Ethiopia boosts its efforts to end child marriage and FGM/C by 2025 at the National Girl Summit 

By Wossen Mulatu

National girl summit 2015
Participants of national girl summit 2015 at Sheraton Addis on 25 June 2015. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

25 June 2015, Addis Ababa: Today, the Government of Ethiopia reiterated its commitment to put an end to child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) at the National Girl Summit held for the first time in its capital. The Summit was held as a follow up to the Girl Summit in London held in July 2014 where the Government of Ethiopia took a heroic step by making a ground breaking commitment to end child, early and forced marriage and FGM/C in the country by 2025.

The historic National Summit in Ethiopia was officially opened by H.E. Ato Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister in the presence of H.E W/ro Zenebu Tadesse, Minister of Women Children and Youth Affairs with over two hundred partners drawn from Sector Ministries of Justice, Health, Education and Finance and Economic Development, UN representatives, representatives of religious council, development partners, civil societies, the private sector, members of the media and nine adolescent girls as guests of honour.

National girl summit 2015
H.E. Demeke Mekonnen Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia gives opening speech and officially launches National Girl Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

“We all have an obligation to fight and eliminate harmful traditional practices that are violating the rights of girls who will take over as the future leaders,” said H.E Ato Demeke Mekonnen. “If we are expecting good results and a lasting change to tackle these issues ones and for all, we need to work in a coordinated manner and there has to be accountability. I would like to reaffirm that the Government is on top of the agenda to eliminate early marriage and FGM/C and to build a harmful traditional practice (HTP) free country by working together with all partners.”

The Government of Ethiopia has formulated policies and legal and strategic frameworks to establish an environment whereby all citizens, regardless of gender, should have the right to determine his or her own future. However, harmful traditional practices (HTPs) such as child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) are still commonly practiced in the country, due to deeply entrenched traditional norms and values that degrades the lives of girls and women.

According to the Demographic Health Survey (DHS), the national prevalence of child marriage declined from 33.1 per cent in 1997 to 21.4 per cent in 2009/10 and among children aged 0-15 declined to 8 percent in 2011.As to FGM/C, the national prevalence rate was 74 per cent in 2005, 56 per cent in 2008 and 46 per cent in 2010. Among children aged 0-14 years, 52 per cent in 2000, 37.7 per cent in 2010 and 23 per cent in 2011 which shows a consistent decline.

H.E. Minister Zenebu on her part said that the Ministry of Women Children and Youth Affairs will continue to work closely and jointly with its sector Ministries and partners to support all the efforts on the ground including community conversations and also reinforcing the laws associated with harmful traditional practices.

On her keynote address, Gillian Mellshop, Acting UN Resident Coordinator and Representative to UNICEF Ethiopia said that Ethiopia has made significant progress in developing polices and strategies as well as in building the capacity of individuals and institutions to tackle those two harmful practices. She stated, “Now it is our turn as the UN in Ethiopia to maintain the momentum and pledge our support to translate the commitment into concrete action for girls. Let us use this occasion to recommit ourselves to empowering adolescent girls through strategies, interventions and partnerships that deliver results so we can jointly end child marriage and FGM/C by 2025 or sooner.”

Let Girls Be Girls“Female circumcision is neither in the Bible nor in the Koran and it should not be associated with any religion. How could one try to cut and harm a human body that has been created as complete?” exclaimed Dr. Aba Hailegabriel Meleku, Representative of the Inter Religious Council. “Our council condemns both child marriage and FGM and we hope there will be a platform to have one voice at the federal level to eliminate both evil acts.”

At the Summit, adolescent girls’ messages were geared towards the need for more support from religious leaders and law enforcement bodies; more schools for more girls to be educated; education on reproductive health; and above all the support from boys and young men to change their attitude towards harmful traditional practices.

Dr. Kestebirhan Admassu, Minister of Health said, “We should empower, educate and protect girls. Ethiopia’s Health Extension Workers are a great example to the rural girls and women to inspire them pursue their education and give back to their communities. ”

The Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs establishes a national HTP Platform in order to realise the multi-sectoral mechanisms and to ensure effective coordination and collaboration between and among different development partners involved in the fight against HTPs. This National Implementation and Monitoring Platform is established from representatives drawn from relevant stakeholders (Government line ministries, multilateral and bilateral donors, CSOs, women and youth associations and national federations, faith based organisations, and national associations) working towards the prevention and elimination of HTPs.

Finally, the event was made colourful through the viewing of a rap song entitled, “Yalemachin Get” by young rap star- Abelone Melesse, UNICEF Ethiopia National Ambassador. The song sends a powerful message on children’s rights and making the world a better place for girls by educating, protecting and not turning our back on them as they need all our support.

Moreover, an exhibition was part of the summit where local and international NGOs, CSOs and the UN working on the themes of child marriage and FGM/C showcased their work through print and electronic media.

Photos, videos and other resources can be found here

J7 Summit 2015 Motivating Youth to Speak Up

By Beakal Fasil

The J7 Youth Summit takes place in Berlin, Germany, 6-14 May.BERLIN, GERMANY – The J 7 Summit 2015 is an opportunity for 50 young people from all over the world to come together to discuss and express their ideas on the most pressing issues for the upcoming G7 negotiations in June. I was one of the lucky ones to have the privilege of participating in this summit as the Ethiopia representative during my internship at UNICEF Ethiopia. Topics such as: protecting our planet (protection of the marine and resource efficiency); building a healthy future for all (antibiotic resistance and fighting pandemics, neglected and poverty related diseases); empowering women and girls (empowering women in self-employment and vocational training); fair economy (retail and supply chain standards) and ACT NOW (youth involvement) were discussed in detail.

In relation to the issue of neglected and poverty related diseases, suggestions were made with an objective of eradicating poverty related diseases. Creating public awareness was one of the suggestions put forward. With this, there should be an increase in public education as well as in funding. These donations can purchase vaccinations and fund infrastructural solutions. Other suggestions by the youth of the world include increasing pharmaceutical research and developing new drugs, providing education for all and creating an organization with the explicit goal of eradicating neglected diseases.

After presenting our papers to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, we had a lively discussion, during which she stated that leaders of developed countries should also help and work with developing countries to eradicate poverty related diseases once and for all. The Chancellor also mentioned that everyone has a right to a full and healthy life, regardless of where they come from. Chancellor Angela Merkel was very impressed with the suggestions we made and acknowledged that the whole point of the J7 Summit was to include youth in decision making.

Delegates of the J7 Youth Summit develop recommendations around key global issues to bring forward to the G7 summit 2015.We also had the opportunity of going to all G7 countries embassies and the European Union to present our position papers so as to enable us to work together and see what can be done to involve more youth. One way of doing this was to make use of different social media interfaces such as Facebook and Twitter to better keep in contact, involve other youth to take part and spread our position papers to the rest of the world. We, the youth, have also promised to follow up on the G7 Summit and see if our suggestions have been included.

But the J7 Summit wasn’t only about work; it was also a chance for us to see historical places in Berlin such as Brandenburg Gate and the Wall of Berlin. We had the pleasure of listening to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and took part in different sport activities to keep ourselves active and refreshed. Personally, this experience has been an unforgettable journey. It gives me so much hope to see so many people and organizations willing to listen and work with the youth.

I am grateful to UNICEF Ethiopia for choosing me to represent my country at the summit.

 

UNICEF Advocates in Ethiopia and Chad joins hands to support HIV/AIDS prevention interventions

By Wossen Mulatu

Group photo at Addis Ketema Youth Centre with visitors from UNICEF Chad.
Group photo at Addis Ketema Youth Centre with visitors from UNICEF Chad: Mani Virgille Djelassem, 16 years old and UNICEF Chad’s Youth Advocate, Far left and Tommy T. Gobena, UNICEF Ethiopia supporter, centre red shirt. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Baiguatova

27 January 2015: UNICEF Chad’s Youth Advocate, 16 year old Mani Virgille Djelassem, and UNICEF Ethiopia Supporter- Tommy T. Gobena visited the Addis Ketema Youth Centre and its HIV prevention activities today.

The Chadian National Council for the fight against AIDS, in collaboration with UNICEF Chad, nominated the 16-year-old Mani as a National Youth Advocate to intensify the communications activities around the issue of HIV/ AIDS among youth and adolescents. Her appointment was officially presented by the First Lady of Chad, Mrs Hinda Deby, during the celebration of World AIDS Day on 1st December last year.

Tommy T. Gobena, a bass player in ‘Gogol Bordello’- a renowned international rock band- has been closely working with UNICEF in conveying messages on HIV/AIDS prevention. Tommy’s public service announcement (PSA) entitled “Your life; Your decision” produced by UNICEF in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and UNAIDS has received extensive public viewers and positive feedback on social media after its release on World AIDS Day last year.

Tommy believes that ignorance about the disease is a great enemy. “Education and knowledge should be a big part of the fight against HIV/AIDS. HIV is now a treatable medical condition. Through providing the necessary information, we can reduce HIV prevention as well as the stigma attached to it.”

The duo observed the Addis Ketema Youth Centre’s youth activities, including the library, cafeteria, Voluntary Counseling and Testing and game centres, and met with young beneficiaries. While discussing the issue of HIV/AIDS, Tommy and Mani highly encouraged them to get tested and know their HIV status as early as possible.

”The sooner you know your HIV status, the more options there are available to you.” said Mani.

“You can prevent infection to others if you find out you are HIV positive and you can seek medical care early and live a healthy life. If you test negative, you can continue to protect yourself from the virus by avoiding risky sexual behaviour,” reiterated Tommy.

Tommy and Mani also had the opportunity to meet with the Director of the Disease Prevention and Control Directorate at the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Mahlet Kifle, and the HIV Team Coordinator, Dr Frehiwot Nigatu.

“I highly encourage adolescents in Ethiopia to be a champion for change and share their knowledge about HIV with each other.” said Mani.

Dr. Mahlet Kifle on her part said, “In order to prevent the prevalence of the HIV virus among adolescents and young people, the appointment of such committed advocates is key. Likewise, we will do all the needful to support and work together with such champions for HIV prevention in Ethiopia by also taking the example of Chad.”

In Ethiopia, the prevalence of HIV in terms of percentage of the population is low compared to other African countries. In 2011, 1.5 per cent of the population between the age 15 and 49 was HIV positive. In 2005, this rate was 1.4 per cent. However, taking into account the large population, the absolute numbers of people infected with HIV is high. Young people are often at a greater risk to become infected with HIV. They may have shorter relationship spans and therefore more sexual partners, or they may engage in risky sexual practices. Girls face a higher risk of HIV infection than boys.

In 2011 DHS report, 0.2 per cent of adolescent girls (aged 15-19) were HIV positive compared to 0 per cent of boys. This rate has declined since 2005, when this rate was 0.7 per cent of girls and 0.1 per cent of boys.[1]

UNICEF Ethiopia renews its Ambassadorship with Hannah Godefa

12 January, 2015, Addis Ababa: Today, UNICEF Ethiopia renewed its ambassadorship with seventeen year old Hannah Godefa, a citizen of Canada with Ethiopian origin, at a signing ceremony held at its premises. The event was attended by Hannah Godefa, UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia, Hannah’s father Ato Godefa Asegahegn, H.E Roman Gebreselassie, Chief of government whip at the House of People’s Representative, W/ro Tsehay Bahta, Head of Capacity Building and Social Affairs Standing Committee of Addis Ababa City Administration Council, H.E Mr. David Usher, Ambassador of Canada to Ethiopia, Ms. Elizabeth Hailu, Manager Customer Services Ticket Offices, Ethiopian Airlines, Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge of  UNICEF Ethiopia, and members of the media.

Hannah Godefa's Ambassadorship renewal ceremony with UNICEF Ethiopia
UNICEF Ethiopia renewed its Hanah Godefa’s national ambassadorship at a signing ceremony held on 12 January 2015, at its premises, Addis Ababa. Left to right Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge of UNICEF Ethiopia and Hannah Godefa in the presence of (left to right at the back standing)- W/ro Tsehay Bahta, Head of Capacity Building and Social Affairs Standing Committee of Addis Ababa City Administration Council, H.E W/ro Roman Gebreselassie, Chief of Government Whip at the House of People’s Representative, H.E. Mr. David Usher, Ambassador of Canada and Ms. Elizabeth Hailu, Manager Customer Services Ticket Offices. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

Speaking on the occasion, Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge of UNICEF Ethiopia said, “I’m delighted to announce that today, UNICEF Ethiopia renews the Ambassadorship of Hannah Godefa as its National Ambassador to Ethiopia for two more years. Hannah is a role model for children, her peers and especially girls. Since her appointment in January 2013, we have been proud of her commitment and dedication to advocate alongside Government for women’s and children’s issue in Ethiopia and globally. She is a testimony to what is possible if one is determined.”

At the signing ceremony, Hannah on her part said, “When I remember my first visit to a UNICEF Ethiopia project over two years ago in Hawassa, I immediately think of the smiling faces of the teenage girls I now more closely resemble. They sat down and had a traditional coffee ceremony with me, explaining the benefits of the alternative income programme they were participating in and their life stories. I was in complete awe of the way they transformed their limitations and hardships in life into opportunities and sustainable success. Most of all, I was amazed at how they credited UNICEF for supplementing their personal achievement in the initiative. It was at that moment I knew, UNICEF is an organization and family I wholeheartedly wanted to be a part of.”

Hannah Godefa's Ambassadorship renewal ceremony with UNICEF Ethiopia
UNICEF Ethiopia renewed Hannah Godefa’s national ambassadorship at a signing ceremony held on 12 January 2015, at its premises, Addis Ababa. Left to right Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge of UNICEF Ethiopia and Hannah Godefa. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene

During her ambassadorship, Hannah has been engaged in numerous advocacy activities representing UNICEF-giving a voice to women and children globally. On these occasions, she has served as keynote speaker, a panellist and a moderator with high level government officials, business leaders and advocates from the non-profit sector. Her participation and contribution at the World Economic Forum in January 2014, with H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations, H.E. Mr. Paul Kagame, Co-Chair, MDG Advocacy Group and world leaders that focused on issues very close to her heart – innovation on investing in girl’s education – has been exceptional.

H.E. Mr. David Usher, Ambassador of Canada on his part underscored, “As we celebrate the fifty years diplomatic relations between Canada and Ethiopia, Hannah stands an ambassador not only to UNICEF but also to Ethiopians, Canadians as well as the Ethiopian Diaspora.”

Ms. Elizabeth Hailu, Manager Customer Services Ticket Offices, Ethiopian Airlines said, “As part of our corporate social responsibility, it is our duty to give back to the society. Today, we pledge once more to stand by Hannah to support her by providing free tickets to wherever her destination takes her to undertake her humanitarian functions.”

 

How can we redefine the world’s view to make the case for protecting girls?

My reflections on the Girl Summit, July 2014 
By Hannah Godefa, UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia 

Hannah Godefa, UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia, speaking at Girl Summit 2014
Hannah Godefa, UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia, speaking at Girl Summit 2014 ©Marisol Grandon/DFID

The Girl Summit was a forum designed and hosted by the UK Government and UNICEF, to mobilize all world efforts to end female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and end child, early and forced marriage in my generation. It openly discussed issues of gender inequity and disparity and challenged public and non-profit sector leaders to create innovative solutions and commitments at the Summit. Closing this event was a surreal experience, and an absolute honour. When representing any demographic, there is a certain amount of responsibility to present the absolute truth of the issue. In this particular event, I had the incredible opportunity to echo the voices of the many girls around the world taking action in response to the calls to end the endless challenges for girls in education, health and the community, which further perpetuated harmful traditional practices. #Youthforchange hosted by UK Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening and Home Secretary Theresa May exemplified that spirit of change by having a youth-focused audience and engaging programmes. Important strategies such as school outreach were discussed, including a competition honouring schools that creatively used media as a method of presenting these vital issues.

It was then up to the many public leaders at the Girl Summit to respond. We heard from UK Prime Minister David Cameron, girl activists like Malala Yousafzai and various NGO’s to answer questions on financing for girls, ensuring equal access to education, and protection from FGM/C and child marriage. There were also discussions with likes of Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF and Deputy Minister of Ethiopia- H.E Ato Demeke Mekonnen. All who participated in the discussion recognized protecting girls was not only the right thing to do, but critical to our global future. Ending off the day in the closing plenary allowed me to re-state the importance for girl involvement and engagement in these discussions, to ensure girl voices are represented around the world.

Hannah Godefa, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, speaking at  Youth For Change
Hannah Godefa, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, speaking at Youth For Change ©Russell Watkins/DFID

As we all know, discussions among the public and private leaders are not enough. When we have the opportunity to make a difference anywhere, we should seize it, however special attention should be given to the issues girls face, as they are the foundation of our future. It is all in the facts: empowered and protected girls are able to form their families and communities and better contribute to our world socially and economically. The dialogue exercised at the Girl Summit cannot end there. It must manifest into commitments, be implemented into action and support this movement of rising girls around the world. Only then will we start to see a change in the way the world values girls. Girls are the mothers, community leaders and advocates of today. It all starts with a promise to champion for girls everywhere. If the way we view ourselves shapes our future, and our perspective influences how we invest our resources, the most important question is: how can we redefine the world’s view to make the case for protecting girls?

