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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs