‘I Gave Up’ the well-known woman who stopped practicing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Ending FGM in Ethiopia
Afar region, Ethiopia: “It was a difficult decision, but I am happy because I don’t think earning income from doing FGM could make me happier than the relief of daughters who did not get circumcised,” Amina, a 59-years old circumciser said.
Amina Abdu, 59, is a well-known circumciser and respected woman in her community. She has practised FGM for more than two decades in Badahamo and adjacent kebeles (sub-district) in Amibara Woreda (district) of Afar region and used the practice as a source of income to support her family.
As in many other pastoral communities, FGM is deeply rooted in the Afari community, to which Amina belongs. The practise can cause lasting harm, including pain, infection, internal bleeding, psychological harm and complications during childbirth. FGM can even be fatal. As such, FGM is a violation of girls’ fundamental human rights.
As Amina had learned about these consequences from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)-funded regular awareness-raising sessions conducted by community-based structures in her village, she understood the complications caused by FGM on the survivors and decided to refrain from continuing the practice. However, this meant she would have to give up her source of livelihood.
Fortunately, after Halima decided to stop the practice, she met and discussed with the kebele leader on alternative means of survival, who agreed to support her through the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) public work programme. In fact, he said, he would only support her if she kept her promise not to practice FGM.
“If I hadn’t had the awareness through the community-based structures and support from the kebele head, things could have not gone right and I may not have given up practising FGM and I may stick to doing the practice for the rest of my life,” she says.
Amina is not alone in this. In the community of Badahamo and adjacent kebeles, a number of individuals who are practising FGM have seen and experienced the consequences of FGM and are now raising public and community awareness to bring an end to this harmful practice.
Even after the phase-out of the CERF project, the Woreda Women and Children affairs Office in collaboration with the community-based structures continued raising community awareness about Child Protection and Gender-Based Violence in emergencies, as well as harmful practices such as child marriage and FGM and encouraged community members to mobilize against these practices.
Amina is one of the former FGM practitioners who is strongly engaged in advocating, reporting and following up on cases on FGM. She is now a powerful advocate to end FGM in her community. She hopes that the practice will be eradicated through regular advocacy, awareness-raising, reporting and follow-up of cases, as the practice is slowly declining with the support of community-level awareness initiatives.
“With the strong support and collaborative effort of the formal government structures and the community-based structures, the community-based awareness activities are going well on regular basis and we have seen significant changes on the reduction of FGM activities at the community level,” says Halima.