ETHIOPIA: More Ethiopian parents saying no to female circumcision

Ethiopian FlagBy UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

“The knowledge [that FGM is harmful] is increasing,” said Abate Gudunfa, head of the Ethiopian National Committee on Traditional Practices (commonly referred to as EGLDAM - its name in Amharic]. “Children born more recently are safer.”

Still, FGM is carried out on girls as young as 80 days old, particularly in the predominately Christian highlands, and up to 14 years of age in the lowland Muslim regions. A network of 40 NGOs, including EGLDAM, the government and international organisations, are involved in anti-FGM campaigns in Ethiopia. Policies have also been reviewed to ensure participants are punished.

“Prevalence, especially among newly born children is decreasing - meaning that more families have sufficient awareness and do not support this practice anymore,” Abate added.

A 2007 survey conducted by EGLDAM found that prevalence across the country had dropped from 61 percent in 1997 to 46 percent.

Nine regions including Tigray, the Southern and Oromiya as well as two city administrations namely the capital Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, showed the highest improvement. Other regions recorded minimal change. “There is almost no decrease in Afar and Somali [regions] - the strongholds of infibulation,” the survey noted.

EGLDAM found a decrease in almost all ethnic groups. Some 29 groups reflected a 20 percent decline, of which 18 were located in the Southern Region.

“Those ethnic groups …should be considered real success areas and given due attention as possible learning sites,” EGLDAM said. “Six ethnic groups show about or less than 10 percent decrease and should be considered as groups of probable major resistance to change.”

These included the Harari, Shinasha, Alaba and Hadia ethnic groups.

Globally, an estimated two million girls are still at risk of undergoing FGM each year. Activists say FGM is deeply entrenched in society despite various efforts to stop it.

According to the Inter-African Committee, the practice is a serious health issue affecting women, helping to spread HIV/AIDS and responsible for high female mortality rates in Africa.

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