Donors appreciative of the joint UNFPA/UNICEF programme to stop FGM/C in Afar Region

By Wossen Mulatu

Trust fund donors visit of the UNFPA/UNICEF joint programme acceleration of change to eliminate FGM/C
Visit by Donors to the Social mobilisation interventions to end FGM/C in Wasero Village, Sabure Kebele, Afar Region. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mulatu

26 MARCH, AFAR REGION, ETHIOPIA – Donors to the UNFPA/UNICEF programme to stop female genital mutilation and cutting in Ethiopia’s Afar region carried out a visit in March to see its progress.

Accompanied by staff from UNFPA and UNICEF, the donors from the governments of Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg visited programmes run by implementing partner agencies, including the Afar Bureau of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (BoWCYA), Afar Pastoralist Development Association (ADPA) and the Rohi Weddu Pastoralist Development Association.

Work under the programme is being delivered in two phases – the first ran from 2008-2013 and saw interventions launched in six woredas (districts) out of a total of 32 in the Afar region. The second phase began last year and will run until 2017, covering three more woredas and including advocacy engagement at a federal level.

The implementing partners have responsibility for different aspects of the programme – the regional BoWCYA is responsible for the programme’s overall co-ordination and legal implementation, APDA focuses on reproductive health issues and Rohi Weddu aims to deliver wider community mobilisation and facilitating community dialogue.

In the last five years, the partners, with technical and financial support from UNFPA and UNICEF, have achieved impressive results.

The first phase of the project is running in 74 kebeles (sub-districts) of the six woredas of Zone Three of the region, with a total population of more than 400,000 people. These are: Awash Fentale, Gelaelo (Burimodaytu), Amibara, Gewane, Argoba, and Dulesa.

According to Zahra Humed Ali, Head of the Bureau of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, Afar is the first Ethiopian region to issue a proclamation on the abandonment of FGM/C.

Trust fund donors visit of the UNFPA/UNICEF joint programme acceleration of change to eliminate FGM/C
Group photo of adolescent girls from Aasero village, Sabure Kebele, Awash District in Afar region representing the new generation of uncut girls in the Region. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mulatu

“Community conversations facilitated by influential leaders in the community including kebele administrators, women’s associations and Traditional Birth Attendants is making a significant impact on the road to the abandonment of FGM/C in the region and religious leaders are leading the movement,” she said.

Eleven woredas in Afar have already abandoned FGM/C, with six doing so with support from the UNFPA/UNICEF joint programme.

According to Valerie Browning, Programme Coordinator of Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA), the majority of women of reproductive age in Afar have undergone FGM/C and as a result commonly experience urinary retention, kidney disease and problems with menstruation and sexual intercourse.

The APDA is working to identify and support women affected by FGM/C through its work in the region.

The Barbra May Maternity Hospital in Mille is one health institution in the Afar Region to include FGM/C intervention as part of its maternal and health child services. The hospital opened in 2011 and is run by the APDA, treating many conditions related to FGM/C, like opening up infibulations, as well as more routine obstetric procedures.

Asmelash Woldemaraim, Executive Director of Rohi Weddu, says the UNFPA/UNICEF programme has dramatically raised awareness on FGM/C.

This has brought about a rapid decline in the prevalence of the practice, with 39 per cent of women affected in 2013, compared with 90 per cent in 2008.

Trust fund donors visit of the UNFPA/UNICEF joint programme acceleration of change to eliminate FGM/C
Momina Gida, 17 years old in Aasero village, Sabure Kebele, Awash District in Afar region represents the new generation of uncut girls in the Region. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mulatu

Recognising the influential nature of the Afar social and clan structures, the UNFPA/UNICEF joint programme focuses on changing the attitudes of community leaders by creating a core group of advocates for change.

The group consists of senior regional government officials, religious and clan leaders, elders and FGM/C practitioners. The aim is to change the attitudes of people within this group, prompting community dialogue to bring about a consensus within the wider community.

Data collected at the sub-district and regional level show that more than 7,000 girls in the six districts of Zone Three of the Afar region have remained uncut since the start of the programme.

Following the visit, the donors acknowledged the commitment of the Afar regional government, as well as the two UN agencies running the joint programme, to bringing about a significant reduction of the rate of FGM/C in the region.

They agreed on the need to increase funding, as resources are stretched, even though the programme is delivering results and highlighted the importance of reaching less accessible areas.

This is a particular challenge, given the pastoralist nature of the community, with 90 per cent of livelihoods being reliant on subsistence livestock production. The region’s harsh climate is another challenge.

Finally, the donors expressed their belief that breaking down taboos and educating the community about the problems posed by FGM/C will bring about positive change – the hope is that once the majority can be convinced that this practice is wrong, the message will spread among more communities and end it for good.

Empowering Girls – Empowering Humanity: Picture It!

