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A project entitled “Economic and Social Women Empowerment and Protection of Women and Girls from Harmful Traditional Practices,” was launched today in Hawassa, capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region. The project which will be co-financed by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation and UNFPA will be implemented in four districts in the Wolayta and Hadiya Zones of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region in a period of 16 months. The Italian Agency for Development Cooperation allocated a budget of 500,000 Euros for the implementation of the project.

Speaking at the ceremony, H.E. Alemitu Umod, State Minister of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs said investing in the empowerment and protection of women and girls is vital if the country is to meet the development goals set in its national development plan as well as the international development agenda. “Multi-sectoral programmes promoting gender equality and equity, empowerment, and access to services among this segment of the population, with a special focus on the vulnerable and marginalized, will go a long way in building a strong base for the country’s development endeavours,” Woizero Alemitu added.

Mr. Rakoto Victor, UNFPA Country Representative a.i., said on his part on the occasion that the project would contribute to the economic and social empowerment of most vulnerable girls and women and elimination of Female Genital Mutilation and early/child marriage in the country.  “The approach the project applies in integrating women’s social and economic empowerment with social mobilization coupled with strong linkages with grassroots structures will form a solid ground for sustainability of the positive changes being sought,” noted Mr. Victor.

Ms. Ginevra Letizia, Head of the Addis Ababa Office of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, remarked at the event that “Italy has always been greatly committed to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, since a sustainable, human, economic, social, environmental and inclusive growth cannot be achieved without the recognition of women’s role. That is why the ESWEP was designed to complement an ongoing project, also financed by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation – the Women Economic Empowerment and Social Integration Project (WEESI), being implemented by BoWCA, in order to have a greater impact on the improvement of the lives of women in these areas”.

The project will implement strategic activities on economic and social empowerment of most vulnerable female headed households; school level interventions to empower adolescent girls; and community mobilization and awareness creation on harmful practices and sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

It is expected that the project will seek to raise community awareness to generate actions in protecting the rights of women and girls, and promoting less tolerance and more reporting of harmful practices as well as better acceptance of women as entrepreneurs and leaders.  The project will also aim at building the capacities of service providers for the latter to adopt norms, standards and practices leading to the provision of gender responsive services. 

Four sector bureaus in the Region – the Bureaus of Women and Children Affairs, Health, Justice and Education – and two civil society organizations – KMG Ethiopia and Mary Joy – will be involved in the implementation of the project.

Senior officials of the federal and regional government, members of communities and other stakeholders were present at the project launch ceremony.