State of the World’s Children report launched in Ethiopia

SOWC 2014 IN NUMBERS coverAs we mark 25 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 2015 edition of The State of the World’s Children calls for brave and fresh thinking to address age-old problems that still affect the world’s most disadvantaged children. In particular, the report calls for innovation – and for the best and brightest solutions coming from communities to be taken to scale to benefit every child.

The report highlights the work of creative problem solvers around the world, allowing them to talk about the future in their own voice. Much of the content in the report was curated from UNICEF’s series of ‘Activate Talks,’ which have brought together innovators from around the world to highlight specific challenges and concrete actions to realize children’s rights.

The report launched today in Ethiopia by Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia and the new UNICEF Ethiopia National Ambassador, young rap star Abelone Melese, a citizen of Norway with Ethiopian origin.

Abelone Melese and Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting UNICEF Ethiopia Representative launched the State of the World's Children Report at the Ambassadorship signing ceremony.
Abelone Melese and Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting UNICEF Ethiopia Representative launched the State of the World’s Children Report ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

We are requesting your support, as a key influencer on social media to help promote the report and generate greater awareness around the power of innovation to drive change for children.

We encourage you to read and share the report and videos, through this link and share your ideas through social media using the report’s main hashtag: #EVERYchild, as well as #innovation, when relevant. Also, make sure you are following @UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with our #EVERYchild messages to help spread the word!

By helping to create a global conversation around innovation as a means of reaching the most disadvantaged children, you are helping to put innovation for equity at the centre of the global agenda.

UNICEF Ethiopia Appoints young rap star Abelone Melese as its New National Ambassador

Abelone Melese and Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting Representative for UNICEF Ethiopia hold a UNICEF T-shirt to officiate Abelone's new title.
Abelone Melese and Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting Representative for UNICEF Ethiopia hold a UNICEF T-shirt to officiate Abelone’s new title. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

20 November 2014, Addis Ababa: Today, UNICEF Ethiopia appointed young rap star Abelone Melese, a citizen of Norway with Ethiopian origin, as its new National Ambassador at a signing ceremony held in its premises. The event was attended by Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, Mrs. Tove Stub, Minister Counsellor/Deputy Head of Mission, Royal Norwegian Embassy, members of the media and UNICEF staff.

Abelone, after visiting Ethiopia several times, was driven by compassion and the zest to help mothers and children by using her music to convey positive messages. She participated in a project called 10,000 happy birthdays which was a fundraising activity to help mothers in Malawi and Ethiopia. At a fundraising concert organized for this project, Abelone performed a rap song in Amharic and English on the situation of African mothers-a song she composed especially for this concert and which has left a big impression and fans.

Abelone Melese interviewed by the media on her new role as the newest UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia.
Abelone Melese interviewed by the media on her new role as the newest UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia.

Speaking of her new title as a UNICEF National Ambassador Abelone said, “I have always wanted to help children and young people who do not have the opportunities to reach their highest potential. Since I couldn’t do it financially, I am happy that I can use my talent to convey those messages”. She further said, “Working with UNICEF as a National Ambassador will allow me to help defend the rights of children, including the right to education, health, nutrition, water, and sanitation, protection and participation and ensure compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, because that’s what UNICEF is about.”

Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting UNICEF Representative underlined, “Abelone is a role model for her peers and especially girls. Her candid personality coupled with her strong presence in the public domain sends powerful messages that reach the hearts and minds of children and youth all over the world. We are confident that she will make a positive contribution especially in the area of child rights, maternal health and girl’s empowerment during her ambassadorship.”

Abelone is following in the footsteps of Aster Awoke and Hannah Godefa as UNICEF National Ambassador by demonstrating an outstanding commitment and dedication by promoting the rights of children’s issues over time.

Abelone, as the new National Ambassador to Ethiopia, will sign a two year agreement with UNICEF starting 20 November which is Universal Children’s Day and the 25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of a Children. (CRC)

In addition, she will perform on 21 November at the Music Concert organized jointly by UNICEF and Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (MoWCYA) to celebrate International Day of the Girl Child (IDG) at Alliance Ethio-Francaise in the evening at 20:00.

Here is Abelone’s reflection after the ceremony

See the pictures from the ceremony here 

And her PSA with Hannah Godefa here