News / Africa

Ethiopian Activist Recognized for Fight Against Female Genital Mutilation

Masai girl holds protest sign during anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) run in Kilgoris, KenyaMasai girl holds protest sign during anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) run in Kilgoris, Kenya
x
Masai girl holds protest sign during anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) run in Kilgoris, Kenya
Masai girl holds protest sign during anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) run in Kilgoris, Kenya
Selah Hennessy

An Ethiopian activist who has worked to support women’s rights and battle female genital mutilation has been awarded an international prize in Europe.

Bogaletch Gebre founded Kembatti Mentti Gezzima-Tope in the 1990s. The organization’s name translates as Kembatti Women Stand Together.


The group has a unique approach to tackling women’s rights in Bogaletch’s home country, Ethiopia.


The principle, she says, is that going into rural areas and telling people what to do will not work. Instead, the organization facilitates conversations, with community leaders joining together to reach consensus over issues that impact the community.

She says HIV/AIDS is an important entry point into broader discussions about practices that harm women.


Her organization provides basic information -- including, for example, that HIV is transmitted by blood. From there the conversation might develop into one about the risks linked to genital mutilation.


"The fact that the circumciser or traditional surgeon cuts girls with one blade, three, four, five girls at a time, and without sterilization, and also she does not wash her hands properly -- the possibility if one girl is infected that the rest of the girls will be infected, we start with that," Bogaletch said.


From there, she says, a conversation will develop about the causes, the reasons why female genital mutilation is done. She says when the question "Why are we mutilating?" is posed, the community typically has a long list of reasons.


"The community starts: 'well this, this, and this are the reasons.' But then, these reasons are not in the bible. It is not part of our culture. It is not in the Quran. And as Christians and Muslims and people who fear God, how can we destroy something God has created? That reasoning comes," Bogaletch said.


Female genital mutilation, or FGM, typically involves removing the clitoris and can lead to bleeding, infections and childbirth problems.


Data released by the United Nations earlier this year shows that the practice is declining in Africa and the Middle East.


Bogaletch says for most communities she works with, making the decision to end cutting is a long process. Practices that have been entrenched for many generations, she says, take a long time to break.


But in the areas where her organization has worked, it’s credited with bringing female circumcision on pre-adolescents down from 100 percent to 3 percent in just 10 years. Other international organizations, including U.N. groups, are hoping to replicate the approach elsewhere in Africa.


Bogaletch was born in Ethiopia and was the first girl in her area to finish primary school. She later went to university in Jerusalem to study microbiology and then on to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the United States.


Her organization takes a holistic approach that tries to address a whole range of issues.


"As a scientist you start thinking scientifically about the interconnectedness of things. You have to link the ecological problems, the economic problems, the social problems and address their day-to-day life in their area," Bogaletch said.


The Belgium-based King Baudouin Foundation says it awarded Bogaletch Gebre the prize, which is worth almost $600,000, because of her "innovative" campaign to end FGM.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid