Abduction survivor Gelane Degefa is clear where her priorities lay 

By Elshadai Negash

February 1st 2012 was supposed to be a regular school day for then-15 year old Gelane Degefa*. She started her day in Lugiatebela village, Sebeta Awas district, Oromia region, 25kms from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa; early by making a 30min journey to kick off the day with biology lessons in high school. Three more one-hour classes later, the school day was over and she was on her way home when she spotted a familiar, but disturbing sight from a distance.

“It was Kebede Chala,” she says of her neighbour who had dropped out of school a few years ago to work on his parents’ farm. “I knew immediately that I was in trouble.”

Kebede had persistently courted Degefa for more than 18 months before formally approaching her parents a year earlier to ask for her hand in marriage. “He used to say things like ‘what good would school be for you. I would provide you with everything if you marry me’,” she says. “I told him [Kebede] that I was too young to get married. My parents repeated the same thing when he asked them as well, but he refused to let go. My friends had overheard of his plans to abduct me. I told this to our headmaster. When he heard about this, he stopped bothering me for a while.”

A few minutes later, Kebede  and five of his friends grabbed her and tried their best to stifle her screams. “It was one of the worst days of my life,” she recalls. “But I was very fortunate. It was harvest collection season and some farmers heard my screams and came running to rescue me after we travelled for about 5km. When he and his friends were surrounded by the farmers, they ran away and I was able to escape.”

A Saudi returnee waits in the scorching heat to hop on a transport to take her back to her home area
Picture not related to story

But her aggressor did not stop then. “A few weeks later, he sent elders to my school to complain that we were preventing him from marrying Aleme,” says Beyene Kebede, Degefa’s Chemistry teacher. “Our school director reported this to the police. They gave us hope and told us to inform them if there are any incidents involving Mosisa. He did not bother her from then on and she has been attending school this year without any problems.”

Degefa was not the first girl Kebede tried to abduct and force into early marriage. “He tried to abduct my friend Mergia Abebe, a girl I personally worked hard to convince her parents to allow her to go to school,” says Degefa, who is a member of the Girls Club at her school. “Her parents tried to get marry her to Mosisa, but we worked very hard to convince her to change their mind. She was in the second grade then, now she is a top student and just earned top marks when progressing to grade six.”

By “we”, Degefa is talking about a youth club supported by UNICEF to assist highly vulnerable children and prevent the abduction of school girls. Part of a five-year joint programme with UNICEF and the United Nations Fund for Populations Activities (UNFPA) and funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy (RNE) to Ethiopia, the rights-based approach to adolescents and youth development in Ethiopia has worked to prevent girls like Degefa and Abebe from getting married early after abduction and in some cases stopped marriages after parents had agreed to marry to children to abductors.

“Abduction is a major harmful traditional practice in our area,” says Abegaz Tadesse, UNICEF/UNFPA Joint Programme coordinator in the Sebeta Awas district’s health office. “Many of the abductors are not prosecuted because it is expensive for the families to open and then follow a case to completion. What we are doing with this joint programme is strengthen the support to girls who go to school by using youth clubs to make them aware of their rights and quickly report any approaches by abductors.”

Shebere Telila* is another recipient of the support that youth clubs in the district’s schools provided. The 15-year old, who finished as a second best student in her class this year, was repeatedly approached by older boys who asked her mother for her hand in marriage. “I have dreams of growing up and becoming an engineer to build big buildings and large bridges,” she says. “Now is not the time for me to get married. My mother also knows this and would tell this to people who came to ask for marriage.”

One particular boy, however, did not heed to this and would even brag to her neighbours how he would wait for her one day when she returns from school and make her his. “Whenever someone in our neighbourhood told me about this, I would feel freightened,” she says. “My brother used to walk me to and from school for a while, but I knew that this could not be done forever.”

But rather than staying frightened, Telila, now a member of the youth club in her school; decided to confront her aggressor. “I went to our headmaster’s office with our class prefect to tell him everything,” she says. “Our headmaster then wrote a letter to our kebele [village] office and they instructed him to stop. They called him for a meeting and made him write a letter in front of his friends and family promising that he would not lay hands on me. When I saw that he signed the letter, I was relieved. On his face, I saw the same fear that he would put me through. I knew he would not defy his family and friends to do something to me. I knew I was a free person.”

Today, Telila makes the 30-minute commute from her home to school without any fear that a creepy teenager would emerge from the obscure mountains to attack her. At school, she takes time from studies to discuss her experience with younger girls and give them confidence on how to protect themselves. “Some of the members of our club have been victims and so we know the signs,” she says about the peer-assist mechanism in place at the youth club. “We also visit parents at home to encourage girls to come to school regularly and ask them not to marry their children at a young age.”

And what does she advise other girls who get approached by boys for early marriage?

“To be young and pretty is not a crime. Rather, being quiet when someone is pushing you to get married is the crime. Come out and tell everyone about your problems. Do not keep quiet until it is too late. Just do what I did and seek help. If you do, there is plenty of it available.”

*Names have been changed to protect identity of the girls.

UNICEF signed Ethiopian Fiscal Year 2007 Work Plans with government. 

The signing ceremony of Ethiopian Fiscal Year 2007 Work Plans with government was held on Monday 30th June 2014 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Addis Ababa, facilitated by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

UN agencies signed Ethiopian Fiscal Year 2007 Work Plans with government.
From right to left: Mr. Faustin Yao Representative of UNFPA in Ethiopia, Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia, Mr. Eugene Owusu – UN resident coordinator and H.E. Mr. Ahmed Shide State Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. During the signing ceremony of Ethiopian Fiscal Year 2007 Work Plans ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

Speaking during the signing ceremony, Ato Ahmed Shide, State Minister of Finance and Economic Development said that “the support rendered through the AWPs will be instrumental for the successful implementation of the current Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) of the Government as well as the next generation of the plan.” The Resident Coordinator of the UN Country Team in Ethiopia, Mr. Eugene Owusu, affirmed speaking on behalf of the UN Agencies that efforts and collaborations will be sustained at a continued scale during the coming years of the next UNDAF period.

Regional Implementing Partners and UN agencies including UNFPA, UNDP, UN Women, ILO and WFP were present as signatories.  Annual Working Plans (AWP) are prepared every two year following the Ethiopian Fiscal Year.  The preparation process starts in early March and follows a consultative approach at the regional and federal level.

 

Moving the conversation forwards: Religious leaders vow to join hands for children with UNICEF

Group Photo: UNICEF consultative workshop with religious leaders in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has come a long way, in development terms, since it adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as part of its national agenda. Remarkable achievements have been registered within various social wellbeing parameters. Most notably, the country has achieved MDG 4 – to reduce child mortality by two thirds – three years ahead of schedule. A lot remains to be done, however, particularly in reaching the most disadvantaged children – 3 million are out of school, 40 percent of under-fives are malnourished, only 7 percent of births are formally registered, less than one-third of pregnant women deliver in health facilities, key vaccinations are achieving less than 70 percent coverage and a high number of girls are being exposed to a variety of harmful traditional practices.

While Ethiopia is on track to achieving the majority of MDGs before the 2015 deadline, the involvement of stakeholders, such as religious leaders, is crucial. This is particularly true in reaching the most disadvantaged communities. In line with this premise, UNICEF held a consultative workshop with religious leaders on Monday, 23 June 2014, in Addis Ababa. The half-day workshop targeted the creation of shared values and common ground in bringing a more prosperous future to the children of Ethiopia.

“We aim today to begin a new conversation, enabling us to work together towards a common goal,” said Dr Peter Salama, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, whilst opening the workshop, further emphasising that religious institutions are able to reach out to communities at a grassroots level more effectively than any other social network. They are also instrumental in influencing positive behaviour and social norms, and thus working with these institutions is not considered as a second option. Dr. Salama spoke of the need to scale up UNICEF’s work with religious leaders on what they are uniquely positioned to achieve among their millions of followers – mobilisation for action in the wellbeing of children.

After a brief presentation of UNICEF’s guide on partnerships with religious communities and the situation of children in Ethiopia, the workshop continued with discussions centred around experiences and priority intervention areas.

Best Experiences Shared

The civic engagement of religious institutions in Ethiopia is commendable.  For instance, the experience shared by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church revealed that the church’s 42-year-old development wing has been actively involved in numerous developmental activities placing women and children at the centre of the issue. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission has developed declarations on gender based violence and harmful traditional practices, as well as safe motherhood.  What was interesting for participants was the church’s adoption of a “Development Bible”, which contains 360 daily teachings, incorporating over 45 contextualised messages. These include a focus on gender equality, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), maternal health, HIV/AIDS and Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs).

Similarly, the Ethiopian Muslim Supreme Council shared information of their work towards a “fatwa” (declaration) against FGM/C. A representative from the Council recounted how talking about FGM/C had been a taboo for religious fathers of previous years. However, leaders are now speaking out against the practice and bringing change in project areas. The Council also underlined the need to scale up the intervention, in order to stop the practice altogether. The experience of the Ethiopian Catholic Church in the development of the Child Protection Policy and the concept of ‘serving the whole person’ expressed by the Ethiopian Evangelical Church, Mekanyesus, and the Kale Hiwot Church, was also shared with participants.

Three umbrella Forums – the Ethiopian Interfaith Forum for Development Dialogue and Action, the Inter-Religious Council Ethiopia and the Evangelical Church Fellowship Ethiopia – also shared their experiences in mobilising member institutions in various projects. These included maternal and child health, peace building and HIV prevention. The efforts to mainstream the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and HTPs in theological schools was also highlighted.

Way Forward

In the past, UNICEF and other organisations predominantly worked with the development wing of religious institutions. However, it is recognised that this undermines the significant return of actively engaging in the spiritual wings. The spiritual wing reaches over 97% of the nation’s population through various religious structures, whilst the regional presence and coverage of development wings is dependent upon resources.

UNICEF is keen to work with both the spiritual and development wings of the major religious institutions and umbrella forums through a long term strategic partnership. UNICEF is also ready to provide technical support, policy advice and capacity building on the key child related interventions conducted by these institutions. The religious leaders have also reaffirmed their commitment to working with UNICEF.

Before the close of the workshop, participants agreed to form a small working group to develop the partnership framework.

In Ethiopia, new programme to reach out to 403,000 vulnerable adolescent girls’ and boys’

Royal Norwegian Embassy donates NOK 100 million (USD17, 421,026) to adolescent and youth development in Ethiopia
Left to Right: Peter Salama UNICEF representative to Ethiopia, Ambassador Odd-Inge Kvalheim Royal Norwegian Embassy, Mr. Faustin Yao Representative of UNFPA in Ethiopia and Ato Berhanu Feyissa, Director General, Federal HIV/ AIDS prevention control office at the Grant signing ceremony “Royal Norwegian Embassy donates NOK 100 million (USD17, 421,026) to adolescent and youth development in Ethiopia” ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

ADDIS ABABA, 4 June 2014 – Today, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ethiopia announced a NOK 100 million (USD 17,421, 026 ) grant to  support the joint UNICEF and UNFPA programme on ‘Rights-based Approach to Adolescent and Youth Development in Ethiopia (Phase II – 2014-2017)’. The fund is divided equally between UNICEF and UNFPA and released independently to each agency on a bi-annual basis.

Under the programme, vulnerable adolescent girls and boys will gain improved access to an integrated youth-friendly services on protection and promotion of rights related reproductive health services, HIV/AIDS prevention services, and livelihoods. The funding will benefit 403,000 adolescents and youth aged between 10 and 24 in 30 selected woredas (districts) of six regions (Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR, Afar, Tigray and Addis Ababa City Administration).

His Excellency Ambassador Odd-Inge Kvalheim Royal Norwegian Embassy, speaks at grant signing ceremony
His Excellency Ambassador Odd-Inge Kvalheim Royal Norwegian Embassy, speaks at grant signing ceremony “Royal Norwegian Embassy donates NOK 100 million (USD17, 421,026) to adolescent and youth development in Ethiopia” ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

During the grant signing ceremony, the Royal Norwegian Ambassador to Ethiopia H. E Mr. Odd-Inge Kvalheim said, “Promotion of gender equality, women and children’s rights and human rights is key to fight poverty and promote sustainable development in Ethiopia. Promoting the respect and protection of human rights, is also a cornerstone of Norwegian Policy.” The Ambassador further stated, “The Government of Ethiopia, UNICEF, UNFPA and their partners have achieved good results in the first phase of the program. We will in particular encourage them to continue the good cooperation.”

This joint programme will be implemented in partnership and with active collaboration of various government and non-government partners. The Federal HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office (FHAPCO) and key sector ministries: Health, Education, Labour and Social Affairs and Women Children and Youth Affairs will play a pivotal role at all levels of the programme implementation. Furthermore, civil society organizations (CSOs), and community based organizations (CBOs) will be active implementing partners.

The Director General of FHAPCO Ato Berhanu Feyissa said, “The collaborative achievements witnessed with Norwegian Embassy, UNICEF and UNFPA gives us an encouragement that together we can ensure reduction and prevention of new infections among young people. Our common goal is to achieve an AIDS-free generation and ultimately end the AIDS epidemic among our society.”

The joint programme aims to improve the capacity of government and non-government institutions as well as youth-run organizations to fulfil the demand of adolescents and youths in the selected 30 woredas. It will also empower communities and parents to ensure a protective and enabling environment which includes protecting them against gender-based violence, Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) and violation of their reproductive rights.

Mr. Faustin Yao Representative of UNFPA in Ethiopia speaks at a grant signing ceremony
Mr. Faustin Yao Representative of UNFPA in Ethiopia speaks at a grant signing ceremony “Royal Norwegian Embassy donates NOK 100 million (USD17, 421,026) to adolescent and youth development in Ethiopia” ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

Mr. Faustin Yao, UNFPA Country Representative to Ethiopia, on his part noted, “The programme, through provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services, will empower young girls and boys to be able to make informed decisions for themselves and their families.”

In line with rights-based programming approach, disadvantaged adolescents and youth are recognized as key actors in their own development utilizing Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) and HIV/AIDS prevention services rather than as passive recipients of information, skills, and services.

Building on the experiences gained from the previous joint programme (2007- 2013), the phase II joint programme will provide services on SRH and HIV/AIDS services through youth centres, health facilities, and educational institutions so that adolescents and youths can ultimately make healthy decisions for themselves.

“We commend the Royal Norwegian Government for supporting the Government of Ethiopia, UNFPA and UNICEF to sustain the gains made so far.  UNICEF is firmly committed to enhance the development and protection, care and support of adolescent and young people,” said Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia.

Showing results, key for both Media and UNICEF

By Frehiwot Yilma

UNICEF meets with media for the second get together
The second quarterly media get-together with local and international media. 14 April, 2014 ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

ADDIS ABABA, 14 April 2014 – The second quarterly media get-together with local and international media concluded with a meaningful discussion on how best the media and UNICEF could work together to advocate for the children and women of Ethiopia. Attended by more than 15 journalists, the discussion focused on how to jointly address issues like child marriage.

More than ever, UNICEF is keen on working closely with the media in pushing development agendas affecting children and women. UNICEF is also eager to learn more from the media on how best it can position itself to create awareness and demonstrate results with the public, developmental partners and donors. This get-together is one of the platforms for both the media and UNICEF.

One of the issues that came out strongly by the media was getting a holistic picture of a programme or intervention. According to suggestions made by the journalists: figures and data should not be presented singularly but  rather within a context of trends so they can better understand the progress made as well as anticipate future developments. The UNICEF Ethiopia website presents many different resources including: different publications, research, photos, press releases, speeches, contact information, guidelines and other information useful for the media.

Elissa Jobson discusses the challenges of putting child marriage on the agenda
Elissa Jobson discusses the challenges of putting child marriage on the agenda at UNICEF Ethiopia’s second quarterly media get-together with local and international media. 14 April, 2014 ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

Furthermore, the journalists suggested that government officials along with development partners could attend the UNICEF’s media roundtables to help give them a comprehensive view on different topics affecting women and children.

Journalists also expressed interest in learning about UNICEF programmes in more detail and about how a specific intervention produced results for the Ethiopian community as well as the future generation of the country. For this, journalists have requested media visits so they can witness results at woreda and kebele levels where the programme is being implemented.

The highlight of the get-together was summed up by a question raised by the journalists: what makes UNICEF and its programmes unique and worthy of advocating? And what is UNICEF’s plan for changing its perception of Ethiopian people especially in the rural areas from well known to harmful traditions? These are also questions to which UNICEF’s developmental partners can also contribute.

UNICEF strives to provide basic rights for children including the right to health, nutrition, protection, water, sanitation and access to education. All this is done in support of the Government of Ethiopia.

Since its establishment in 1952, UNICEF Ethiopia has created the capacity to ensure that its development work accelerates at national and community levels with good relations from bilateral donors, development partners and civil society, including the media in Ethiopia. This key position makes UNICEF a unique partner among development agencies and a resourceful agency for the media.

Read about the first get together here

Leading Ethiopian Women Dialogue with Students

This story originally appeared on UN in Ethiopia website

The International Women’s Day event at the Faculty of Business and Economics Campus was organized by the UN Communication Group in collaboration with the Addis Ababa University (AAU) Gender Office and attracted high level female panellists from the arts, business, legal, international organisations and civic engagement actors.

The panel discussion helped young women and men from various faculties of Addis Ababa University to have a chance to interact and dialogue with some of the leading women figures in the country. In addition, the event helped to build youth consciousness towards women’s role in development, social welfare and overall human progress, taking the Ethiopian context into perspective.

Panellists shared their experiences and personal stories of struggles and triumphs to break through barriers to achieve the leadership roles in their area of expertise.

Moderating the discussion, Ms Nahu Senay Girma, Founder and Executive Director of the Association of Women in Business (AWIB) Ethiopia, urged the young youth who attended the discussion to ‘actively participate by asking questions and in general, to always grab opportunities to network’ such as the panel discussion.

Networking
Young women network with Ms Birtukan, Vice President at Enat Bank & Ms Aster, Founder of Tsehaye Zewde Memorial Foundation after the panel discussion

Ms. Birtukan Gebregzi, Vice President of Enat Bank outlined gaps existing in access to finance for women in Ethiopia, often disadvantaged by factors such as lack of ownership of property and land. She stated that being the first bank to be set up by women in Ethiopia, there has been an encouraging growth in numbers of women clients, standing at ‘65%’ however, compared to their male counterparts, ‘women often take lower loans and hence the increment in female clients is more of numerical than financial gain nature’.

Advising the young students to ‘follow their passion and have strong self-belief’, Ms Desta Hagos, one of Ethiopia’s first female artists, who is planning her 50th exhibition this month, also urged the students to ‘not be afraid to pursue dreams but in a focused manner’.

The regional and continental perspective of women empowerment were shared by Ms Aster Zaoude, former regional director of UNIFEM for West Africa, and founder of the Tsehaye Zaoude Foundation supporting visually impaired female students at AAU. She urged the students to ‘work together and build solidarity’ to address issues faced by girls and women.

Ms Zenaye Tadesse, Managing Director of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association encouraged the students to learn about rights while Ms Chachi Tadesse, performer and activists for street children cautioned the participants against a ‘poverty mentality’ that lets thoughts of scarcity translate to physical barriers.

Ms Engedaye Eshete, Chair of Ethiopian Women Entrepreneurs Association spoke of the opportunities opening up for women entrepreneurs and the linkages across the country that her association was establishing including for the disabled.

Selamawit Adugna, a youth activist and a gender and child protection officer for CHADET, urged the university students not to focus on negative issues and barriers but instead find their passion and look for opportunities. ‘There were days when I was doing a job that wasn’t that exciting and if I hadn’t had passion and vision I would not have gotten out of bed.’

The half day discussion reflected on various issues including the laws and policies enacted in the Ethiopian Constitution to create favourable conditions for women and the challenge remaining when it came to execution; deep rooted traditions and stereotypes that continue to impede progress.

The exciting dialogue between the panellists and the auditorium full of students highlighted building awareness in communities; engaging influential people to spearhead change to address attitude-based setbacks; recognizing that men are important partners in empowering women; and investing in building leadership capacities of women.

International Women’s Day 2014 – Ethiopia

Here are list of events, that we are aware of, happening for the International Women’s Day 2014 in Ethiopia.

Please add your events in the comments and we will feature them in this blog!

Friday, March 7th 2014: A panel discussion entitled ‘Equality for Women is Progress for All: Celebrating Women’s achievements in Ethiopia’

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Jointly organized by the UN Communication Group and Addis Ababa University Gender Office. The event’s overall objective is to engage young women and men from various faculties of Addis Ababa University in an interactive dialogue as a way of leading social transformation and change.

Panelists are: Ms. Aster Zaoude (Gender Practioner), Ms. Birtukan Gebregzi (Deputy President, Enat Bank), Ms. Chachi Tadesse (Musician & Children’s Activist), Ms. Desta Hagos (Pioneer Artist/Painter), Ms. Ingidaye Eshete (Chair, Ethiopian Women Entrepreneurs Association), Ms. Selamawit Adugna (Youth Representative), Ms. Zenaye Tadesse (Managing Director, Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association) and Moderator Ms Tsedale Lemma (Editor-in-Chief at Addis Standard)

Time & Date: 09:00 – 11:30am; Friday, 7th March 2014

Venue: Eshetu Chole Hall, Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE Campus), Addis Ababa University

Friday March 7th 2014: International Women’s Day ‘‘Stand-Alone Goal on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Post 2015 Agenda”

Location: New Africa Union Complex, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

http://wgd.au.int/en/content/celebration-international-womens-day

Saturday March 8th 2014: International Women’s Day The status of women in Ethiopia and Africa today

womens day allianze

Women NGO bazaar, Debates, art exhibition, movie screening, music performance, drama …

Time & Date: 09:00 – 18:00; Saturday March 8th 2014

Location: Alliance éthio-française d’Addis-Abeba

Entrance: Free

Sunday March 9th 2014: The 11th edition of the annual women only run

‘Choice Women First’ 5km Run is set to take place on Sunday 9 March 2014. 10,000 women and girls are expected to take part in this year’s race. Please go to registration page for information on registration.

The first race was held in May 2004 in light of recognizing the achievements of Ethiopia’s great female athletes and to support the broader changes regarding the role of women in Ethiopia’s economic and social life.

Since then the race has been promoting key messages about women and has become a celebration of the overall contribution of women in our country’s development.

This year the race promotes messages including

“Family Planning with Choice” – DK Ethiopia

“A Prosperous & Peaceful Life for All: The Future We Want” – UN Ethiopia

“Because I am a Girl” – Plan International Ethiopia

http://www.ethiopianrun.org/index.php/women-5k/information