Three kebeles (localities) in the Afambo Woreda (District) in the Afar Region in Ethiopia publicly declared abandonment of child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) at a ceremony held on August 6. The Programme on Integrated Abandonment of Child Marriage and FGM which UNFPA has been supporting with funding from the UN Association in Sweden over the past three years is being implemented in seven kebeles in the Afambo Woreda. This programme is the first of its kind in the effort to abandon child marriage and FGM in an integrated manner whose implementation is being coordinated by the Afar Region Bureau of Women and Children Affairs.
Delivering the message of Mr. Faustin Yao, UNFPA Country Representative, Tsehay Gette, Gender Programme Officer, said “a new chapter opens for the girls of the Afambo Woreda with today’s public declaration of the abandonment of child marriage and female genital mutilation.” “Following an intense process of dialogue and discussion, the entire community has rallied to say no more to these age-old practices that have caused so much pain and suffering for countless generations of women and girls. A new era is dawning for these communities and we urge vigilance in the days and months ahead to make sure that these hard earned commitments are not compromised” the message indicated.
The intervention on the integrated abandonment of child marriage and FGM is coordinated with a committee composed of representatives from the district administration, religious and clan leaders, school administration and parent-teacher associations. Influential players at the community level that have been engaged in the effort include traditional birth attendants, ex- circumcisers, and Health Extension Workers. There is also a close involvement of law enforcement bodies.
Moreover, community level structures have been put in place to teach the community on the consequences of child marriage and FGM when they see evidence of it. Community conversations are being undertaken at the localities every two weeks involving all stakeholders and the community. In addition to these forums engaging the larger community, there are unmarried girls’ and married girls’ clubs in support of the programme.
This programme which is being implemented in the Afambo Woreda builds on the good practices of the Joint UNFPA-UNICEF Programme on Abandonment of FGM which is has been running in the Afar Region for the past 8 years sparing a total of 10,000 girls from FGM. The integrated programme has recently been scaled-up to the Abala Woreda in the Afar Region.
Government officials, clan and religious leaders, representatives of law enforcement bodies, community members from the Afambo Woreda, including from the four localities that have yet to declare abandonment, were gathered at the ceremony.