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Two districts in Afar Region declare abandonment of FGM/C

The Buremudaytu and Argoba districts in the Afar Regional State declared the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) this week at ceremonies held to mark the occasion.

The two Buremudaytu and Argoba are the second batch of districts to make such a declaration among the six intervention districts of the Joint Programme on the Accelerated Abandonment of FGM/C being implemented by the Afar Region Bureau of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, the Afar Pastoralist Development Association, and the Rohi Weddu Pastoralist Women's Development Organization with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF for the past three years. The Amibara, Awash Fentale and Gewane districts made a similar declaration in December 2010.

"Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting violates the right to health, security and physical integrity of the person, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death," noted Benoit Kalasa, UNFPA Country Representative. "Working towards the abandonment of FGM/C requires a thorough exploration of the beliefs and values that underpin the practice and involving entire communities," he added.

"With today's public declaration of the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, a new chapter opens for girls of Buremudaytu district," said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Country Representative. "Following an intense process of dialogue and discussion, the entire community has rallied to say no more to the ancient practice that has 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 compromise," he noted.

Ethiopia is among 17 countries across Africa where the Joint UNFPA/UNICEF Programme is being implemented. The Joint Programme aims to accelerate the abandonment of FGM/C by expanding existing efforts and to declare at least one country FGM/C free by 2012. The Afar Region, where the Joint Programme is being implemented in Ethiopia, ranks second in the prevalence of FGM/C in the country (after Somali Region), women have traditionally been subjected to the most severe form of the practice, infibulations, usually between the ages of seven and nine. 
A number of dialogue forums have been held between officials of the Region, clan and religious leaders to build consensus on the abandonment of FGM/C. Moreover, community level structures have been put in place to teach the community on the consequences of FGM/C and report cases when they see evidence of it. Uncircumcised and newborn girls are being registered, a record which serves as a follow-up mechanism to protect them. The registers are reported on a quarterly basis. Recent figures show that the number of uncircumcised girls in the six intervention districts of the Joint Programme has reached 7,000. This is unprecedented in the region.

Meanwhile, a consensus building workshop took place among 82 Sheiks and Kadis drawn from the 74 localities of the six intervention districts preceding the public declaration of abandonment of FGM/C in the Buremudaytu and Argoba districts.