Logg inn
photographer/social anthropologist



A gendered perspective on war and peace processes with focus on Tigrayan women’s strategies.

To stress a gendered perspective on war and conflict concerning Eritrea and Ethiopia might seem farfetched; for have not both countries on the Horn of Africa proven their women as highly competent actors alongside men in past liberation struggles? I am afraid the answer is not that simple. Even if both Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF) and Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), when forming new governments in Eritrea and Ethiopia respectively, intended to secure women's political, social and economic participation de jure[1], this acquired position has proven fragile in practice. The Ethiopian Minister of State in charge of Women's Affairs in the Prime Minister's Office, Gifty Abasiya[2] notes that "although the involvement of women is considered to be vital for ensuring sustainable peace, women have so far been marginalised and do not participate fully in decision making of conflict prevention and resolution as well as peace initiatives."[3] However, that women often are absent in official peace processes cannot be seen as unrelated to gendered implications as shaped by dominant ideologies in society (Moser 2001). And, even if many changes do take place during war, they rarely have a lasting effect on the sexual division of labour.

Gendered arenas

This article is concerned with the political participation of women in conflict resolution and peace processes. I intend, however, to avoid an essentialist notion of women as more socially conscious or peace-loving than men. Instead I will direct attention to Tigrayan women's strategies to cope with extreme life-situations relating to war, famine and poverty, as well as their traditional subordinate position in society. Without underestimating the urgency in their situation, my claim is that women's strategies both in war- and peace-time, could suggest other roads into solutions on conflict. However, women do tend to under-communicate their agency, and consequently, it is seldom valued as a decisive contribution. My argument is that if women's experiences were communicated and taken into account, their strategies might offer alternative practices to armed confrontations. Paradoxically, under-communication and the often implicit "invisibility" of women's experiences and knowledge(s) do allow women some space for agency when this space is limited by cultural norms.

My discussion will be based on my social anthropological fieldwork in western Tigray, north-Ethiopia in 2001 and 2002, and on my general knowledge of the region gained by repeated visits to both Eritrea and Ethiopia as a freelance photographer since 1993. Tigrayan women's strategies to cope with recurring wars, famine and poverty will be central in grounding my discussion in an empirical reality. But first I will clarify what I define as "gendered perspective(s)".

As I listened to the highly competent (male) contributors to this year's Rafto seminar, it struck me that not one of them touched on gender as an aspect of war in their presentations and analyses of the conflicts on the Horn of Africa. Likewise, there was no mention of women as a valuable resource in post-war and peace processes. This said, I am not proposing that women alone would solve the problem, rather that both men's and women's involvement is required to accomplish sustainable peace based on democratic principles. However, insisting on a gendered perspective will in many, maybe most cases be synonymous with a focus on precisely women's experiences, knowledge(s) and agency. These are often ignored as data in theories on war and conflict; a fact that Carolyn Nordstrom (2000) defines as a betrayal. In my opinion, gendered perspectives must also focus on men. War and the use of violence offer the opportunity to confirm a socially defined manhood. And implicitly, there tends to be a shrieking lack of socially sanctioned alternative masculinities.

However, empirical reality has renounced the stereotype image of all women as innocent (Turschen 1998). A considerable number of the victims in most wars are nevertheless women, precisely because of their gender and the fact that they are usually left unarmed, and according to Nordstrom (2000), again betrayed. But women have also proven themselves as capable actors, even perpe­trators. What I do think is decisive in a discussion on gender and war, is the social constructions of womanhood and manhood, and the differentiated practices confirming these gendered positions. Even if women in Africa and elsewhere have participated in numerous wars as combatants, war is still basically a men’s domain. Physical strength and violent behaviour continue to be understood essentially as male prerogatives. What might be less obvious is that formal peace processes are also basically men's domains. This fact makes the prevailing under­standing of conflicts, efforts for conflict prevention and transitions from war to peace, mainly based on male premises (Karamé et al. 2000). Thus, women are often left with the task to incorporate what men, seemingly inevitably, leave out. This latter fact defines the point of departure for my discussion here, where Tigrayan women's experiences and strategies will make up the empirical base for an alternative gendered view. However, to pursue my task I think it is worthwhile to take a detour to women's involvement during the Tigrayan revolution and struggle against the Ethiopian military regime, Derg (1975-1991).

