Sexual Reproductive and Health Rights Initiative in Amhara, Ethiopia
The outcome of the project will be an increased rejection of and improved response to female genital cutting (FGC) and of early marriage (EM) by community members, service providers and Government authorities in Amhara Region.
The benefit for target groups will be that (i) communities create inclusive spaces for conflict-resolution and productive dialogue, questioning and addressing the underlying causes of FGC, early marriage and low utilization of sexual and reproductive Health Services. (ii) Health personnel and other (public) service providers will have an improved ability to respond in a gender-sensitive way to sexual and reproductive Health Service needs and to complications derived from FGC. Girls and women (iii) increase their power for own decision-making and are therefore less likely to be subjected to FGC and EM and able to access sexual and reproductive health-related services. (iv) Marginalized community members and former FGC practitioners, increase their ability to take up (alternative) income generating activities.
The project will target 31,396 direct beneficiaries (70% of which female) and 156,980 indirect beneficiaries (familiy members, relatives and friends). Direct beneficiaries include "gatekeepers", meaning the power-holders in the communities who influence the initiation and/or continuation of certain practices and social norms; community members with special focus on adolescent girls (aged 10-19) and women with health complications derived from FGC. Furthermore, healthcare professionals, representatives of Health, Education, Justice, Administration and WomenAffairs Offices are included among the direct beneficiaries.
The contractual Partner is CARE Austria, while CARE Ethiopia is the actual implementing organisation.
The Project focuses on two identified woredas (Fogera and Este) in the Amahara Region (South Gondar Zone).
The Project's strategy is centered on changing the harmful social norms that perpetuate FGC and EM through community dialogues, empowering of adolescent girls and providing alternatives for the economic coping strategies that harmful traditional practices provide to impoverished families. Simultaneously, the project will work with government representatives and service providers to ensure that they have the necessary skills to respond to the needs of women and girls and are held accountable for their services.
Measures therefore include analysis and validation of social norms, development of training material, conducting trainings (on gender-based-violence reporting and mitigaiton, on income generating activities, on Gender, Equity and Diversity, on sexual and reproductive Health, on community consultative processes, on savings and loan activities etc.), behavioural change communication (including development of videos), participatory review meetings and cross-learning activities, provision of input for income generating activities, setting up of savings and loan groups, support for clinical and psycosocial treatment.
Challenges facing Ethiopia’s achievement of sexual and reproductive health rights include cultural beliefs and social norms. In 2016, only 35% of women used a modern contraceptive method and 65% of women aged 15-49 were affected by FGC. 40% of girls are married before their 18th birthday, with 14% married by age 15 (data from 2016). More than 140 types of harmful traditional practices are exercised in Ethiopia, the most common affecting women and children being FGC, early marriage, uvula cutting, abduction, and milk teeth extraction. Reasons for FGC include fear of being socially ostracized, shame, stigmatization, rejection if married without being first cut, and being excluded from community activities. A 2014 CARE study in Amhara found that 90% of girls were not involved in choosing their spouse and 75% did not consent to marriage. In spite of existing formal rights, social norms around gender favour boys and men; the domestic sphere and childrearing are seen as the sole domain of women, while the public sphere, most economic activity and decision-making are accepted as the domain of men. This inequality results in poorer health, education and economic outcomes for women and girls. Experience from other CARE projects in Ethiopia revealed that practitioners of FGC in Amhara have high status and power within the community, and thus, have an intrinsic interest in maintaining the practice. With regards to EM, families gain material resources in the form of dowry and important social ties and social status through the practice.