On being a woman: On being hated

Living abroad can be difficult, for men and women alike. Both sexes are treated like outsiders, miss family and friends back home, struggle with the loss of creature comforts, and can find it difficult to cope alone.

But for women, there’s more. As a woman living in Ethiopia, I constantly dread leaving my home. And I’ve had to carry this around with me for the last two years. It’s not something I talk about with many back home, mostly because I wouldn’t know how to say it, where to start. And I was afraid people wouldn’t understand, that they’d find me weak or ungrateful or exaggerative.

Luckily, I’ve met some absolutely incredible women (and men!) through my service here and one of them has spoken out about the treatment we receive in Ethiopia. She is heartbreakingly honest about the struggles she faces, I face, every foreign woman I know faces.

Her blog post is not easy to read, but neither is life here. And I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I only told you about the coffee ceremonies I attend, the projects I complete at my school, the travel I’m able to experience. Those are all aspects of living in Ethiopia, but the harassment is an aspect of my life too. Sometimes the largest aspect.

So, if you’re interested in what life is really like for foreign women living in Ethiopia (and, I suppose, in many non-Western countries), read this blog post:

On Being Hated by Danielle Luttrull

  1. Daniella,
    Sorry that you had to go through this in my motherland. But I think your description is either exaggerated or you are a very sensitive person. By no means I support harassment of women but this is the reality we live in every corner of the world. Even in America, this is a common experience. Here I attached a link what happens in new york city…a women walked 10 hrs with a hidden camera…the result? “100 instances of verbal harassment in that 10-hour walk, not including winks and whistles”


    So based on this reported rate, your experience may even be much easier than that what happens in new york city.

    Then if NY city is not a better place in harrassment scale…would you be feeling the same if you move to NY city? I doubt….here is my take

    First, you may felt aggravated with the whole living situation and didnt get the comfort you used to….so you are kind of rationalizing and it is all about harassment “which making you a different person”….may be you are not ready for prime time volunteering in “harsh” areas where the living standard is not as good.

    Second, you imply as if every ethiopian was chasing you to sleep with you…I find this insulting. I am sure your experience with some low life thugs doesnt represent the whole nation of 90 million people and you may not realized that you are inferring about 90 millions people…..more than 75 different cultures and ethnic groups based on one or two towns you lived in.

    Third, you wrote about guys who grope foreigners breast….none of that was your experience but you heard about it and decided to write about it based on unfounded claim….this is something makes me wonder what your intentions are when you write this blog.

    Fourth, some of your claims are inaccurate for people who really knows that society. For example, It is very inaccurate to say “if I single man invites you to his house, that means its a proposition for sex”…extremely inaccurate. Let me tell you one thing that you didnt learn in two years….ethiopians like to invite people to their house to show their respect….I invited and hosted in my house so many medical students from U.S, UK, Germany and Sweden while they were on exchange visit to Jimma University and while I was working there. If you were one of them, probably you would have thought I was inviting you for sex…disgusting!!

    Fifth, you may have thought whom ever stare at you is interested in you. Dont forget you are a person with different color. Definitely people stare at you. That doesnt mean anything…that means you look different. Let me tell you my experience, First time when I left ethiopia…I went to northern Finland and lived in a town for two years….people used to stare on me all the time. Did I get offended…No. That is human nature…we tend to pay attention to something which looks different. So you may have gotten too far when you think whomever stared at you is desiring you.

    Finally I want to tell you that I am not saying harassment doesnt exist in ethiopia but I am saying it exist as it exist in NY city but has different cultural context and manifestations.

    My advice for any of people who plan to volunteer in any part of the world, especially third world countries, life can be tough during your stay overseas and make sure you are ready for it before you leave. Otherwise, the consequence can be devastating for yourself or the innocent people whom you are trying to help.

    1. Moss,

      I know your comment is for Danielle, but since she probably won’t see it, I feel like I should respond based on your “unfounded claims.”

      First: She didn’t exaggerate. In fact, at some points, her claims are mild compared to what I went through and to what I heard from some other volunteers. Her experience in Ethiopia does nothing to belittle the harassment that women experience in other parts of the world (including NYC), it’s just an account on what she’s had to go through.

      Second: I can personally attest to having to wonder if a man coming up to me was just being friendly or if he was trying to sleep with me simply because I was a foreigner. And before you decide to be offended, hear me out…random guys who approach a woman on the street are rarely being “friendly.” If a co-worker wanted to talk or a neighbor or a local shop owner, fine…but the good guys let a woman pass by on the street unheaded, they don’t come up to her.

      Third: I’ve been groped in Ethiopia. Just because it didn’t happen to her, doesn’t mean she made it up – she was speaking out for those of us who didn’t want to.

      Fourth: An invitation to a man’s house in Ethiopia may not always be a proposition for sex, but that’s how the community views it, or at least how they did in Hawassa. I would get coffee in a public place with my male Ethiopian friends and people still stared at us and assumed we were sleeping together. I only went to someone’s house if the wife/daughter invited me or I had been working with a male long enough to feel comfortable around him.

      Fifth: It’s not the staring that gets to us, it’s the shouting, the touching, occasionally having things thrown at us. That’s more than just a polite interest.

      So before you decide she or anyone else was simply “unprepared” remember, no one should have to prepare themselves to live a life of constant public harassment. I lived that life for two years and I can tell you, nothing can prepare you for it.

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