Transforming lives in Ethiopia

FGM in Afar: 8 things you need to know​

Reading time: 2 min

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Ethiopia has been a tradition in rural communities for thousands of years, with its roots dating back to the Pharaohs of Egypt. Here are eight important facts you need to know to understand the issue and the work our partner, the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA), is doing:

1.25 million girls have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) in Ethiopia (UNICEF, 2020). It is considered as a normal part of society, making it extremely difficult to change practitioner’s (also known as cutters) minds.

2.The Afar community believe that FGM is a right of passage for a girl as it keeps her pure and safe until marriage. It is seen as a way to control these girls and keep them under the security of her family.

3.A 2016 report by the Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) showed FGM prevalence among women aged 15-49 years in Afar is 91%. This is dramatically above the national average of 65% (UNICEF, 2016).

4.According to progress over the past 14 years, Afar will have to move 37x faster for FGM to be eliminated by 2030 to meet the Sustainable Development Target 5.3 (UNICEF, 2016). This is why the work of APDA is so critical.

5.Iliteracy is one of the most important factors in convincing FGM cutters to stop the practice. The practise has been passed down through oral tradition in Afar, so teaching cutters why FGM is harmful helps them see reason.

6.FGM is less common today than in previous generations, now affecting 5 in 10 adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 years compared to nearly 9 in 10 around 1970 (UNICEF, 2020). It is important to recognise that change is happening.

7.APDA has now educated 25,049 women and girls to stop FGM. These women and girls will now be able to pass this information on to other members of their communities, visiting clans and their own children.

8.APDA trains and sends out Women Extension Workers who reach communities to explain why FGM is harmful. Their training is updated yearly and, in 2019, they reached 224 community leaders in Afar.

FGM is clearly still an important issue in AFAR, but, as you can see, we are making steps to end it for good. If you would like to help us in this fight, please donate today.

United Nations Children’s Fund, A Profile of Female Genital Mutilation in Ethiopia, UNICEF, New York, 2020.
Martha Tadesse, Community in Afar join forces to end FGM: Chifra, Afar Region, Ethiopia, UNICEF, New York, 2016.
Header Photo copyright of Michael Benanav 2020

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