UNICEF commits to speed up its efforts to end the violent practice of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) 

Addis Ababa, 06 February 2017 As the world observes International Day of Zero Tolerance on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), UNICEF Ethiopia commits to accelerate its efforts to end the violent practice of FGM/C through strengthened partnerships with key actors in support of the national theme, “Let us keep our promise and fulfil our commitment by ending FGM/C.”

“FGM/C is a harmful practice inflicted on girls which deprives them of their rights to sexual and reproductive health, endangers their health by causing complications during delivery and even untimely death,” said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “In order to fast-track the elimination of the practice once and for all, we need to work at grass roots level, at scale and hand in hand with communities – boys and girls, women and men, and most importantly, traditional and religious leaders who are influential communicators with the potential to reach the hearts and minds of millions of people. We also believe that it is equally important to address health and psychological complications caused by FGM/C- by providing the necessary health services for survivors to help them lead a healthy life.” 

According to the 2016 Ethiopian Demographic Health Survey (EDHS), FGM/C among the age group of 15-49 is most prevalent among the ethnic groups of Afar and Somali regions (98 per cent and 99 percent, respectively), followed by Welaita and Hadiya (92 per cent for both). In addition, 54 per cent of urban women have experienced FGM/C as compared to 68 per cent in rural areas. FGM/C is less prevalent among women with higher education and those in the highest wealth quintile. The 2016 EDHS shows a decreasing trend in FGM/C nationwide with the prevalence in 15-19 year olds down to 47 per cent as compared to 65 per cent in the 15-49 age group.

UNICEF supports the Government’s efforts through enhancing capacity to implement both preventive and responsive programmes at scale, and strengthening coordination mechanisms at different levels. UNICEF works with the National Alliance to progress ongoing roadmap development to end FGM/C and Child Marriage. It also, supports the involvement of faith based, traditional and community leaders, as communities usually link this harmful traditional practice to cultural and religious norms. In this regard, UNICEF signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in August 2016 with major religious institutions in the country to improve the lives of children, women and adolescents by promoting positive behaviour and social norms and to bring about the necessary societal shifts in communities.

UNICEF supports the Government in the health sector in the Afar and Somali regions to address FGM/C related complications by providing training to health workers; raising the communities’ awareness on health risks caused by FGM/C; identifying girls and women affected by FGM/C; developing training materials; recruiting gynaecologists and equipping selected hospitals with basic FGM/C care equipment.

Providing gynaecological services to Ethiopian women scarred by FGM/C

By Endale Engida

AYSSAITA, AFAR REGION, 24 November 2016 – Asiya’s marriage was meant to be a joyful occasion, but on her wedding night, this 18-year-old found only pain.

Like nearly all young girls in Ethiopia’s Afar Region, she had undergone Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) at a very young age and trying to consummate the marriage with her husband brought only pain and bleeding.

In the Afar region, a particularly severe form of FGM/C known as Type III or infibulation is practiced whereby the vaginal opening is partially sewn shut, condemning generations of women to pain.

Asiya’s husband, Burhan Helen, was determined to help his wife and he asked around and discovered that the hospital in their woreda (district) had recently set up a gynaecological unit specialized in opening up women who had been subjected to infibulation.

Female Genital Mutilation in Afar
“FGM should stop, I have seen the problem myself, I always struggle when I am on my period, my period doesn’t flow normally so it was very painful. I won’t cut my future daughter. I am very happy to have gone through surgery and I am thankful for the organization working on this.” – Asiya Ali, 18, undergone FGM and currently following up at Ayssaita primary hospital, Afar region, after her surgery. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Tadesse

FGM/C has long been outlawed in Ethiopia, but is still widespread in the country with an estimated 65 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 (EDHS 2016) having been cut – down from 74 per cent in 2005 EDHA

However, those numbers mask regional variations. In regions like Afar and the Somali it can reach up to 90 per cent while other areas have a much lower prevalence due to different cultural norms in the diverse nation of Ethiopia.

In regions where it is practiced across eastern Africa and up into Egypt, it is believed FGM/C is necessary to ensure a woman stays a virgin before marriage, and many men say they would not marry a woman who hasn’t been cut.

In 2014, the Government of Ethiopia committed to ending the practice by 2025 and has been working on discouraging it through public information campaigns. Penalties for carrying it out range from three to ten years in prison.

For those like Asiya who have already undergone the procedure, the new gynaecological unit established in May 2016 at the Ayssaita Woreda hospital is a life saver.

Female Genital Mutilation in Afar
Dr. Hatse Abrha is a gynaecologist at Ayssaita primary hospital, Afar region. Dr. Hatse Abrha has been assisting girls and women with health complications due to FGM, a project under UNICEF Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Tadesse

Thanks to the funds from Foundation Espoir through the Luxembourg Committee for UNICEF, the hospital now employs Dr. Hatse Abreha, the only gynaecologist in the hospital.

The hospital, which serves a mostly pastoral population of 90,000, can now treat gynaecological and obstetric cases, including FGM/C reconstructions. By October 2016, the hospital was treating 200 FGM/C cases a month. In many cases, patients can be discharged the same day after the surgery.

Dr. Abreha diagnosed Asiya’s condition and also noted that in addition to pain during intercourse, she suffered discomfort and slow flow during menstruation. She and her husband were counselled about the procedure and then she received the deinfibulation surgery.

“I want to see these innocent girls and women no longer be victims of FGM/C, though these kind of interventions are only part of the solution and will not solve the root cause of the problem,” he said.

After a careful period of outpatient monitoring, Asiya was pronounced cured.

“We have special gratitude to Dr. Hatse Abreha for his friendly care and follow up,” she said during a follow up visit. “We are here to teach our community not to practice FGM/C on their girls and our own children will not be victims of FGM/C.”

 

Majority of men and women oppose Female Genital Mutilation in countries where practice persists – UNICEF figures

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NEW YORK 14 JULY 2016 – Approximately two-thirds of men, women, boys and girls in countries where female genital mutilation is common say they want the practice to end – according to UNICEF data. In countries with available data, 67 per cent of girls and women and 63 per cent of boys and men oppose the continuation of the practice in their communities.

“Although female genital mutilation is associated with gender discrimination, our findings show that the majority of boys and men are actually against it,” said Francesca Moneti, UNICEF Senior Child Protection Specialist. “Unfortunately, individuals’ desire to end female genital mutilation is often hidden, and many women and men still believe the practice is needed in order for them to be accepted in their communities.”

Data show that in some countries men oppose FGM more strongly than women. In Guinea – the country with the second highest prevalence in the world – 38 per cent of men and boys are against the continuation of FGM, compared to 21 per cent of women and girls.  The same pattern is seen in Sierra Leone, where 40 per cent of boys and men want the practice to end, compared to 23 per cent of girls and women.

The most striking difference between men and women’s perceptions regarding FGM is also in Guinea, where 46 per cent of men and boys say FGM has no benefit, compared with just 10 per cent of women and girls.  The findings also show that in just over half the 15 countries with available data, at least 1 in 3 girls and women say FGM has no benefits.  The proportion is very similar among boys and men in all but two of the 12 countries with data.

In addition to a large majority of people opposing the harmful practice where it is concentrated, there is evidence of growing momentum and commitment to end FGM.

In 2015, both Gambia and Nigeria adopted national legislation criminalising FGM.  More than 1,900 communities, covering an estimated population of 5 million people, in the 16 countries where data exist, made public declarations to abandon FGM.  The Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015 include a target calling for the elimination of all harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage by 2030.  

UNICEF’s research also reveals a possible link between a mother’s education and the likelihood that her daughter will be cut.  Among the 28 countries with available data, around 1 in 5 daughters of women with no education have undergone FGM, compared to 1 in 9 daughters with mothers that have at least a secondary education.

At least 200 million girls and women alive today in 30 countries around the world have undergone FGM – a range of procedures that can cause extreme physical and psychological pain, prolonged bleeding, HIV, infertility and death.

“Data can play an important role in exposing the true opinions of communities on female genital mutilation,” said Moneti. “When individuals become aware that others do not support the practice it becomes easier for them to stop FGM. More work is needed with young people, men and women, entire communities and religious and political leaders, to highlight these findings, and the harmful effects of FGM, to further accelerate the movement to end the practice.”

UNICEF and UNFPA co-lead the largest global programme to encourage elimination of FGM. It currently supports efforts in 17 countries – working at every level, from national to communities.

Note to editors: Ethiopia specific information

In Ethiopia, despite a steady reduction in FGM/C nationally over the past decade, still 23 per cent (nearly one out of four) girls between the ages of 0 to 14 undergo this practice (Welfare Monitoring Survey (WMS) 2011). According to the same source, FGM/C is practiced across all regions in Ethiopia with varying degree with the prevalence in Amhara (47 per cent), Benshangul-Gumuz (24 per cent) and Tigray (22 per cent), Oromia (17 per cent) and Harari (14 per cent). The regions with the highest prevalence rate are Somali (70 per cent) and Afar (60 per cent). The impact of FGM/C in these two regions is severe as the two regions practice the worst form of FGM/C which involves total elimination of the external female genitalia and stitching, just leaving a small opening for urination. 

The Government of Ethiopia has taken strategic and programmatic measures to eliminate FGM/C. Some of the key actions include; endorsement of the National Strategy and Action Plan on Harmful Traditional Practices against Women and Children and communication strategy for social norm change and establishment of the National Alliance to End Child Marriage and FGM/C. Moreover, the Government has shown a ground-breaking commitment to end FGM/C and child marriage by the year 2025 at the London Girls’ Summit and reinforced by setting a target to reduce the practice to 0.5 per cent by 2020 in the Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP II). 

UNICEF is supporting the Government of Ethiopia in developing a roadmap which defines the long term strategic and programme interventions and the role of different actors, strengthening the National Alliance through supporting the establishment of functional secretariat, enriching the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) module to include better data and organization of consensus building sessions with religious leaders in collaboration with UNFPA and other Alliance members.

UNICEF and UNFPA have been working hand in hand for many years in Ethiopia for the abandonment of FGM/C. One of the exemplary programs that can be sited is the joint programme on accelerating the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Afar Region. The program has a social mobilization component which includes; training of community dialogue facilitators, facilitated community dialogue, working with religious and clan leaders, youth dialogue targeting in and out of school girls and a care component which involves tracking cases of complications with linkage to health facilities. Also, improving enforcement of the law through increasing legal literacy, strengthening special units in the law enforcement bodies for better reporting and management of cases. The programme has recorded pronounced success in facilitating declaration of abandonment of the practice in 6 districts in Afar Region, and eventually expanding to other districts in Afar and other regions.

 

Eliminate Female Genital Mutilation by 2030, say UNFPA and UNICEF

Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake on the 2016 International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM

Mariame Habib, 17, was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) when she was a child.
Mariame Habib, 17 years old and 9 months pregnant, was subjected to (FGM/C) Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting ) when she was a child. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Tsegaye

 

NEW YORK, 5 February 2016 – “FGM is a violent practice, scarring girls for life — endangering their health, depriving them of their rights, and denying them the chance to reach their full potential. 

“FGM is widespread.  It is a global problem that goes well beyond Africa and the Middle East, where the practice has been most prevalent — affecting communities in Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America.  And the number of girls and women at risk will only get larger if current population trends continue, wiping out hard-won gains. 

“FGM is discrimination.  It both reflects and reinforces the discrimination against women and girls, perpetuating a vicious cycle that is detrimental to development and to our progress as a human family. 

“FGM must end. In September at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, 193 nations unanimously agreed to a new global target of eliminating FGM by 2030.  This recognition that FGM is a global concern is a critical milestone.  

“But the recognition, while important, is not enough.  To protect the wellbeing and dignity of every girl, we need to take responsibility as a global community for ending FGM. 

“That means we need to learn more — improving our data collection to measure the full extent of the practice — and do more. We need to encourage more communities and families to abandon FGM.  We need to work with larger numbers of medical communities — including traditional and medical professionals — persuading them to refuse to perform or support FGM.  We need to support more women and girls who have undergone the harmful practice and provide them with services and help to overcome the trauma they have suffered. And we need to support and empower girls around the world to make their voices heard and call out to put an end to FGM.  

“All of us must join in this call. There simply is no place for FGM in the future we are striving to create –  a future where every girl will grow up able to experience her inherent dignity, human rights and equality by 2030.

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

In Ethiopia, despite a steady reduction in FGM/C nationally over the past decade, still 23 per cent (nearly one out of four) girls between the ages of 0 to 14 undergo this practice (Welfare Monitoring Survey (WMS) 2011). According to the same source, FGM/C is practiced across all regions in Ethiopia with varying degree with the prevalence in Amhara (47 per cent), Benshangul-Gumuz (24 per cent) and Tigray (22 per cent), Oromia (17 per cent) and Harari (14 per cent). The regions with the highest prevalence rate are Somali (70 per cent) and Afar (60 per cent). The impact of FGM/C in these two regions is severe as the two regions practice the worst form of FGM/C which involves total elimination of the external female genitalia and stitching, just leaving a small opening for urination.  

The Government of Ethiopia has taken strategic and programmatic measures to eliminate FGM/C. Some of the key actions include; endorsement of the National Strategy and Action Plan on Harmful Traditional Practices against Women and Children and communication strategy for social norm change and establishment of the National Alliance to End Child Marriage and FGM/C. Moreover, the Government has shown a ground-breaking commitment to end FGM/C and child marriage by the year 2025 at the London Girls’ Summit and reinforced by setting a target to reduce the practice to 0.5 per cent in the Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP II). 

UNICEF is supporting the Government of Ethiopia in developing a roadmap which defines the long term strategic and programme interventions and the role of different actors, strengthening the National Alliance through supporting the establishment of functional secretariat, enriching the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) module to include better data and consensus building sessions with religious leaders in collaboration with UNFPA and other Alliance members.

UNICEF and UNFPA have been working hand in hand for many areas in Ethiopia for the abandonment of FGM/C. One of the exemplary programme that can be sited is the joint programme on the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Afar Region. The programme has a social mobilization component which includes; facilitated community dialogue, working with religious and clan leaders, youth dialogue targeting in and out of school girls and a care component which involves tracking cases of complications with linkage to health facilities. Also, improving enforcement of the law through increasing legal literacy, strengthening special units in the law enforcement bodies for better reporting and management of cases. The programme has recorded pronounced success in facilitating declaration of abandonment of the practice in 6 districts in Afar Region, and eventually expanding to other districts in Afar and other regions.

UNFPA and UNICEF shake hands for enhanced collaboration in Ethiopia

Ms Gillian Mellsop of UNICEF Ethiopia and Mr. Faustin Yao, Representative UNFPA Ethiopia signed MoU
Ms Gillian Mellsop of UNICEF Ethiopia and Mr. Faustin Yao, Representative UNFPA Ethiopia signed MoU ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Sewunet

08 January 2016; Today, UNFPA and UNICEF signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Enhanced Collaboration in Ethiopia in the areas of gender equality and women’s empowerment; adolescent and youth development and on child protection and gender-based violence in emergency and humanitarian settings. The agreement aims at encouraging and facilitating predictable, cooperative action between the two agencies, building on the comparative advantages and respective mandates.

UNFPA and UNICEF have been collaborating globally and in Ethiopia in a systematic manner in the areas of Gender equality and women’s empowerment (with a focus on Gender Based Violence and Violence against Women and Children, Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting and Ending Child Marriage; Adolescent & youth development (with a particular focus on HIV/AIDS and Sexual and Reproductive Health) and on child protection and gender-based violence in emergency/humanitarian settings.

Ms Gillian Mellsop of UNICEF Ethiopia and Mr. Faustin Yao, Representative UNFPA Ethiopia signed MoU“UNFPA and UNICEF strongly believe that, as declared by the Government of Ethiopia, that by 2025, Ethiopia will no longer have cases of FGM/C and Child Marriage, but this will only happen if we all work together – the government, civil society,  religious and  community leaders,  women, men, boys and the girls themselves.” said Mr. Faustin Yao, Representative UNFPA Ethiopia

“It gives me great pleasure to be signing this Memorandum of Understanding today for Enhanced Collaboration in Ethiopia. Through such strong collaboration, both agencies have successfully complemented each other’s expertise, as well as influenced one another’s thinking and actions. Let’s continue our strong partnership to achieve results for children, women and youth.” said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia.

The decision to have this MoU stems from formalizing and cementing the complementarity of their work in terms of thematic and geographic convergence to avoid competition and ensure both agencies are speaking with one voice especially through common implementing partners and government stakeholders at national, federal and regional levels.

Girls’ Empowerment Race in Samara to end Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)

Children race held on the event Girl's Empowerment Regional race
Start of the Children race held as part of Girl’s Empowerment communication campaign in Gonder, Amhara region, Ethiopia © UNICEF Ethiopia 2015/Tesfaye

Addis Ababa, Samara, 1 October 2015 – UNICEF Ethiopia, in partnership with the Afar Bureau of Women Children and Youth Affairs (BoWCYA), the Afar Sport Commission and the Great Ethiopian Run, is organising a mass participation 5 km race in Samara on Sunday 4 October 2015, to promote Girls’ Empowerment. The theme of the run in Samara is “Ending Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting.”

Despite a steady reduction in Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) nationally over the past decade, most recent official data from the 2011 Welfare and Monitoring Survey indicates that one in every four girls (23 per cent) is subjected to the practice. In the Afar Region, there has also been a steady decline, however, still an alarming 60 per cent of girls under the age of 14 years are subjected to female genital mutilation/cutting, placing the region second after Somali.[i]

In Afar, girls are subjected to an extreme form of the practice – infibulation – which involves total cutting of the genitalia followed by stitching. This practice usually happens when girls are between seven and nine years old, but in some districts in Afar this practice even occurs when girl babies are only a few days old. 

The Government, recognising that the abandonment of female genital mutilation requires a human-rights based approach and coordinated joint action by all actors, has adopted a National Strategy and Action Plan on Harmful Traditional Practices against Women and Children (2013) and established a National Alliance to End Child Marriage and FGM/C.

The Government of Afar with UNICEF and other partners is implementing interventions to address FGM/C around 3 pillars: prevention, protection and provision of services. Regarding prevention, girls’ empowerment programmes are underway through girls clubs, incentives to keep girls in school and social mobilisation activities, including this race. In addition, religious leaders and communities are working together in social mobilisation initiatives through community conversations and public declarations on the abandonment of the practice coupled with health extension workers’ awareness-raising efforts with communities on the negative health impact of the practice. Police, judges and prosecutors are being trained and specialised police units have been established to better respond to cases of FGM/C and to provide protection and child-friendly justice to girls. Health practitioners are increasingly providing services to girls who are suffering from complications resulting from FGM/C.

Through the ‘UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Accelerating Change’,  UNFPA and UNICEF support the Government of Ethiopia and other partners such as the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA) and Rohi Weddu to strengthen legislation outlawing the practice and to carry out activities enabling communities to make a coordinated and collective choice to abandon FGM/C.

FGM victim Ten year old Sadiye Abubakar in Mille, Afar, Ethiopia
Ten year old Sadiye Abubakar, admitted to Barbara May Hospital in Mille, Afar with her mother Sofya, unable to pass urine for more or less a month. ©Ethiopia/2013/Colville-Ebeling

“FGM/C is a violation of a girl’s right to health, well-being and self-determination,” says Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “FGM/C may cause severe pain and can result in prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and even death. FGM/C is also harmful to new-borns due to adverse obstetric outcomes, leading to perinatal deaths.  The challenge now is to let girls and women, boys and men speak out loudly and clearly and announce they want this harmful practice abandoned,” she added.

A total of 2000 adults and 500 children are expected to participate in the mass mobilisation race, while over 5000 thousand spectators are expected to attend the community outreach programme. In addition, a photo and art exhibition, which is open to the public, and a media roundtable discussion will take place on the eve of the race. 

The events will be attended by high-level government dignitaries, representatives from the UN, NGOs, CSOs and members of the media. In addition, Thomas Gobena also known as “Tommy T”, international bass player for Gogol Bordello Band and who will be appointed as a National Ambassador to UNICEF Ethiopia this month will attend the activities in Samara. Other renowned artists and sport personalities will also attend the event to support the messaging around Girls’ Empowerment.

Gonder and Samara to spearhead Girls’ Empowerment Races

Addis Ababa, Gonder, 17 September 2015 – UNICEF Ethiopia, in partnership with the Amhara Bureau of Women Children and Youth Affairs (BoWCYA), the Gonder City Administration Culture, Tourism and Sport Department and the Great Ethiopian Run, are organising a mass participation 5 km race in Gonder on Sunday 20 September 2015, and in Samara on 4 October 2015, to promote Girls’ Empowerment.

A total of 5,000 adults and 1,250 children are expected to participate in the running events, while over 10,000 thousand spectators are expected to attend the event and the messaging. Besides, two community outreach programmes are planned in both locations and expect to reach thousands. In addition, a photo and art exhibition and media roundtable discussion will take place on the eve of the race.

The twoPoster- Great Ethiopian Run in Gondar races will focus on themes relevant to each region. In Gonder, the focus will be on “Ending Child Marriage” while in Samara, the emphasis will be on “Ending Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting (FGM/C).”

In Ethiopia, one in every five girls is married before the age of 18 and this practice is prevalent across all the regions. In Amhara nearly half of the girls are married before the age of 18 (44.8 per cent, EGLDAM, 2008). Nearly 60 per cent of cases of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is practiced in the Afar Region.

“UNICEF strongly believes that by 2025, Ethiopia will no longer have cases of child marriage, but this will only happen if we all work together – the government, civil society, religious and community leaders, women, men, boys and the girls themselves,” said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia.

The event will be attended by high-level government dignitaries, representatives from the UN, NGOs, CSOs and members of the media. In addition, Abelone Melesse, UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia, and renowned artists and sport personalities including Haregwoine Assefa and athlete Gebeyaneshe Ayele respectively (winner of the 15 km Dasani Road Race in Addis Ababa in June and winner of Millennium half marathon in Accra Ghana two weeks ago) will be attending the activities in Gonder to support the messaging around Girls’ Empowerment.