Women at war and afterwards

Women’s participation in war expeditions is not a new phenomenon in the Ethiopian highland context. It has been reported as customary for women to be camp-followers at least from the seventeenth century onwards (Pankhurst 1992). But women's role as a significant group of combatants is first extensively documented during the revolution in Tigray, and coincides with their Eritrean sisters' fight for a liberated Eritrea (1961-1991). At some point during the struggle women made up approximately 30 % of the armies of both TPLF and EPLF (Hammond 1999, Hale 2001). I have been repeatedly puzzled, however, about how ex-fighter women in Tigray tend to under-communicate their participation and contribution to the revolution, as is confirmed by Saba (45) and Lula(32) below[4], who both ventured to the field to join TPLF.

It might of course be due to my own ignorance that I had known Saba for nine years before I got to know she had joined the Tigrayan fighters during the struggle. As a matter of fact, I never considered asking her, and since I did not, she did not hurry to tell me. However, Saba displays no obvious signs of her time in the field as a TPLF cadre and propagator for the revolution specialising on women’s issues. She plates her hair the way most women do, tight and released at the neck in a bushy fan, she wears the same kind of customary dress with tight bodice and full skirt, always taking her nets'ela, the traditional white shawl, when going outside. But when urged to tell about her time with the fighters, Saba talks proudly of the kind of dress and hairstyle that made it difficult to distinguish between male and female fighters during the revolution; even if it made people question their sex; "are they girls or boys?" When I challenge her about why she quit wearing the trousers and complied with the traditional women's style for hair and dress after the struggle, she answers with a question: "What about it? The war was over!" I ask her whether people would have insulted her if she had continued the tegadelti[5]-style, afro-hair and trousers. "Ewe! yes!" Saba says, "they would ask, 'does she sit when peeing?'"; a comment implicitly questioning her gender identity. Saba has not forgotten how to handle a kalashen though. She confidently detaches the bullet magazine and puts away the semi-automatic weapon belonging to one of the guests in her sewabet, beer-house. She notices that I watch her, and smiles. Likewise, when I confront the ex-combat fighter Lula with my observation that female ex-fighters do not emphasise their past role in the struggle, she says, "it is good. Coming back from the struggle, women left the war behind. … We are marked by the war inside our bodies; other signs serve no purpose."

Seeing the female fighters' contribution during the revolution as an innovative leap, as acquiring new knowledge as women, defining new premises for being a woman, they were challenging the cultural category "woman" emphasising motherhood and submissiveness. The experience of Saba and Lula, (and other fighter-women with them venturing to the field to fight for the revolution), cannot easily be understood through this interpretation of "woman".  Their achieved experiences and knowledge(s) were therefore excluded from accepted womanhood. Incorporating experience into an already existing cultural symbol system is seen as a necessary step to move an individual experience from a private sphere to being accepted by the wider community (Obeyesekere 1981). This would be hard-tried in the Tigrayan context where deviances from normative gendered practices challenge socially sanctioned gender identity. Even if fighter-women during the revolution could also be understood to embody habbo, which signifies courage and guts and "Tigrayans' determination, integrity and desire for revenge in the face of injustice" (C. Rosen in Young 1997: 74), they would challenge, as Saba experienced, their gender identity in the process. According to Bilen Gisaw, "forthrightness in women is viewed as unfeminine. The idea of women's submissiveness is so embedded in the [Ethiopian] society that energy and creativity have become synonymous with masculinity, all in spite of the great contributions made by women" (Bilen 2002: 36).

Women's participation is nevertheless understood to add legitimacy and symbolic power to war efforts. But while equality between men and women was favoured in the army during war, gender difference is encouraged in civilian society (Barth 2002). "Woman" as a symbol might thus be vested with contradictory significance in wars. As fighters, women would signify liberation and modernisation; staying at home women would be used as a symbol of the national culture and tradition, as something to be reclaimed (Yuval-Davis 2000), or simply preserved. As for women taking up arms to fight for revolutions and vesting their role as women with new meanings, men hardly change their gender role, or their relations with women, at least not permanently.

Overcoming the limitations in the traditional role of women was a major concern of the TPLF from its earliest days, according to John Young, "in part because attacking female oppression was consistent with its liberation philosophy, but also because the TPLF needed to use to the full all human resources of Tigray in the struggle against the Derg" (Young 1997: 178).  In the mid-1980s TPLF nevertheless decided to restrict the number of women being recruited, in spite of resentment from the women themselves. Young sees this decision as a response to unease in the rural population about the recruitment of women. Unease was also created by TPLF's determination to teach women how to plough and slaughter, which traditionally had been exclusively male tasks. TPLF was dependent on a massive support from the peasants in its revolutionary project. The peasant values therefore placed limits on, and gave shape to, the course of TPLF's military campaign, as well as its program to transform agrarian society (Young 1997). The TPLF was not consistent with its claim for women's liberation if it meant challenging the peasant support for the revolution itself. The revolution thereby only scratched the surface on the issue of gender roles and relations of power between men and women. However, the post-war period is said to be too late for women to transform patriarchal gender relations (Meintjes et al. 2001). One question is therefore if the Tigrayan women could be seen as betrayed by the revolution they supported, in view of the initial promises of liberating both men and women.

And interestingly, with the TPLF based coalition EPRDF[6] in power, Ethiopian women were not enrolled for combat in the Eritrean-Ethiopian war (1998-2000), as were Eritrean women. The latter made up between 15 and 20 % (Hale 2001) of their country's national forces during the two-year war. On the Ethiopian side, literally speaking, there was no lack of manpower this time around.

Gendered continuum of conflict and violence

In October 2002 I visited Badme, this tiny town, whose name is known worldwide, and implicates a symbolic value in the Eritrean-Ethiopian war not to be underestimated. The ceasefire had been established nearly two and a half years earlier. The Ethiopian population in Badme town was rebuilding their houses and their lives. During my short stay over a weekend I experienced a sleepy rural town during the day that turned into a place for soldiers' "recreation" at night, with heavy drinking, prostitution, quarrelling and abuse. The following accounts exemplify aspects of women's vulnerability to violence perpetuated beyond actual war-time.

When the Eritrean-Ethiopian war started, many women moved north in search for work in the military camps, not unlike traditional camp-followers, as well as seeking employment in hotels and bars close to the camps and the front. Undoubtedly, war attracts prostitution and prostitution likewise exposes women to violence. I ask a young bar-woman if her parents know where she is; that she is in Badme? She answers that she has called them, but did not tell them from where. The night before I had witnessed how another bar-woman barely escaped an attack by a drunken soldier on leave. She managed to slip into the darkness caused by the fact that the town's generator was out of order. Previously the same Ethiopian soldier had cut her up with a knife, in her face, on her shoulder and stomach; the scar under her right eye is still visible. Later that night I woke up to the sound of people quarrelling; a woman's voice shifted from despair to crying.

Returning to the small market town of Endabaguna in western Tigray where I had my base, I found my landlady, Abeba[7], with a swollen and blue face, and her nose broken. I asked, "what happened?" She told me she had run into a door. I asked her if she had been fighting[8] with her husband. She looked away and answered quietly: "yes". The next day she came by again, sat down in my doorway and started telling her story[9]: "It was in the morning, not in the evening. … I wanted to go to the new church. I told my husband to come with me. He answered that he would not go, and then he went to the toilet. When he came back he started hitting me. Then he hit me again. I told him to leave it, to behave. Again he hit me, I fell. He went to get his kalashen; he wanted to kill me. I begged him again to leave it. 'Stop it, stop it,' I said. I begged him. 'Please, please', I begged him. From 5 o'clock to 7.30 I begged him to stop. He had taken a grenade and threatened to undo it. He had torn my dress. I had lost a lot of blood; I was shivering cold." Eventually one of the lodgers woke up, and came to her assistance. The police came and took her husband to the police station. "I told them I would come later when I had washed off the blood. I drank coffee; I locked up the house and went out. … The police came and fetched his tebenja, weapons. On Wednesday, when you came back, I opened the house again, made coffee. Two days and two nights it had been closed. My husband was then released and came back to ask forgiveness. He said it was not my fault he hit me, and that I saved his life. 'Forgive me, forgive me', he said." Her husband had told her if she screamed, and people came, he would kill them all. "To keep quiet was the best thing, I think. If people came he threatened to shoot them down. 'Why did you not cry out', people ask me?"