As part of the Guardian interactive article for the 25th anniversary of UN convention on the rights of the child, we asked children across the country what rights were most important to them. Presented with a child-friendly version of the convention, this is what they had to say.

For the International Women’s Day celebration we selectively pictured the girls.

 Interactive Gallery, click on each image to enlarge and read story. 

 

Crown Princess of Denmark visites programmes supporting girls and women in Afar Region

Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and Danish Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation, Mr. Mogens Jensen sit for a community conversation on FGM/C & Child Marriage in Afar
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and Danish Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation, Mr. Mogens Jensen sit for a community conversation on FGM/C & Child Marriage in Afar ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mahonde

17 February 2015, Semera, Afar Region: A delegation led by Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark paid a one day visit to the Afar Region of Ethiopia to observe first-hand the implementation of the Joint Programme on eliminating female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C) supported by UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund, and UNICEF, United Nations Children’s Fund as well as a programme on the prevention of child marriage. She was able to see efforts undertaken by community members regarding the abandonment of the two harmful practices and institutional responses at mitigating complications. Crown Princess Mary was accompanied by the Danish Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation, Mr. Mogens Jensen.

The Joint Programme addresses the issue of FGM/C not only because of its harmful impact on the reproductive and sexual health of women, but also because it violates women’s and girls’ fundamental human rights. This harmful practice has both immediate and long term consequences to the health and well-being of girls and women, negatively impacting maternal and neonatal health outcomes, and also increasing the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission. The practice often leaves girls with severe pain and trauma, shock, hemorrhage, sepsis, urine retention, ulceration of the genital region, and urinary infection, among other complications. Girls’ and women’s health, their empowerment, and the realization of their rights are negatively affected by FGM as well as the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals related to reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS.

In the Afar Region girls and women are subjected to the worst form of the practice – infibulation – usually at the ages of seven to nine. In some districts in Afar, this harmful traditional practice is even exercised within some days after the birth of the child. The rights-based approach affirms that well–being, bodily integrity and health are influenced by the way a human being is valued.

Crown Princess of Denmark is welcomed by an Afar girl during her visit to programmes supporting girls and women in Afar Region
Crown Princess of Denmark is welcomed by an Afar girl during her visit to programmes supporting girls and women in Afar Region, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mahonde

In the first leg of her visit, Crown Princess Mary met different community members at a locality in the Afambo District and observed community dialogues involving different sectors of the community on the abandonment of FGM/C and child marriage. In addition, she observed a discussion of adolescent girls’ club and interacted with the participants. This intervention which aims at integrating efforts at the abandonment of FGM/C and child marriage is under implementation for the past two years in seven localities in the Afambo District and is coordinated by the Bureau of Women, Children and Youth Affairs of the Afar Region. Woizero Zahara Humed, Head of the Bureau of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, provided the visitors with an overall briefing regarding the programme. Crown Princess Mary interacted with community members, especially women and girls, and appreciated the efforts being undertaken to abandon the harmful practices and empower girls and women.

The Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey of 2011puts the median age at first marriage for the Afar Region as the third lowest in the country at age 16.5. Moreover, despite the progresses made in recent years, the prevalence of FGM/C remains very high in the Region. According to the 2011 Welfare Monitoring Survey the prevalence of FGM/C is highest in the Region at 60 per cent. But six districts in the Region in which the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Accelerated Abandonment of FGM/C is being implemented have publicly declare abandonment of the practice since the initiative was launched in 2008.

For the second leg of her visit, Crown Princess Mary was taken to the Barbara May Maternity Hospital in Mille District, where she observed services being provided by the hospital at tackling complications resulting from FGM/C and child marriage, such as teenage pregnancy and childbirth. She was given a tour of the facilities of the hospital by Valerie Browning – Head of the Afar Pastoralist Development Association which is running the hospital – and the medical staff of the hospital. It was indicated during the visit that the hospital which has been operational since 2011 is providing life-saving delivery services and treating obstetric complications created by FGM/C. Crown Princess Mary also got the chance to interact with patients during her visit to the hospital.

Crown Princess Mary admired the commitment of the Afar Region in tackling FGM and child marriage when she met Awel Arba, Vice President of the Afar Region, later in the day. She appreciated the support being provided by UNFPA and UNICEF. The Vice President assured the Crown Princess that his Region was keen in continuing efforts at improving the lives of girls and women and remarked that his Region looked forward to support from Denmark.

During the Girl’s Summit held in London in June 2014, the Government of Ethiopia has committed to eliminate both FGM/C and child marriage by 2025.

The visit was jointly organized by the Embassy of Denmark, UNFPA, and UNICEF.

Trilateral South-South Partnership in Water Supply and Sanitation kicked off

 

South-South cooperation High Level Seminar on Urban WASH and River Basin Management.
Group photo of South-South Cooperation High Level Seminar participants on Urban WASH and River Basin Management, 20 January 2015, Hilton Hotel, Addis Ababa.©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

ADDIS ABABA, 20 January 2015: Today, the Government of Ethiopia organized a high level event to launch a two year South-South cooperation programme between the Governments of Brazil and Ethiopia on water supply and sanitation in Addis Ababa.

