Ethiopia is a hotbed for female genital mutilation (FGM). Over half of the world’s survivors of this harmful practice are in Ethiopia, Egypt and Indonesia. FGM is a human rights violation of girls and women that can put their lives at risk, or result in serious and lifelong consequences.
Plan International is working with communities in Ethiopia to end FGM by educating community members – girls, boys, women and men – of the harm it poses, and encouraging them to challenge outdated customs and change their mindsets.
Shocked by the knowledge they’ve gained, fathers in this community are standing up and speaking out to stop FGM, and protect their daughters, granddaughters and future generations of young girls.
Abebe, 45 – A leader influencing change
In communities around the world where FGM is practiced, it’s deeply entrenched in local traditions and beliefs that suggest girls must undergo this procedure in order to be “clean”, “pure”, “desirable” or to uphold family honour. As village chief, Abebe’s position against FGM is critical to sparking lasting change – his opinions and decisions are influential in the community, especially to other men.
“When the Plan International project launched in our village, we were against our traditions being questioned. I was a part of the opposition, too,” revealed Abebe. “But, as I am the village chief, I had to take part in the discussions. Very soon, I began to realize that many of our traditions – like FGM – are not good. I decided I want to become an example of attitude change.”
Kebebe, 38 – A teacher protecting his students
38-year-old Kebebe is the headmaster of the local school, where he has noticed the disheartening trend of higher absentee rates among girls – particularly after their FGM procedure. With Plan International’s support, Kebebe and teachers have learned about the dangers of FGM, and are working with their students to stop it.
“I have supported the founding of the Uncut Girls’ Club at our school,” shared Kebebe. “The members of the club discuss FGM, early marriage and other harmful practices. They spread the word in their own communities too. This has really made a difference. Many boys in our school have joined the effort.”
Kebebe is proud to support his students in leading change, and has vowed to protect his own daughter from FGM too.
“My nine-year-old daughter has not had FGM, and will not have it. Her goal is to be the Chair of the Uncut Girls’ Club.”
Shalamo, 65 – A grandfather on a mission
Before Plan International started working in his community, Shalamo wasn’t aware of the dangers of FGM and so, his daughters underwent the procedure when they were younger. Going against this norm would have been taboo.
“Our community would have turned its back on them [his daughters],” revealed Shalamo. “They would have been considered indecent, and no man would have wanted to marry them.”
After hearing about the consequences, like pain, infection and complications related to childbirth, from women in his community, he started to shift his view. He’s speaking out to protect not only the girls in his family, but the girls in his community!
“Now I wish my wife and daughters had not been cut. I am now the grandfather of three little girls and I will not accept FGM on them. I also want to protect other girls in our village by talking about the topic. I want to be an example to other men.”
Ending practices rooted in gender inequality, like FGM, means engaging everyone – girls and women, as well as boys and men. Like Abebe, Kebebe and Shalamo, fathers across the globe can play an important role in the lives of their children, and within their communities – motivating, supporting and leading change.
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