Abeba and other Tigrayan women made me aware that it is considered the best thing not to resist violence if you cannot escape, and keep quiet. When I ask Abeba if she had filed a charge against her husband, she answers: "For what purpose?" As long as no one died she sees no point in doing so. She says it will only give people a lot to talk about. I ask her if they will continue together. "We will see. We will try. Many elders, shemagele[10], came trying to reconcile us. How could I ask them to go away? They asked me to try, since he had asked forgiveness." She says she is not afraid he will hit her again. "If he does, I will find another way."

It is claimed that the Ethiopian society's attitude is not at all hostile to domestic violence. Most likely the use of violence would be rationalised and accepted as something that is deemed to happen in the normal course of life, and in any conjugal relationship (Bilen 2002). Gender-based violence has been explained as based in an identity crisis threatening to disrupt distribution of power between the genders. Violence is one means to resolve this crisis by reconfirming men's perceived superior powers (Moore 1994). Legitimising war as a means to end conflict effectively legitimises the use of violence to resolve conflict at home (Pillay 2001) It is likewise a fact that men often continue to have weapons available to do so, also in "peace-time". Nevertheless, Abeba's strategy can be interpreted as concerned with getting on, as opposed to pursuing what would be her legal right. Would it be at all thinkable for Eritrean and Ethiopian leaders to make a similar shift of focus to get the stalled peace process out of the deadlock? Or rather, how could women's strategies be applied to the peace process to achieve a different focus? Likewise, the traditional institution of shemagele is concerned with finding a way to continue, to re-integrate the society, to make life go on – not by insisting on a person's rights, but by trying to accommodate differences and conflicting views. To achieve this, it is essential that the different stories are known. Had the narratives of women been on the peace-negotiators' minds, it might have given a different focus to their deliberations.

Women’s stories; gains and losses

Women often show great creativity and endurance in sustaining their families during war. Tigrayan women are no exception. Likewise, war often enables women to move into positions previously held by men, as men might be absent, and women would thereby take on roles as decision makers. Women are therefore not merely deemed to loose in wars, but might gain as actors of new roles, taking on new identities implicating heightened self-esteem, as was the case with the fighter women in TPLF.

When I ask Lula what the revolution has given her, she says: "If I had not been a tegadalit, fighter, I had not learnt anything. I would have continued to be subordinated to men. Now I know the heggi, the [Ethiopian] law. Now I am experienced. … My age mates from the village," Lula continues, "we were married at the same time; they have born children. To me they seem more like my mother. How many children have they born? Seven or eight? They only know about giving birth, they do not know how to manage their upbringing. If I had stayed in the village I would have born seven or eight children by now. The government has not treated us differently, but we [the fighters] have gained knowledge. … I went to fight, I thought I might die, but I did not. I fought day and night, day and night, we stayed in different places, through that I gained my knowledge. With that experience my father could never have made me marry someone I didn't know, I wouldn't have gone there. Now, if I want a man I will choose myself!"

There is no doubt Lula has gained confidence through her participation as a fighter in the struggle. But women's agency is not only a matter of participation in an armed struggle; it is also the story of women struggling to manage extreme life-situations and poverty[11]. Even if Saba took part in the Tigrayan revolution as a cadre, her story is as much about her attempts to get ends meet in her civilian life as head of household. It is a story about washing gold in the rivers in berekha, the "wilderness", to pay for one year's back-lag on the house-rent; of walking on foot with twelve donkeys to May Tsebri, two days walk away, buying cereals to sell in the market town. She decided not to follow the others to Sudan during the big famine (1984-85). "The Weyane[12] said we should all go to Sudan, but we said we would stay here. We told them if we went there, we might have to prostitute ourselves to survive." However, Saba sold sewa, the local millet beer, before the revolution. She still sells sewa. I ask her: "You gave so many years to the Weyane and the work for women's issues; what did the revolution give you?" She answers: "Before when I made sewa I could make a living from it, I could even have built my own house, I could have bought nice clothes and shoes, gold. Instead I went to the field, I’m a poor I tell you. … I was working for Weyane, I was working for the women's organisation; I thought the revolu­tion would give development for the people. I went to bed without food sometimes. I struggled. But the Weyane could not help me. When I remember it, I’m very sad because there was nothing there for me. Sometimes I earn a little money", she says, "sometimes I still go to bed without having eaten". Saba is left with the burden of poverty, with heavy work, with traditional women's work. She continued to work for the Women's Association of Tigray[13], till five years ago. The last three years she even had a salary, Saba says and laughs. "Then they told me 'you do not have education', so I had to quit." She suddenly found herself disqualified after so many years of dedication. Her lack of formal education had made it impossible for Saba to compete with the women who had, and not least with ex-fighter men, when positions were distributed among comrades after the revolution. In spite of her efforts during the struggle to improve women's lives, Saba still has to struggle to secure only a minimum living for herself and her family. Nevertheless, she does not strike me as a powerless woman. "I will continue to try," Saba assures me.

