afrol News, 2 November - A recent survey reveals that a large majority of Ethiopian women believe that the harmful practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) should be discontinued. Data also shows they are getting it their way. While 80 percent of Ethiopia's women were circumcised in 2000, by now only 38 percent cut their daughters.
A country-wide study conducted in Ethiopia last year by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia and the US survey companies ORC Macro and Measure DHS has now been released. The 433-page report - an updated national Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) - gives special weight to women's reproductive health, therefore also including data on harmful practices such as FGM.
The survey reveals a rapid turnaround in Ethiopia regarding society attitudes towards harmful practices, and a strong victory for the many gender organisations fighting FGM in the country.
Interviews conducted with over 14,000 women and over 6,000 men showed that both FGM prevalence and acceptance was quickly dwindling. While in 2000, some 80 percent of all Ethiopian women older than 15 years were circumcised, this had gone down to 74 percent in 2005. This seemingly small reduction however only reveals how the practice of FGM started decreasing a decade ago, as most girls are cut at young age.
While their mothers were almost certain to fall victim to the knife, young Ethiopian girls by now are likely to avoid FGM. Indeed, only 37.7 percent of those women that were circumcised themselves said they had passed the harmful practice on to one of their own daughters - down from 52 percent in 2000. During the last few years, therefore, more than 60 percent of Ethiopian girls have avoided FGM.
This is also reflected by the question to Ethiopian women whether the practice of FGM "should be continued". Only 31.4 percent favoured continuation - down from 60 percent in 2000 - while an overwhelming majority of almost 70 percent was against. Among the youngest age group (15 to 19 years), only 22.9 percent favoured continuing the practice of FGM and among Addis Ababa women, only 5.6 percent were in favour.
In all but one region, the trends towards rejecting FGM were clear, although the urban and the educated parts of the population has gone farthest in changing their attitudes. Thus, around 65 percent living in the capital or having at least secondary education are circumcised, contrasting 76 percent of rural women, 77 percent on non-educated women or more than 90 percent of women in the Somali and Afar regions.
The rural impact of anti-FGM campaigns nevertheless was strongly documented in the survey. In the Somali region, where 97.3 percent of all women over 15 years are FGM victims, only 28.1 percent of mothers say they have passed the practice on to their recent daughters. The Somali region is culturally close to Somalia, where FGM is almost generalised. In the culturally related Afar region, on the other hand, 85.1 percent of mothers had cut their daughters.
According to Dr Stanley Yoder, an anthropologist with ORC Macro and author of FGM chapter in the Demographic and Health Surveys, FGM practices in Ethiopia "range from a symbolic tiny cut on the clitoris to the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia and partial closure of the vaginal area (infibulation)." This most harmful form of FGM has been inflicted on 6.1 percent of women nationwide, while it remains the usual form in the Somali and Afar regions.
In some countries, like Egypt and Ethiopia, FGM is an ancient practice, predating Islam. In some parts of West Africa, on the other hand, the practice of FGM began only in the 19th and 20th centuries, and is wrongly understood as being part of Islamic practices. By now, it forms part of traditions in 28 African countries.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.