Present on the occasion were H.E. Alemayehu Tegenu, Federal Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, H.E Kebede Gerba, State Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Ms. Meseret Yetube, Director of Primary Health Services and Health Extension Programme at the Federal Ministry of Health, H.E. Ms. Isabel Cristina de Azevedo Heyvaert, Ambassador of Brazil to Ethiopia, Ms. Angela Spilsbury, Senior Health Advisor of DFID, delegates from Brazilian Government and members of the media.

The high level mission from Brazil comprised of a nine- person delegation to introduce innovative approaches to accelerate the One WASH national programme and address the three pending challenges namely urban sanitation, urban water regulation and watershed management.

His Excellency Alemaneyu Tegenu, Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy and Chairman of the National WASH Steering Committee in Ethiopia began his keynote address by congratulating the Brazilian delegation who travelled a long journey from South America to attend the inception mission for the South-South cooperation programme. He also thanked the Government of Brazil for letting Ethiopian experts visit exemplary reality in their country within the urban WASH to learn from successful models for the development of Ethiopian towns.

H.E. Ms. Isabel Cristina de Azevedo Heyvaert, Ambassador of Brazil to Ethiopia on her part revealed, “This meeting is one of the main benchmarks of my five year term of office as an Ambassador given its strategic importance for the economy and social development. I really consider this to be chance to participate in a meaningful way of the improvement of the quality of life of people and especially women and children, the most vulnerable beings in the society.”

In September 2014, UNICEF Brazil and UNICEF Ethiopia with the financial support from DFID organized a high level delegation to Brazil led by the State Ministers of Health and Water, Irrigation and Energy. The objective of the mission was to get insights on how Brazil has advanced in providing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in urban areas given its rapid urbanization in the last 50 years, which reduced significantly child mortality. During this mission, the government delegates were impressed by the advances made in managing fecal, solid and liquid waste management in small and medium sized towns. Additionally, they learnt how effective regulation can ensure that low income families and marginalised households in urban areas are able to receive affordable water supply.

South-South cooperation High Level Seminar on Urban WASH and River Basin Management.
Ms. Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF representative a.i. to Ethiopia giving a keynote speech at the South-South Cooperation High Level Seminar on Urban WASH and River Basin Management, 20 January 2015, Hilton Hotel, Addis Ababa. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

Ms. Anupama Rao Singh, Acting UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia on her part said, “UNICEF is looking at different technology options, and with the support of the Brazilian experts, we intend to pilot small scale, condominium, sewerage systems which can better fit the needs of small and medium towns in the country. In addition, UNICEF is supporting the development of the Urban Sanitation and Hygiene policy for a more efficient and coordinated efforts in making Ethiopian towns greener and healthier for women and children and the population at large.”

Through the DFID financed One WASH plus programme, UNICEF has been requested by the Government of Ethiopia to lead the development of a national integrated urban sanitation strategy. The South-South collaboration with Brazil will provide expert inputs to enable the finalisation of this strategy.

Ms. Angela Spilsbury, Senior Health Advisor of DFID announced that the UK Government will provide 106 million euros over the next five years to the One WASH national programme out of which, 22 million will be given to UNICEF to address the needs of women and girls in relation to water and sanitation, enhancing the engagement of the private sector and linking water resources management to climate resilience.

“Ethiopia would like to emphasize on enhancing partnership and development such as this since a national strategy on integrated urban sanitation and hygiene is being developed and hopefully ratified very soon”, said Ms. Meseret Yetube, Director of Primary Health Services and Health Extension Programme at the Federal Ministry of Health. “In line with this, the exchange visit we have been doing will definitely benefit our countries not only in the WASH sector but also in other walks of life”, she added.

The delegation from Brazil will visit four regions of Ethiopia in three teams. The first team will visit Adama and Gonder in Oromia and Amhara regions respectively and will focus on the establishment of independent water regulation for urban settlements. The second team, led by Dr. Samuel Godfrey, Chief of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in UNICEF Ethiopia, will visit Tigray with the objective of establishing a “technology transfer” of condominium sewerage for high density population areas. And a third team will visit the Awash basin in the Afar Region to exchange ideas on water resources management. The output of this visit will be a two year collaboration on Water Supply and Sanitation sector between the Governments of Ethiopia and Brazil.

South-South cooperation is a term used by policymakers and academics to describe the exchange of resources, technology, and knowledge between developing countries, also known as countries of the global South. Over the past decade, Brazil´s South-South cooperation with Africa has been growing rapidly and this represents an exemplary initiative of trilateral agreement between the Governments of Brazil and Ethiopia with the support of UNICEF.