Post-War Narratives of Women Ex-Combatants of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)

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Addis Ababa University


The leadership of the TPLF during Ethiopia’s civil war and their military victory over the Derg was successful for a variety of reasons. In addition to overthrowing the Derg, the TPLF efficiently organized the involvement of various members of the society during the struggle. The involvement of women in the TPLF was an important policy decision and women’s contributions to the TPLF’s success is an undeniable fact. Nevertheless, the lack of scholarly research on former women combatants and their experiences before, during and after the war has inadvertently written women out of Ethiopian history. The present study addressed this omission, using a semi-structured interview to analyze the narratives of 20 women ex-combatants living in Addis Ababa from a feminist theoretical standpoint. Standpoint theory, as a general approach within feminism, emphasizes the importance of creating knowledge based upon women's experiences and how women’s lived experiences can empower women by when analyzed in ways that validate an oppositional feminist consciousness. Interview responses indicated that most of the respondents felt that gender relations among TPLF soldiers during the war were almost equal noting that the idea of gender equity within the TPLF was a new phenomenon not only for TPLF members, but also the people in the rural areas. The roles of TPLF women went beyond the domestic, private and traditional role of women and the adjustment to women and men to such new roles was an ongoing process. However, after the war, most respondents noted a dramatic shift in the way TPLF women were treated. As a result, most respondents currently believe that women ex-combatants are not treated fairly by the government. Respondents who currently face challenges note economic, psychological, social/interpersonal, and health-related factors as ongoing problems. Respondents who experience few problems had educational and occupational skills that were transferable to civilian life. Recommendations and justifications for preferential treatment for war veterans are listed that might assist struggling women ex-combatants and that might ensure that the roles of TPLF women are not erased from history



Gender Studies