Women submerged in extreme situations and wartime conditions are, following Cynthia Enloe, often left with "only a sliver of space for agency" (Enloe 2000: 248). They would, however, take advantage of whatever tiny space is left for them, to strategise. As the peace process between Eritrea and Ethiopia is at a stand-still, it could have been useful to identify a sliver of space for peace, and be able to use it. Acknowledging the experience of women and making it part of a collective narrative, might reveal that very sliver; the potential space for peace which lies in women’s insistence, "I will find another way" and "I will continue to try".

Women's voices; irrelevant for peace?

My examples above should not be interpreted as if Tigrayan women are against the Eritrean-Ethiopian war, and that men are not. It would not reflect an empirical reality where the loss of Badme to Eritrea is as inconceivable for most Tigrayan men as for women. Likewise, political disagreement might be perceived as difficult to voice for both men and women, as it is interpreted as risky also in a post-Derg Ethiopia with TPLF/EPRDF in power. Tigrayans' continued loyalty to TPLF seems to have prevented major political disagreements[14], even if this loyalty might be seen as ambiguous. People are fully aware of the reprisal abilities of the party and therefore might find it hard to oppose its policies (Aalen 2002). One young man, having participated in a community meeting where the war with Eritrea had been discussed, said that when the men where asked if they would be willing to fight they all raised their hands saying "ishi, OK". But he also knew there where more men than him present, who would use the first opportunity to run away if they had to. Nevertheless, in the case of the Eritrean-Ethiopian war, Tigrayan people in general do challenge the Ethiopian government by their unwillingness to accept the loss of Badme and Tigrayan land to Eritrea. The people of the region thereby make it difficult for their past revolutionary leaders, now in power in Ethiopia, to renounce Badme without risking their acquired state power and positions gained during the revolution.

During the revolution TPLF established political mass participation in the liberated rural areas. People's participation has persisted to this day. Meetings at igri k'om, under the [big] tree, are regular, and implicate that all major questions at some point have to be discussed (or propa­gated) at this level. However, the focus applied for these discussions is decisive, and would likewise determine what actions people would support. Concerning the Eritrean-Ethiopian conflict, the outcome would be different if the discussions are focused on pursuing what is considered "national rights", or if directed at pursuing peace and getting on.

The question remains if these public meetings in Tigray could serve as a forum where the narratives of women could have been given space. Just as the Truth Commission in South Africa managed to incorporate the painful truth about the misdeeds of both apartheid and of some aspects of ANC's fight into national consciousness; just as the reports of German "Trümmer­frauen"[15] after 1945 were an important factor in overcoming a legacy of fascist propaganda and in creating a new start in Germany. Or are other forums necessary? Even if these public political meetings in Tigray are open for women's participation, it seems women in general do not feel comfortable with raising their voices in a setting where their husbands and other (male) rela­tives are present. A husband might be ridiculed by his mates if his wife is too outspoken in public; she risks being punished for her forthrightness when coming home. However, gender roles in a Tigrayan context place limits both on men's and women's agency as to publicly pursue alternative strategies that imply a break with socially sanctioned gender identity; traditionally emphasising male strength and female submissiveness. Thus experiences beyond the gender norms remain privatised, and a process of collective reflection and incorporation into shared knowledge is halted. A process that would bring these experiences and women's experiences in particular, to public attention could be one step towards a different approach on questions of peace.


