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.

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.

“I could help my family be free from poverty if I was educated. Not if I am married.” Lakech, 13

By Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop

Lakech, 13 8th grade, wants to be a doctor when she grows up. Out of sheer poverty, her parents arranged her a marriage with a relatively wealthy family. Having heard of this arrangement, the community conversation groups approached her parents and
Lakech, 13, had her marriage cancelled as a result of reporting her parents to the Community Conversation Group in Bandani Kebele (neighbourhood), Amhara, Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mersha

Lakech*, aged 13, is from a poor family in the Bandani Kebele (neighbourhood) of the Dangla Woreda (district) in Amhara, Ethiopia. Her father, 55, is frail from ill health and her mother, 45, supports the family on her own.

Although Lakech’s older sisters have been educated, times are now hard. Lakech’s mother had arranged for her to be married, to both benefit from a dowry and to avoid the additional costs of Lakech’s presence in the household.

“We sometimes do not have enough to eat. We do not even have clothing”, explains Lakech’s mother, “I was given this dress by Hebeste the Health Extension Worker. My girls are always asking me: Why do we not have clothing? Why do we not have soap? Life is hard.”

Lakech found out about the planned marriage from school friends. She explains the impact when she found out: “I was determined not to be married. I wanted to run away, to an urban area where I would look after myself. I planned to work as a housemaid and continue my schooling. I could help my family be free from poverty if I was educated. Not if I am married.”

Lakech reported the planned marriage to Girma Demlash, the facilitator of the Community Conversation Group which campaigns against child marriage.

“I felt distrust for my parents during that time. At first my parents were angry when I reported them, as they said they had no capacity to send me to school. But we have been offered help because I reported it. So I am no longer in fear of a planned marriage,” explains Lakech.

Shashe Gebre, 45, decided to arrange marriage to her daughter Lakech 13, 8th grade, because she couldn't afford to send her to school or provide her food in the house. But after having a conversation with the community conversation groups, she decid
The Mother of Lakech, 13, agreed to cancel her daughter’s planned marriage as a result of an intervention by the Community Conversation Group in Bandani Kebele (neighbourhood), Amhara, Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mersha

Lakech’s mother was relieved when the marriage was cancelled. “The Community Conversation Group told me about the legal consequences. I have been supported by the community since. My friends are very happy that Lakech will not be married,” she says.

The family has been able to access a UNICEF supported Revolving Fund to prevent child marriage. So-called because when funding is paid back by beneficiaries it is reinvested into the next family who needs it, so it circulates within the community. Families can start a business, make money and send their girls to school. Plus the fund gives support for education materials including uniform and clothing.

Meseret Debalkie, Child Protection Officer, UNICEF Ethiopia, says of the fund: “For the wealthy family you just have to change attitudes. That is relatively easy. But for the poorer families, if you do not offer any other life options, what will they do? You have to give them alternatives.”

Atalele Abera, 35, is a member of the Women’s Development Group and of the Community Conversation Group. Atalele says of Lakech’s cancelled marriage:

“The girl’s family received 1,000 ETB ($47) as a gift from the husband’s family, but we made sure they gave it back. I am following up with Lakech. I didn’t trust the parents to stick to their decision to cancel. So I visited them four times in the aftermath and continue to collect information from the neighbourhood on whether the marriage plans have really stopped.”

Lakech, 13, and her Mother.
Lakech, 13, and her Mother. Lakech’s planned marriage was cancelled as a result of an intervention by the Community Conversation Group in Bandani Kebele (neighbourhood), Amhara, Ethiopia. © UNICEF/ESARO 2015/Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop

Lakech’s mother explains that she had ambiguous feelings over educating Lakech: “I was worried that I will lose my daughters if I educate them as there are no schools nearby. My eldest daughter went to school some miles away and we have lost contact with her. So I was worried that when we face a challenge due to poverty that my other girls will do the same thing – they will leave and find a life elsewhere.

“But now we have the fund to help us. We will get 5,300 ETB ($250), I will buy sheep. It will cost me around 900 ETB ($43) to by one sheep if she is pregnant, so then I will have two. I will prepare local whisky and the leftovers from that will feed the sheep.”

*Name changed to protect identity

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.

Health workers create awareness on the consequences of child marriage in Amhara

“I go to visit new mothers seven days after giving birth to give them iron, and it is then I will refer them to hospital if they are suffering from fistula. I referred two women recently,” explains Hebeste Admas, 26, a Health Extension Worker at a local health post in the Bandani Kebele (neighbourhood) of the Dangla Woreda (district) in Amhara, Ethiopia.

Hebeste continues, “Child marriage results in so many other health consequences including miscarriage and stunting of the child. A girl’s uterus may be damaged from intercourse and she will suffer great psychological distress. I have seen all of this.”

