The Government of Ethiopia has made a commitment to eliminate child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in Ethiopia by 2025.
World Leaders from across Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and Europe attended the first Girl Summit on July 22nd 2014. His Excellency DPM Mekonnen was speaking as part of a round-table discussion that included the Executive Director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake and the Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union Commission, Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko.
His Excellency DPM Mekonnen said:
“Our approach puts girls at the heart of our commitment, working closely with them, their families and communities, to end these practices for good and break the cycle of harmful traditional practices.”
He said that Ethiopia would achieve its goal by 2025 through a strategic, multi-sectoral approach and highlighted four areas where the government has promised to take action:
- Through incorporating relevant indicators in the National Plan and the National Data Collection Mechanisms including the 2015 Demographic and Health Survey to measure the situation of FGM/C and Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) and to establish a clear bench mark
- Through enhancing the coordination and effectiveness of the National Alliance to End Child Marriage and the National Network to End FGM by engaging different actors with key expertise
- Through strong, accountable mechanisms for effective law enforcement
- And, through an increase of 10% in financial resources to eliminate FGM/C and CEFM from the existing budget.
The Minister of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, Her Excellency w/ro Zenebu Tadesse spoke about some of the achievements Ethiopia has made in recent years. She said the national rate of FGM has decreased by half among girls aged 14 and under, from 52% in 2000, to 23% in 2011 and the national prevalence of child marriage has declined from 33.1% in 1997, to 21.4% in 2010.
Her Excellency Minister Tadesse said:
“I am proud of our achievements and I would like to share with you our experiences with the hope of inspiring other nations to take decisive, robust action.”
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“All girls have the right to live free from violence and coercion, without being forced into marriage or the lifelong physical and psychological effects of female genital mutilation. Abhorrent practices like these, no matter how deeply rooted in societies, violate the rights of girls and women across the world. I am hosting the Girl Summit today so that we say with one voice – let’s end these practices once and for all.”
The Summit brought together young people, community members, activists, traditional and faith leaders, government and international leaders, experts and champions committed to the rights and empowerment of women and girls.
Attendees heard from girls and women who have lived through child, early and forced marriage and FGM/C, and from inspiring individuals who are now campaigning for change so that others can enjoy greater opportunities in the future.
14-year-old year-old Yeshalem from the Amhara region of Ethiopia underwent FGM/C when she was aged three – and shortly after, she was married to a man 15 years older than her.
Yeshalem said: “After the wedding, I was immediately sent to live with my husband and his parents. My husband said to my family ‘she’s too young’ and eventually I was allowed to return to my own family.”
Her father tried to marry her again, but Yeshalem told her teacher and eventually her father allowed her to continue her education. Yeshalem is now in a girls’ club that empowers girls to involve teachers and the police when they hear about threats of child marriage.
“We also have a secret box in our school where you can write down if somebody in the community is going to be married early – or cut – and we can report it, and try to stop it.”
Her Excellency Minister Tadesse said:
“Yeshalem’s story and the thousands like her, is what is powering Ethiopia’s efforts to change societal attitudes and behaviours towards girls in Ethiopia. At this Summit, we must make it our collective duty to support Yeshalem and girls like her around the world – because they are the ones who are creating lasting change.”
In Ethiopia, according to the 2011 Welfare Monitoring Survey (WMS) report, 23 per cent of female children aged 0 to 14 years had undergone female genital cutting at national level. The regional distribution of FGM/C varies highly from the lowest 7 per cent in Gambela region to the highest 60 percent in Afar region. Next to Afar region, Amhara and Somali regions have the highest percentage of FGM/C, which is 47 per cent and 31per cent respectively. As a result of the ongoing commitment of the Government, Ethiopia is witnessing a number of promising results that are galvanizing stakeholders to intensify their efforts: