By Staff Reporter
August 14, 2019 (Ezega.com) -- The government of Ethiopia has launched a National Roadmap to end child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) which are widely practiced in almost all rural parts of the country.
The roadmap to end child marriage focuses on enhancing the capacity of girls through providing life skill training, information about their rights and available services as well as enhancing the responsiveness of schools and legal services. It also targets families and communities to change their attitude towards ending the practice and show support to alternative life options for girls such as education.
More number of girls’ clubs will be established with the aim of preventing and mitigating school-based and community-based barriers to girls’ education. The clubs are believed to make a difference in reducing child marriage by empowering girls with life skills training. The clubs will particularly focus on engaging girls who are in 5th-8th grades as these represent the age group most commonly affected by child marriages.
The country’s president Sahle-Work Zewde on Wednesday officially launched the national roadmap which she said needs greater commitment and resources to ensure its effective implementation.
The implementation of the roadmap will be led by the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth in coordination with the Ministries of Health, Education, Finance, Labour and Social Affairs, and the Attorney General’s office.
In 2014, the Government of Ethiopia made commitment to ending the practice by 2025 and has been working on discouraging it through public information campaigns. Although not enforced, penalties for carrying it out range from three to ten years in prison.
Ethiopia is among the top five countries with the highest number of child marriages globally. More than 40 percent of Ethiopian girls in rural parts of the country get married before the age of 18.
According to the president, Ethiopia needs to increase the current pace of progress in this campaign seven times to end child marriage and female genital mutilation by 2030.
Senior Ethiopian government officials, as well as Ms. Adele Khod, the UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, attended the launching ceremony.
FGM has long been outlawed in Ethiopia. But it is still widespread in the country with an estimated 65 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 having been mutilated (according to estimates in 2016). This is down from 74 percent reported in 2005, but still high.
These numbers mask regional variations. In regions such as Afar and Somali, it can reach up to 90 per cent. Other areas may have a much lower prevalence due to differences in cultural norms in the diverse nation of Ethiopia.
In regions where it is practiced across eastern Africa, and including Egypt, it is believed FGM is necessary to ensure that the woman stays virgin before marriage and stays in the same marriage. The gruesome practice involves the cutting of the clitoris to reduce sensation. Many men in rural areas say they would not marry a woman who hasn’t been cut or one who is not a virgin.
In many parts of Ethiopia, women are traditionally not considered equal to men. In these places, they are expected to be economically dependent on their husbands. Whether it is before marriage and after marriage, women are supposed to be under the command and protection of men (father or husband, as the case may be). They have little say on when or whom they should marry. They also have very little say on how the household is run, except for childbearing and chores inside and outside the home, although they are believed to contribute mightily, in many cases, more than the man of the house.
Ethiopia has made significant progress over the last few decades in empowering women. Although gradual, such practices are slowly disappearing. Women are now running various offices at par with men. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has lauded women contribution to our society on several occasions. He even said, women are, in general, more dependable, prudent and economical in the way they run things. His current cabinet is 50 percent female, as is the President of the country, Sahle-Work Zewde.