection; specifically, the team used a process called Purposive Text Analysis (PTA), which the team applied to the focus group discussions (FGDs), key informant interviews (KIIs), and desk review documents to identify causal statements, unique factors, and causal interactions to then group and produce a series of system maps to identify the most influential factors. The most influential factors in the system are Conflict, followed by Gender and then Combatants, meaning they are potential leverage points in the system and that policies that directly seek to address these factors could have an outsized impact on the rest of the system. The most influenced (or dependent) factor is Household Decision-Making, followed by Women. The position of these two factors in the influence map indicates that they are indeed the most affected factors and thus the “outcomes” of the system. Monitoring changes in these factors can serve to assess systems change that results from altering other factors in the system.

This study outlines program considerations for USAID and its resilience partners when implementing interventions in highly volatile and conflict-affected communities. These considerations include designing interventions that improve access to trauma-informed care for both household members and IP staff, increasing access to financial services that are tailored to the needs of women and girls, and adapting PSNP to bolster economic growth for its participants in mitigating the effects of war and inflation. The study also outlines key knowledge gaps and opportunities for continued learning for the resilience community through the RLA mechanism. Additional areas of exploration related to gender and conflict that may act as key learning priorities for RLA in building more effective resilience programs include leveraging existing community structures to transform gender norms, exploring cross-learning among IPs to support community rehabilitation and improve social solidarity, and enabling IPs to integrate gender and conflict into their work through closer coordination and learning under RLA’s communities of practice.

Access the full “Gender and Conflict Analysis”.

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