Yitayesh Akalu, Expert at the Dangla Women, Children and Youth Affairs Office comments: “The problem of fistula is so huge we have dedicated fistula health centres. Fistula happens mostly to child and adolescent mothers as a result of intense and prolonged labour – their bodies are simply not developed enough to give birth. We have community ambulances so that fistula cases can be treated straight away. A girl will be transported by youth groups carrying her on a bed until they get to an accessible area where the ambulance will collect her.”

Hebeste has been a Health Extension Worker since she was 17, and her role includes teaching community members about the health consequences of child marriage.

Hibist Admas, 26, has worked as a health extension worker for 9 years. She witnesses a major decline in child marriage over the past few years. She says she doesn't face any hardship regarding her fight against child marriage as she works closely with gov

“In my 9 years as a Health Extension Worker I have seen a decline in child marriage as a result of community awareness, and I do believe the practice will stop. I report cases to the police. There is no confidentiality as they are breaking the law. However people hold alternative ceremonies in secret to hide that it is a child marriage – at night or at dawn. Then the girl disappears and the family say she has gone to live with an aunt.”

Hebeste continues: “But local health workers like me know every pregnant woman and the Women’s Development Groups and Health Development Groups who look after the wellbeing of girls and prevent them marrying, operate at the village level. So we know. The development armies report to me and I report cases to the health centre and police.”

Hebeste notes the way girls who are forced to marry are not as able to protect their own health and plan their families. She explains: “There is a real difference between older and younger women who are married. Adult women come to me for family planning services without the knowledge or consent of their husband. Whereas when girls marry as children, they do not understand the consequences of sex, they are not empowered to seek advice, and so they do not come to me.

“I have had parents bring their daughter to me ahead of marriage saying they want contraceptives for her to try and avoid the complications of childbirth. The girl told me she was really scared to be marrying an adult man. I reported them.”

Determined men and women form a community to end child marriage

Community advocates of Amhara region, Awi Zone, Badani Kebele, Dangla Woreda. All working hand in hand to transform child marriage practices in Amhara.
A meeting of the Bandani Kebele Community Conversation Group which advocates against child marriage, Saguma village, Bandani Kebele, Dangla Woreda (District) ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mersha

“We are not just talking about change, we are stopping children from marrying.” A group of determined men and women from various villages in the Dangla Woreda (District) of Amhara, Ethiopia, sit under a tree among a verdant landscape of hills and pasture. Cattle, donkeys, goats, and the steep banks of a river in view. There is a food surplus in this area, the harvest having been plentiful. The talk is lively and incessant as the group discuss their antipathy towards child marriage and their unified commitment to see the practise eliminated in the Kebele (neighbourhood) of Bandani. Known as the Community Conversation Group (CCG), the 35 men and 35 women come from many of the 550 households in Bandani. All are considered influential community members, be that as elders, health workers, religious leaders or members of the Women’s Development Group.

Atalil Abera, 35, chair of women's development group . She works closely with community conversation groups to prevent child marriage.
Atalele Abera, 35, a member of the local Women’s Development Group and of Bandani Kebele’s Community Conversation Group against Child Marriage, Amhara, Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mersha

Atalele Abera, 35, a member of the Women’s Development Group, comments: “Our group influences other women and most women want to engage in discussions on child marriage. There were 130 child marriages in this Kebele last year. School is far away and parents fear violence against their children and defilement if they send them on the long journey to school. Many cannot afford to educate their children. I have three children and limited the size of my family by using contraception, so I could ensure they would all be educated.”
Almost every member of the CCG was themselves married either as a child or to a child. They have also faced the decision whether or not to marry their own pre-pubescent daughters and sons. Those who did, now openly regret it, because of the resulting family poverty and the compromised life particularly their daughters now live.

The CCG has “Eyes” and “Ears” members who are tasked with reporting what they see and hear regarding child marriage, prior to a fortnightly meeting, hosted by the Community Conversation Facilitator, Girma Demlash, 30.

The CCG is part of a comprehensive programme against child marriage involving multiple stakeholders. The programme is run by the local government, the Dangla Women, Children and Youth Affairs Office (WCYAO), supported by UNICEF.

Yitayesh Akalu, Expert at the Dangla WCYAO comments: “We have undertaken several trainings with community members on how to implement the UNICEF social mobilisation project against child marriage. That includes how to establish a change group known as a Community Conversation Group. We have trained 10 male and 10 female Community Conversation Facilitators so far. This is the first time we have conducted a comprehensive programme in Dangela Woreda. It is a multi-sectoral programme involving health, education, justice, the community and livelihoods, in the form of a fund to support parents to educate their girls instead of marry them.”

Girma Demlash, Community Conversation Facilitator, comments: “We are very grateful to UNICEF for helping us facilitate the community conversations. Everyone who takes part is committed to ending chid marriage. We have just prevented two marriages – those of a 10 year old and a 13 year old girl – from going forward as a result of the girls reporting to us that their parents were in the process of arranging their marriages. We are not just talking about change, we are stopping children from marrying.”