How MEDA is Working to End Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Ethiopia

Despite some progress, violence against women and girls is still a serious problem in Ethiopia and one which is fueled by persistent gender-biased attitudes and practices. The most recent Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) conducted by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia found that nearly one third of women aged between 15 and 49 have experienced physical violence and 10% have experienced sexual violence. Women who are divorced, separated, or widowed, those living in rural areas and those with lower education levels are more likely to have experienced violence.

Domestic violence, child marriage, and female genital cutting (FGC) are among the most common forms of gender-based violence (GBV) that women face in Ethiopia. Despite a decreasing trend, FGC is still prevalent in Ethiopia with 65% of women in Ethiopia between the ages of 15–49 years having undergone FGC (EDHS, 2016). Women living in rural areas had a higher prevalence of FGC (68%) compared to women living in urban areas (54%), and women with lower education attainment and wealth are also more likely to have experienced FGC. Nearly half (49%) of the women that underwent FGC were below the age of five while 22% were between the ages of 5-9.

To raise community awareness of GBV, MEDA’s EMERTA project provides useful training for its clients. GBV is one of the topics covered in the training for vegetable and rice producers on gender equality and household financial management. This training is conducted with couples to encourage accountability and power sharing in the household. During a recent training, many couples reported that although most forms of violence against women have decreased, FGC is one of the most persistent practices in their area. By the end of the training, the participants agreed that all harmful traditional practices (HTPs) are wrong and need to be stopped.

Thirty-four-year-old Abebaye Dessie knows firsthand about the practice of FGC. She is a mother of five children who lives in Dera Woreda, Gigna Kebele, in Amhara Region, Ethiopia, where the practice is common.  “Society believes that no one will marry a girl if she is not circumcised. If the community knew that the girl was not circumcised, she together with her family will face stigma where community members say that she is unwanted, making the girl feel shame,” Abebaye said. As a result of this community practice, Abebaye’s daughter was circumcised.

Yet, her perspective on FGC changed after she took a gender training session through the MEDA-EMERTA project last year. “I become so conscious on the negative consequences of FGC. I feel guilty of circumcising my daughter and worry if she will face challenges during pregnancy and delivery. I also advised my brothers and sister not to practice FGC. As a result, my brother-in-law had a baby girl and they decided not to circumcise her which made me happy. I have a plan to have my next child and promised for myself not to circumcise if I give birth for a baby girl. I also will continue to teach others not to do so,” Abebaye reflected.  

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