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.

 

10,000 women run to empower a nation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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10,000 women are expected to take part in the 2015 Women First 5 km race, taking place in Addis Ababa on 15th March 2015.

The race’s motto is “empower women, empower a nation”. The UN in Ethiopia is working in partnership with the Great Ethiopian Run to promote the role of women in development and call for women to be given the same socio-economic opportunities as men.

These messages are being promoted in many ways by the UN in Ethiopia. In November 2014, 40,000 people celebrated women by taking part in the 14th Great Ethiopian Run, Africa’s largest 10 kilometre run, and the role of women was also promoted during the regional race in Gambella earlier this year.

Ethiopia is on track to achieve many of its targets under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but it has a long way to go to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment. These are factors that are recognized as critical in the growth of any rapidly developing country, like Ethiopia.

Progress is still lagging on MDG 3 – to promote gender equality and empower women and MDG 5 – improve maternal health.

That is why UNICEF Ethiopia is joining with other government and non-government organisations to call for a greater commitment to the fulfillment of women’s rights, improving their access to equal opportunities and resources within and outside their homes.

40,000 run celebrating women in Ethiopia: 14th edition Great Ethiopian Run International 10km race colourfully staged 

Great Ethiopian Run held this year with a theme of "Empower Women, Empower a Nation"
Participants of the Great Ethiopian Run wear a t-shirt with the message “Empower Women, Empower a Nation” in Amharic printed on the back. 14th edition Great Ethiopian Run International 10km race colourfully staged in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

Partnering with the Great Ethiopian Run, the UN in Ethiopia promotes the importance of women empowerment during the 2014 Great Ethiopian Run in which 40,000 people have participated. The annual running carnival is Africa’s biggest 10km race and it continues to attract more people around the world year after year.

Representing the UN, the UN Resident Coordinator in Ethiopia, Mr Eugene Owusu opened the 2014 race together with H.E. Abadula Gemeda, Speaker of the House of Peoples’ Representatives of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and other high ranking officials. UN Heads of Agencies and staff have also participated in the race.

This year, the lead message of the race “empower women, empower a nation” comes at a critical time when Ethiopia is preparing to report its remarkable achievements in meeting most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Dr Pierre M'pele-Kilebou, WHO Representative and world renown atheletes Haile Gebreselassie and Meseret Defar take group photo with winners of women mobility race.
Dr Pierre M’pele-Kilebou, WHO Representative and world renown atheletes Haile Gebreselassie and Meseret Defar take group photo with winners of women mobility race ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

The empowerment of women is a smart economics to achieve better economic growth. Sustainable economic development will only be achieved when the political, social, economic and health status of women is improved. Women empowerment is also about the elimination of all kinds of violence against them, and advancing gender equality and equity.

While it becomes apparent that Ethiopia is on track towards achieving many of the MDGs, those targets that are still lagging behind are the ones to do with women and girls namely, MDG 3 on women’s empowerment and MDG 5 of improving maternal mortality. It is therefore timely to call on everyone’s attention and seek the commitment of all towards the fulfilment of women’s empowerment by protecting their right to have access to opportunities and resources within and outside of their homes.

The UN in Ethiopia supports the Great Ethiopian Run annually not only to promote important social messages but also to raise funds to charities. Under the annual official fundraising campaign “Running for a Cause”, the UN and Great Ethiopian Run target to raise 1.4 million birr this year. The fund will be used for social protection and welfare programmes run by local charities that are selected by the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs. The UN also works with the Great Ethiopian Run to organise regional races in the regional capitals to promote the MDG goals.