“I stood up against the beliefs and married my wife."

35-year-old Loguma Lobul, who married an uncircumcised woman is now an agent of change in his community

By Timrawosen Tesfaye
UNICEF Ethiopia/2022/Timrawosen Tesfaye
21 June 2022

In Ethiopia's Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' region (SNNPR), being an uncircumcised girl or woman is unthinkable. Among the community, especially for a man marrying an uncircumcised woman is considered a big sin and a disgrace to the parents and the whole family. These kinds of actions or decisions are unacceptable to the entire community.

However, the narrative is positively changing in Dassanech woreda (district), South Omo Zone in SNNPR. Loguma Lobul, 35 years old, is a man on a great mission. He broke tradition and married an uncircumcised woman and now is a role model to others.

“Without telling anyone, I just decided to marry an uncircumcised woman. When my families heard that I married an uncircumcised woman; they said, ‘you will die soon, and you are not part of our family anymore’, said Loguma.   

Journey of making a bold decision

Loguma took the brave decision and positive change has been influenced by the monthly community conversations on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage that UNICEF supports through the Regional Bureau of Women and Children Affairs. The community conversation is one of the strategies used to raise and increase awareness of the implications of FGM and child marriage. The discussions are held twice a month for seven groups of 70 members (35 males and 35 females in each group from different backgrounds and ages) and facilitated by four community moderators in Dassanech.

“After attending the regular community conversation sessions, I understood the consequences of FGM in terms of health and the rights of girls and women, I then made my decision to marry an uncircumcised woman,” said Loguma.

SNNPR is the 6th highest region with a FGM prevalence rate of 62 per cent for women aged 15-49 years. This prevalence rate has reduced from 73.5 per cent in 2000 to 62 per cent in 2016 which implies that 4 million girls and women have already undergone FGM in the region.

Blowing the trumpet of change

“I often share my personal decision and story with my friends and encourage them to do the same. I try to persuade them to challenge their families and the community and stand against FGM,” says Loguma.

Through the Joint Programme to eliminate FGM, UNICEF and UNFPA have been supporting the Government, civil society, social movements, religious and traditional leaders, and communities in Ethiopia to strengthen legal frameworks, policy development and implementation; to improve access to quality health care, protection, legal and social services; and to raise awareness of the impact of FGM. There is growing evidence that overall rates of FGM are declining across the country.

This programme has also contributed to the development of a comprehensive and evidence based medium term plan, namely, the National Costed Roadmap to End Child Marriage and FGM – 2020-2022 and its roll out at the national level. The programme employs a gender transformative approach to address existing gender inequality and power imbalance which are the underlying causes of FGM. It also engages men to educate their community and champion change through influencing perception of other men, boys and women towards uncut women and girls as well as to promote positive practices.

“It was very difficult at first for me and my wife living with a lot of cursing and criticism from our families and the community,” said Loguma “But through time, my families accepted my decision and my wife as they witnessed that nothing bad happened to me or my wife because of my marriage to an uncircumcised woman. I am very proud of myself that I did the right thing despite the challenges I faced because of my understanding and belief. At this time, due to the ongoing community awareness activities and my bold action of marrying my wife, a couple of men in Dassanech have married uncircumcised women and became agents of change, just like me.”

Loguma’s efforts show a promising future in creating a protective and empowering environment for women and girls in Ethiopia.

On behalf of the girls and women, their families and communities, served by the Joint Programme, UNFPA and UNICEF would like to thank the governments of The European Union, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom for their financial contributions.