Bogaletch Gebre: Inspiring Guide, Leader, Teacher

[Update: Unfortunately, all of the links for the main KMG Ethiopia website do not work now. Usually when this happens, the site goes back up/working within hours, days, or weeks. For now, the following website works: KMG-Ethiopia. All of the links at the top and the top right of that landing page contain important and inspiring material. We will have to see whether they import more material from the older site, restore the older site, or some such combination/variation. So the next three links below do not now work. However, most of the rest do. Please check them out!]

One month ago on May 22, 2013 Bogaletch Gebre received the 2012-2013 King Baudouin African Development Award “for transforming women’s lives by developing an innovative approach to changing community mindsets on a range of culturally entrenched issues”.

Interested readers might want to begin with, or include in their reading, this “About Us” part of the KMG Ethiopia website.

Interested readers can find a detailed and elaborate account on pages 8-28 of the 2010 paper “Ethiopia: Social Dynamics of Abandonment of Harmful Practices – Experiences in Four Locations” by Haile Gabriel Dagne, Special Series on Social Norms and Harmful Practices, Working Paper 2009-07, Innocenti Research Centre.

Interested readers can also find a concise summary on pages 29-31 of the 2010 paper “The Dynamics of Social Change: Towards the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Five African Countries” produced by the The UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy.

According to a frequently cited 2008 UNICEF study, female genital mutilation in the Kembatta Tembaro Zone decreased from nearly 100% in 1999 to less than 3% in 2008. This study seems hard to track down. Interpretations of it might come from (what is now) pages 8-28 of the 2010 paper “Ethiopia: Social Dynamics…” linked above. Interpretations of that 2008 UNICEF study might also come from a 2008 paper titled “A Study on Social Dynamics Leading to Abandonment of Harmful Traditional Practices with Special Reference to Female Genital Cutting, Kembatta and Tembaro Zone, Kembatti Menti Gezzima – Toppe Project UNICEF Ethiopia” by Haile Gabriel Dagne, study submitted to UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence. If anyone can find a link to this paper and/or clarify this citation matter, please do so in the comments! (I think the paper linked above may be a revised version of (a 2009 version of) the 2008 paper and that the 2008 paper itself may not currently be available, or at least possibly not easy to locate – any help?)

Bogaletch Gebre and KMG-Ethiopia’s successes include certain kinds of focus on certain forms of education and community involvement – very much like the autonomy-within-culture account discussed by Diana Tietjens Meyers in her wonderful 2000 paper “Feminism and Women’s Autonomy: the Challenge of Female Genital Cutting”. See also the “community conversations” based approach of the “Community Capacity Enhancement Handbook” of the UN Development Program (compiled in response to HIV/AIDS but applicable to a wide range of issues.)

Here is a link to an image that represents the KMG Ethiopia “Women’s Perspective – Theory of Change”. It is not as simple as it may first look. After reading about KMG Ethiopia and Bogaletch Gebre’s efforts in the links provided in this post (if not elsewhere too), some of the organizational insights and sophistication should become more clear.

For an excellent newspaper piece that includes Gebre’s story, click here forKidnapped. Raped. Married. The extraordinary rebellion of Ethiopia’s abducted wives“.

Readers can find one more piece, not very long but more detailed than most in the 2012 Global Change Leaders Case Study: Dr. Bogaletch Gebre, KMG Ethiopia by Rachel Hess. It is part of a series on Women’s Leadership from the Coady International Institute, St. Francis Xavier University.

Finally, this earlier post by Monkey is excellent and contains relevant links as well:
Afar region, Ethiopia, Abandoning Female Genital Mutilation

Update: Click here for the UN Population Fund webpage on female genital mutilation/cutting.

Following links on that webpage, you can find this 2012 annual report of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) joint programme on “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Accelerating Change”.

Click here for a summary of an evaluation of the FGM/C joint programme. This summary covers 2008-2012. Apparently, the second phase of the joint program will cover 2014-2017 and current planning for it is provided here.

In addition to the above material, the UN Population Fund webpage on FGM/C contains many more important and relevant links.

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.

UK Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health

Stonewall’s report on this important topic is out. Here are their key recommendations to the NHS:

1. Understand lesbian health needs:
Only one in ten lesbian and bisexual women said that healthcare workers have given them information relevant to their health care needs.
2. Train staff:
Only three in ten lesbian and bisexual women said healthcare workers did not make inappropriate comments about their sexual orientation.
3. Don’t make assumptions:
Two in five lesbian and bisexual women said that in the last year healthcare workers had assumed they were heterosexual.
4. Explicit policies:
Only one in eleven say that their GP surgery displayed non-discriminatory policy.
5. Tell lesbians what they need to know:
Three quarters of lesbian and bisexual women think they are not at risk from sexually transmitted infections.
6. Improve monitoring:
One in ten lesbian and bisexual women stated that when they did come out to a healthcare worker they were either ignored, or the healthcare worker continued to assume they were heterosexual.
7. Increase visibility:
Half of young lesbian and bisexual women have self-harmed in the last year. Increased visibility of lesbian and bisexual women will help improve self-esteem and morale.
8. Make confidentiality policies clear:
One in eight lesbian and bisexual women are not sure what their GP’s policy is on confidentiality.
9. Make complaints procedures clear:
Half of lesbian and bisexual women have had a negative experience in the health sector in the last year.
10. Develop tailored services:
Only two per cent of lesbian and bisexual women have attended a service tailored towards their needs.

Lots here that seems to me of interest to those interested in issues at the intersection of politics and epistemology: the importance of not making false assumptions based on prevailing norms, the importance of actively working to facilitate communication on sensitive matters, the importance of actively combatting dangerous false beliefs, the importance of knowing what information is relevant. And yes, put in these terms this stuff is not just about lesbians and bisexuals. These are good general practices, but the particular case of lesbians and bisexuals helps to make clear their importance. (Thanks, Heg!)