Eliminating FGM/C in Ethiopia- A Community-based Approach

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In Ethiopia, the practice of Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) is an expected and accepted part of a girl’s transition to adulthood consisting of the intentional removal or injury of female genitalia for non-health-related purposes. FGM/C is sometimes required for a girl to be married, baptized, or recognized in a religious community.

FGM/C’s prevalence among multiple religions suggests it is more a cultural rather than a religious practice; however, some supporters site religion as justification. Thanks to the effort of community-level groups, such as HUNDEE, some religious leaders now acknowledge the lack of support for FGM/C in the Bible or Quran and support the elimination of the harmful practice; nevertheless, some still deem it necessary for spiritual cleanliness and to prevent promiscuity.

Although the Ethiopian government has not strictly banned the practice of FGM/C, they’ve signed multiple international treaties supporting abandonment, and support local organizations working to ban the practice. At the community-level, groups such as HUNDEE and KMG are working through municipal development and school-based programs to educate via a variety of communication materials (from radio to puppet shows) about FGM/C’s significant health risks.

However, community health practitioners who perform FGM/C are reluctant to stop (see video above); they are respected community members with little to no other skills that provide income.  Therefore, it is important to continue targeting communities (especially health practitioners who perform FGM/C) to not only share research showing the serious acute and chronic risks of FGM/C, but also provide new opportunities to create income.

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5 Responses to “Eliminating FGM/C in Ethiopia- A Community-based Approach”

  1. dejukem1 Says:

    Female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) is a violation of the human rights of women and every female child, this unfortunate practice must be stopped. In this regards the Government as the custodian of regulations and policies needs to do more than signing multiple international treaties supporting abandonment, and supporting local organizations working to ban the practice. The Government is charged with the responsiblity of formulating and enforcing policies to ban this practice. Additionally,there is need for the community level groups to create a forum for dialogue within communities about female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) through a holistic basic education programs conducted in local languages. When the local health practitioners have an understanding of the dangers of the practice through community focused education, they will likely begin to question the need to continue this very cruel practice regardless they are equipped with little to no other skills that provide income.

  2. mfmonn Says:

    I agree completely and feel very strongly that education is the best way to go about creating a change in the practice of FGC, I am curious if there have been attempts to have have the practice “medicalized” (which of course presents it’s own set of ethical issues for the health care practitioner). I say this with the idea of risk reduction in mind. Needle exchange programs have been very effective at reducing transmission of diseases. In theory, having FGC occur in a clean setting with a clean instrument would reduce the risk of severe infections, which albeit are only a small set of the problematic sequelae. I have heard it proposed, as well, that in some cases tribes are willing to agree to a substitute to the traditional cutting by using a needle prick or something that is similarly less harmful to the woman. Unfortunately, education takes significant amounts of time and often generations to make the change, so I wonder if these measures would be a nudge, so to say, in a better direction as a start.

    Thank you so much for posting on this topic!

  3. pittskey Says:

    As evidenced in Egypt, studies have shown that unfortunately it is the matriarchs themselves that have pursued this practice more so than men, and believe that it should continue to take place. The mothers and grandmothers were highly influential in determining the continuation of the practice in families of all religious backgrounds. I am not aware if this is as prevalent a factor in Ethiopia, but perhaps the familial females should play a role in any program to help change the mindset. The author appropriately noted that the role of the community ‘midwives’ or excisors is extremely important. Vocational training needs to be developed and implemented for this population to transition into new community-relevant workstreams.

  4. jibendu66 Says:

    The inhuman practice like FGM/C should be handled with strict law and punishment. The vocational, training, rehabilatation of midwives may change the mindset but it should be reinforced with strong law. It is unfortunate national government reluctant to impose strict ban and so allowing crude practice which doesnot have any social or religious logics.It seems the goverment transferr the responisibility to local NGOs or signing international treaties, they donot to lose their popularity ammong people imposing a comlete ban. The practcing health workers will continue to earn easy money from FGM/C practice if there is no law to prevent them. Sometime you require hard way to control a practice like FGM.The victims of such practice only encourage this to continue which is proved worldwide like child marraige , brothel or Satidaha(sacrifce of women in husband funeral).

  5. mjberley Says:

    FGM/C has a very unique problem in that the women of the community support this action would like to continue the practice. When something is so deeply rooted in the culture and there is little desire to change it from within it creates many obsticles. I think it is great that efforts are being made and I think that educating the practitioners in other things is a unique and promising way to accomplish this. My one concern is that other village women will see this as an opportunity to take up the career and fill in where the earlier practitioners left off.

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