A recent video of a grandmother slapping, pushing and punching her young granddaughter in Ethiopia has horrified the country’s Internet community, prompting a flurry of online activism. Yet in a country where less than one percent of the population has access to the Internet, our Observer questions whether good intentions in the digital world can have a real world impact.
Posted in late March, the nearly six minute-long video shows an adult woman sitting on a couch besides a young girl. The pair appears to be having a discussion when the older woman suddenly raises her hand and strikes the child square across the face. The conversation between them resumes, but is regularly punctuated by the sound of the woman slapping, shoving even pummelling the small girl with her fists.
Due to disturbing nature of the video, FRANCE 24's Observers Team has chosen to only show selected screen grabs:
A grandmother beats her granddaughter in Ethiopia. Ironically, in the video, the woman can be seen sporting a T-shirt with the words, “Children’s Safety is the Responsibility of Everyone in the New Millennium” printed on the front. Video posted on YouTube by  tubingjustice.
Although little was initially known about the footage, its content shocked viewers. Facebook groups such as Ethiopians Against Child Abuse and Stop Child Abuse in Ethiopia quickly sprang up to condemn the violence. Rumours quickly began to swirl around, some even claiming that the girl had been beaten because the woman believed she was possessed by the devil.
The on-line buzz over the incident soon caught the attention of Ethiopian businessman Ephrem Tesfaye, who went on a local radio station to offer a reward of 10,000 birr (around 430 euros) to anyone who could identify those seen in the video. A woman named by local media as Meron Asnake quickly stepped forward as the cameraperson, identifying the woman in the video as the girl’s grandmother, Halimat Mohammed.
According to Zekarias Sintayehu, a journalist with Ethiopia’s weekly newspaper The Reporter, Mohammed has explained she beat her granddaughter out of fear the girl would be expelled from school after repeatedly getting into trouble. Mohammed has also reportedly said the incident happened three years ago, but neighbours have refuted this claim, alleging it took place just last year.
Since the video surfaced, Mohammed and the girl’s family have filmed a public apology and authorities at Addis Ababa’s Menen Area police station have reportedly launched an official investigation into the incident.

“The story doesn’t seem to have trickled down to the mainstream population in any major way”

Endalk is an Ethiopian blogger based in Addis Ababa. He also works as a lecturer at the country’s Arba Minch University.
Child abuse is a huge problem in Ethiopia, but no one talked about it before this unfortunate girl was filmed being beaten by her grandmother, and the video was placed in the public domain via social media. Corporal punishment is widely practiced in Ethiopia, even in schools despite the fact that there are rules forbidding these kinds of acts.
Walking around Addis Ababa, one might observe adults shouting or sometimes even hitting children forced to work as shoe-shiners or chewing gum vendors.
Even though this kind of behaviour is commonplace, the video spawned a lot of righteous anger online. In the end, however, this very visible form of web activism is fairly insignificant. You have to keep in mind that while Ethiopia’s Facebook population is about 500,000 people, the majority of Ethiopians are still illiterate [according to UNICEF only 30 percent of Ethiopians age 15 and older can read and write]. There’s very little debate over the story among communities off-line. A couple of local media outlets picked it up, but it doesn’t seem to have trickled down to the mainstream population in any major way.
Physical punishment has been such an ingrained part of Ethiopian culture for so long that you would need to create a highly coordinated and systematic PR campaign to tackle it. I think those who have gone on social media and joined Facebook groups are highly ‘westernised’ and were shocked by the video because they found it so brutal and ‘uncivilised’. They want to change their society through on-line activism, but I don’t think it’s an appropriate medium for this particular issue. Besides, there are so many other, more pressing issues threatening Ethiopia’s youth than child ‘abuse’, such as hunger, child labour and more importantly, the fact that it is becoming increasingly common to see Ethiopian children being trafficked for prostitution.

“Yes, there are other major issues threatening youth in Ethiopia, but this one is preventable”

Hamerti Melka is an active member of the Facebook group, Ethiopians Against Child Abuse. Born and raised in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa until the age of 11, Melka currently works as a home nurse in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
I saw the video posted on another Facebook user’s page, and I was shocked. I thought that I needed to say something, to do anything I could to help.
It’s sad to say, but growing up in Ethiopia, physical discipline was a regular part of life for most of my peers. I would see scars and bruises. It was not something kids talked about but it was an unspoken issue. They would be physically disciplined for many reasons, such as not doing well in school, not finishing a meal or getting their clothes dirty while playing. Sometimes for no good reason at all. It’s a bigger issue than this one video, I’m sure this happens in a lot more homes than we’re aware of.
I think that on a cultural level, the line is very blurry as to what constitutes discipline versus child abuse. But to me, discipline is educating an individual about something they’ve done wrong. In my opinion, when you beat a child, they don’t learn anything.
Yes, there are other major issues threatening youth in Ethiopia, but this one is preventable. We can change this.