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 Organization for the Development of Women and Children Ethiopia [ODWaCE]

Ethiopia is one of Africa’s developing nations having many cultures and cultural practices.  Among these diverse cultures, emerge traditional practices that have both a negative and positive impact on the society.

Leaving aside the cultural practices that have a positive impact, the issues of harmful traditional practices have been a long talk for many years within and outside of the academia.

The initiatives of international agencies followed by government commitments paved the way for the flourishing of NGOs and civil societies engaged in the prevention and abandonment of HTPs. Efforts to end the practice require understanding and changing the beliefs and perceptions that have sustained the practice over the centuries. Since the case at hand is culturally deep rooted within and among the different segments of the Ethiopian societies, a multi-faceted and muti-displinary action is highly needed. It is a practice that has a long chain of effect by passing from one generation to the other.

The Geneva and Addis Ababa offices of Inter African Committee (IAC) came into being following the recommendations of the international conference on traditional practices affecting the health of women and children. The first regional meeting of the IAC was held in Dakar, Senegal, on November 30, 1984. One of the conference’s objectives was to find out the reasons for increasing rate of morbidity and mortality of women and children in Africa. Based on this, the study presented to the conference conveyed that one of the contributory factor for the morbidity and mortality of females in Africa is Female Genital Mutilation/FGM. Then it was recommended that there is a need to establish national committees on FGM especially in the areas that FGM is prevalent (28 African countries). Following this an entity called Inter African Committee was organized and mandated to establish national committees in the African countries those practice FGM.

Based on this, a regional seminar that was organized jointly by the EthiopianMinistry of Health and IAC regional offices laid the foundation for the creation of the National Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices in Ethiopia (NCTPE)in the year 1987. The NCTPE was operating under the ministry of health. After some times NCTPE was initially recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (1987 NGO) by the registering agency i.e. Ministry of Justice (MOJ). Following the initial registration, the organization has passed through series of changes of names and functions that are strictly based on the requirements of the registering government body. Such changes have resulted in change of names from NCTPE to the Ethiopian Goji Limadawi Dirgitoch Aswegaj Mahiber (EGLDAM) and finally to Organization for the Development of Women and Children in Ethiopia (ODWaCE). This historical development of the organization manifest that the taagring ways passed by the organization.

The Objectives of NCTPE were:

1) To discourage harmful traditional practices those affect the health of women and children

2) Encourage beneficial practices.

The organization has developed its logo and the logo has its own message

The logo

The logo of the NCTPE is interpreted as follows:

A Razor Blade: instrument used in the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Bud of Rose cut and oozing: Depicting lifelong genital damages done to women/children

Shield: calling for protection of women/children not to suffer from the practices.

Target groups

The target groups of NCTPE were the public at large, with priority in program thrust to areas most affected by traditional practices. Mothers, midwives, traditional birth attendants, community and religious leaders, mass organizations, policy makers, the youth, traditional healers, circumcisers, etc were the primary targets. The legal and judiciary systems and the media/press machineries were intensively used in all the training sessions and the sensitization programs.

Organizational Structure

NCTPE was composed of 20 voluntary general assembly members, representing 20 governmental, non –governmental and UN agencies. Out of the 20 members from the general assembly, seven are executive members. There are four sub-committees namely: Research, Training, Fund raising, and IEC/BCC committee. Each of the committees is headed by member of the Executive Board.

Major activities and Achievements gained under NCTPE since its inception

NCTPE has designed the following strategies to combat the deep rooted and interwoven HTPs:-

  • General public awareness creation
  • Conducted base line survey
  • Developed different IEC/BCC materials in different languages of the country like training manuals, documentary films, posters, leaflets, T-shirts, stickers, signboards etc…
  • Provided various trainings for different target groups
  • Contributed for the inclusion of HTPs in the different policies and laws e.g. Training and education policy, cultural policy, women policy etc.
  • Conducted studies about traditional practices among the prominent tribal and religious groups.
  • Conducted TOTs by involving women and men.
  • Organized training information campaigns by involving influential community members at district level.
  • Sensitized high school students both in Addis Ababa and in different regions of the nation
  • General public awareness is gained and majority of the community commenced to publicly speak out that HTPs are harmful
  • Support from Religious institutions gained
  • Government commitment raised/gained
  • Number of actors/ organizations increased
  • Prevalence of HTPs started to decline.

Challenges:

  • The issue of HTPs is deep rooted and interwoven with myth and realities
  • HTPs like FGM and Early Marriage are perceived by the community as if it has a high link with religion and marriage requirements
  • Some practitioners considered the practices as means of income
  • In 2004 the name NCTPE was changed to Ye Ethiopia Goji Limadawi Dirgitoch Aswogaji Mahiber (EGLDAM) it was a challenge to introduce the new name to partners and even was difficult to capture it easily.

The Inception of the National FGM/HTPs Network

Despite the government policy framework, intervention by the government and NGOs, the problem of various HTP’s in Ethiopia still persisted to exist and continued to affect the health and psychological well being of women and girls in Ethiopia. With the progress that was being made against the fight against FGM, there was hope that with a concerted effort among stake holders it could be eradicated. This being the fact, lack of network among organization working against the practice and lack of a strong national body to initiate a network formation were obstacles hindering the efforts from being coordinated.

To resolve this issue, German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) - reproductive health project organized a national workshop on FGM in 2001 and initiated a formation of task force. Relevant government and non-government organizations were invited to the workshop and nine of them namely GTZ, NCTPE, Women Affairs Office,CARE, World Vision, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health, Hundee and Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia were selected to be members of the task-force, which was given responsibilities of assisting the formation of a formal network of organization working against FGM and assist GTZ in the implementation of a project formulated on the workshop. At that time NCTPE was nominated to chair the taskforce and later the network that would be established.

The objectives of the FGM Network was to coordinate activities, develop common program of action and share resources and best practices for abandoning FGM. In the long term, the Network also aimed to jointly mobilize and share resources for program activities and their implementation.

A year later, the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) came up with the same idea of forming a network against female genital mutilation and organized workshop to discuss the plan. The two organizations, GTZ and NCA, then took the lead in the formation of the network and strengthening NCTPE as coordinating body. With the taskforce members remaining in the group, others have been invited to join the initiative.

After holding different meetings to discuss on how to proceed with the formation of the network, it was decided to develop a two year project proposal, which aimed at strengthening NCTPE and at the same time has different networking components.

The project had the following major outputs with NCTPE as a project holder:

  • Capacitating NCTPE to undertake network initiative;
  • Undertake lobbying, policy analysis and advocacy
  • Establish a resource center

 


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