I started my discussion of a gendered perspective on war and peace processes with a rhetoric headline based in Nordstrom’s (2000) statement of seeing women as betrayed. From her point of view women are betrayed as unarmed victims of war, and by the general silencing and invisibility of their experiences, knowledge(s) and agency. Defining by whom women are betrayed would be a more complex task though. Nevertheless, prevailing gender hierarchy is not unrelated to their betrayal. Likewise the fact that TPLF wanted to secure state power, made them drop challenging traditional gender roles, in practice. However, sanctioned practices securing gender identity might have their fiercest defenders precisely among the same sex. Under-communication of competence, to prevent negative attention and potential sanctions from the community is one means by which Tigrayan women manage to secure a minimum of space for agency when their agency is limited by gender norms. At the same time, this strategy prevents women from achieving more influence and equality. To avoid perpetuating their betrayal, women therefore must be willing to make their knowledge(s) visible beyond privatised experience.

Without any intention of romanticising Tigrayan women’s situation, my claim is that peace processes would gain from one of the strategies women might use to manage their lives; namely the acquired ability to shift focus from pursuing principles to taking advantage of slivers of space for agency to be able to move on. But for women's knowledge(s) to make a difference in conflict resolution, post-war and peace-processes, it requires that women are willing to step forward and communicate the competence implicit in their experiences. And it requires that there is somebody there to listen.


©Thera Mjaaland. The article is published in Prospects for peace, security and human rights in Africa's Horn. Sørbø, Gunnar & Siegfried Pausewang (red.), Bergen: Fagbokforlaget, 2004.



[1] The constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, 8th December 1994 states in article 35: Rights of Women. (3) The historical legacy of inequality and discrimination suffered by women in Ethiopia taken into account, women, in order to remedy this legacy, are entitled to affirmative measures. The purpose of such measures shall provide special attention to women so as to enable them to compete and participate on the basis of equality with men in political, social and economic life as well as in public and private institutions (Fasil 1997: 226). However, the contention of the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front that politics should be ‘gender-blind’ led to the exclusion of any specific, affirmative action clause in the new Eritrean constitution, ratified in 1997 (Hale 2001).

[2] Conference sponsored by the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanisms (CEWARN), 24th November 2003, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, www.irinnews.org/

[3] This continues to be a fact worldwide, three years after UN Security Council’s Resolution 1325 so promisingly was "[r]eaffirming the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and peace-building, and stressing the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintaining and promotion of peace and security, and the need to increase their role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution". Resolution 1325 was adopted by the Security Council, 31st October 2000, (emphasis in original), www.un.org/

[4] Names are altered.

[5] Fighter: tegadelti (plural), tegadalay (male, singular), tegadalit (female, singular)

[6] Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front, is the TPLF-based coalition which have been in power in Ethiopia since the overthrow of the Derg in 1991.

[7] Her name is altered.

[8] The verb mebais is usually used in Tigrinya to signify clashes between people, also between husband and wife. The word can be translated with both "to quarrel" and "to fight" which does not differentiate the uneven power relation implicit in domestic violence. A common question when it is known that a woman has been hit by her husband is, "what did she do?" implicitly signalling she might as well deserve it.

[9] As I knew Abeba did not think of me as a researcher at the time, I asked her a week later if I could record her story and use it in my research. She agreed to it without hesitation.

[10] This traditional institution of mediation conducted by shemagele, elders, exists alongside the official juridical institutions in Ethiopia. Conflicts between people are tried solved with this traditional system, but will be taken over by the state system if the mediators do not succeed. Shemagele was traditionally older men, but today any adult person, man or woman, who is trusted and believed to be wise, can enter this position in relation to a specific case. That tension and conflicts occur in social interaction is indeed acknowledged, as is the urgency of reconciliation as a social practice.

[11] When I had the opportunity in March 2001 to discuss women's issues with Women's Association of Tigray (WAT), vise-chairperson Temreat Belay did not agree with me that domestic violence is a major issue for Tigrayan women. She dismissed it exactly as a western feminist point of view, and said the problem for women in Tigray is first and foremost poverty.

[12] An expression used about TPLF and interpreted as "revolution".

[13] WAT was first established as a committee during the struggle within TPLF, but have since 1996 been an independent NGO. It organises approximately 400.000 women in Tigray.

[14] Twelve members of the TPLF left a Central Committee meeting in protest in March 2001 on decisions taken during the Eritrean-Ethiopian war. They had wanted a much tougher strategy when Eritrea was pushed back the year before. The dissidents were dispelled from their positions and later faced charges of corruption.

[15] Literally "ruin-women", the German women who made new life out of the rubbles after Germany's defeat during WW2. The Trümmerfrauen was brought to my attention by Siegfried Pausewang in our dialogue about this article. 


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