Afar region, Ethiopia, abandoing female genital mutilation

The Afar region in Ethiopia has long practised female genital mutilation in its most severe form – infibulation, or Pharaonic circumcision – which involves removing the clitoris, the labia minora, and then scraping the labia majora to create raw surfaces, which are then sewn together, leaving just a tiny hole for urination and menstruating. Needless to say, it results in many health complications. But now things are changing. An ongoing campaign in the Afar region has seen many communities abandon the practice. You can read more about the campaign and its results here. There’s some further information about infibulation and other types of female genital mutilation on this site.

14 thoughts on “Afar region, Ethiopia, abandoing female genital mutilation

  1. [Update: most links for KMG Ethopia still down. Lots of great stuff at… this site for it. Also, check out some of the links on this post: Bogaletch Gebre: Inspiring Guide, Leader, Teacher.]

    Interested readers might really want to read about KMG Ethiopia – an extraordinary women’s self-help community organization in the Kembatta Tembaro Zone (now substantially expanded it seems). Within their first ten years of operation and growth, 97% of all men and women oppose FGM (with a 97% decline in FGM rate). Among many other accomplishments, the organization created Uncut Girls Clubs and a Whole Body festival that “annually celebrates the courageous uncut girls, the young men who marry them, their mothers, and the communities who have accepted them.”

    My words cannot do justice to this organization that achieves so much more. Please check out their website (below are just some highlights):

    About KMG Ethiopia

    KMG Ethiopia – Our Programs

    KMG Ethiopia – Strategies and Methodologies

  2. I highly recommend to interested readers one of my favorite pieces of writing on this topic: Diana T. Meyer’s wonderful 2000 Metaphilosophy article titled, “Feminism and Women’s Autonomy: The Challenge of Female Genital Cutting”. This article is reprinted as chapter 10 in Meyer’s 2004 book titled, “Being yourself: essays on identity, action and social life”.

    Below is an abstract of the article, followed by two (subscription) links for it.

    “Feminist studies of female genital cutting (FGC) provide ample evidence that many women exercise effective agency with respect to this practice, both as accommodators and as resisters. The influence of culture on autonomy is ambiguous: women who resist cultural mandates for FGC do not necessarily enjoy greater autonomy than do those women who accommodate the practice, yet it is clear that some social contexts are more conducive to autonomy than others. In this paper, I explore the implications for autonomy theory of these understandings of the relation between culture, FGC, and women’s agency. I review the range of worldwide FGC practices – including “corrective” surgery for “ambiguous genitalia” in Western cultures as well as the various initiation rites observed in some African and Asian cultures – and the diverse cultural rationales for different forms of FGC. I argue that neither latitudinarian, value-neutral accounts of autonomy nor restrictive, value-saturated accounts adequately explain women’s agentic position with respect to FGC. I then analyze a number of educational programs that have enhanced women’s autonomy, especially by strengthening their introspection, empathy, and imagination. Such programs, which engage women’s autonomy skills without exposing them to autonomy-disabling cultural alienation, promote autonomy-within-culture. This understanding of autonomy as socially situated, however, entails neither endorsement of FGC nor resignation to its persistence.”

  3. That is the statistic that the world needed to hear. FGM has long been a discussion topic in classes on cultural relativism. Is it right to step in and stop a practise that’s honoured by a group of people because it offends us?

    Absolutely, if the practise threatens children’s lives and only 3% of the people practising the tradition agree with it. It’s about time somebody realized just how easy it is to change people’s minds and their lives with a little bit of discussion. Nice work.

  4. KMG Ethiopia
    Change Takes Commitment not a Miracle

    Bogaletch Gebre: ending female genital mutilation in Ethiopia (The Lancet, v369, i9579 by Priya Shetty)

    “…Amy Coen, President of Population Action International, who nominated Gebre for the Jonathan Mann Award, attended a 2006 community-initiated rally in southern Ethiopia to celebrate the end of female genital mutilation. “Close to 20 000 people from some 20 villages poured into an open field, most of them walking for miles to participate in the festivities. Elders, usually the keepers of traditions, spoke out against the practice. It was a transforming experience to see what a small group of women can do to spare their daughters and sisters extreme misery. It renewed my faith and my hope for the future of us all.” Gebre believes gender discrimination is as pervasive and destructive as racial apartheid once was. “Just as whites in racial apartheid, males are considered to be intellectually superior, biologically superior, and physically superior to women. My dream for African women? That the world realises that women’s suppression is no good for business, for the economy, nor for human development. Africa, in particular, cannot develop unless it uses all its people. This is what I want to see—a global coalition against gender apartheid.”

  5. Thank you so much for keeping us abreast, David! I hope to blog about the Prize later today.

  6. You are welcome Catarina! Gebre’s inspiration keeps my hopes up and my cynicism at bay. She serves as the best kind of guide if not leader or teacher.

    What does she and KMG do with such money (from this award, for instance)? Click on each of the (currently listed, though this may well change) seven links under the title “Our Projects” for some idea…Their website is sometimes down or slow lately, though so far gratefully it always comes back/around.

    1. Access to Justice for Women and Girls – Comic Relief

    2. Transforming Lives – Women led Community Development – Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA)

    3. Improving the Welfare and Realizing the Rights of Vulnerable and Disadvantaged women and Other Social Groups in Socio-Economic Processes in Gamo Gofa and Segen Zones, Southern Region, Ethiopia – EU-European Union/European Commission

    4. Improve Reproductive Health and Economic Condition of Women and Girls – Norwegian Church Aid (NCA)

    5. Empowerment of ‘Fuga’ Communities (People of Golden Hands) – Finland Embassy

    6. Improving the Social Economic Status of Marginalized Artisan Communities -USAID

    7. Protection of Girl Children from Violence – Plan International – Ethiopia

    Besides the KMG website, the article linked in comment #4 above provides the best information and background as far as I can see after much looking (through other articles that seemed either incomplete and/or to contain inaccuracies).

    The article by Diana Tietjens Meyers linked in comment #5 above provides an excellent feminist theoretic/empirical account, analysis, and argument for Gebre’s general approach (recognized by such awards and arguably increasingly familiar to many mostly unknown yet heroic feminist activists working on the ground in local communities).

  7. These courageous workers turning oppression and adversity into forms of thriving productivity (and productive thriving) deserve much attention/credit (not to mention the right kinds of support – unfortunately the successes are limited to certain regions). I plan soon to put up a new FP post highlighting some of this material (perhaps an image/graphic that represents a good deal of the relevant work/approach) to guard against the info getting lost/buried in comments…
    Thanks Monkey for the incredibly important original/initial post.

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