Guidebook aims to reduce Ethiopian family violence

Five Ethiopian-Israeli women were murdered by their partners in 2006.

ethiopians sigd 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
ethiopians sigd 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
A comprehensive guide aimed at reducing spousal violence within the Ethiopian immigrant community is to be published this week in a joint effort by the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Joint Distribution Committee, the municipalities of Beersheba and Netanya, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and several nonprofit Ethiopian organizations. The 90-page booklet is the result of a four-year experimental program piloted by the Beersheba-based Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Center, under the auspices of the city's social welfare department. The Guide for Community Efforts in Building Peace within the Family among Immigrants from Ethiopia will provide professionals working with Ethiopian immigrants and leaders within the community with the tools to set up copycat programs and tips on how to broach a subject that has been taboo until recently. According to official figures, five Ethiopian-Israeli women were murdered by their partners in 2006, comprising more than a quarter of the total number of women killed nationwide. "We learned a lot from the study," one of the guide's authors, Dr. Lea Kacen, a member of faculty in the Social Work Department and chair of the Israel Center for Qualitative Methodologies at BGU, told The Jerusalem Post Monday. "For example, there is no word in Amharic for 'family violence.' In the past, if a wife did not do what was expected of her, then her husband was supposed to 'educate' her [even if that meant using violence]," she said. "Suddenly, they arrive in Israel and are told that their way of 'educating' is not acceptable," she continued, adding that according to Ethiopian tradition, couples are also not allowed to discuss their disagreements. "Their entire social network has been turned upside down," said Kacen, who co-authored the booklet with social workers Gita Sopher, Daphna Moshiov, Ronit Solomon, Hannah Cohen and researcher Liat Kedar. "In Israel, the women go out to work, learn Hebrew quickly and are taught how society works, but the men have difficulties learning the language and finding jobs." The steering committee for the Beersheba pilot was made up mainly of Ethiopian-Israeli professionals. It focused on methods for establishing mediation services between the community and the establishment, assigning volunteers of Ethiopian origin to deal with domestic violence, training the Shmagaleh (community elders) to confront the problems and providing professionals with cultural sensitivity training. "The Ethiopian community is a strong one," said Kacen. "The central theme of this program is that in order to reduce [spousal] violence, the initiative has to come from within the community itself." Details of the study, tips on how to construct the model and the resulting booklet will be presented Wednesday at a one-day conference at BGU. Kacen said representatives from local authorities from around the country have promised to attend. Also on Wednesday, the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs will hold a joint session to examine the problems.