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

Research Papers

Addis Ababa has the status of both a city and a state. It is where the African Union and its predecessor the OAU are based. It also hosts the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and numerous other continental and international organizations. Addis Ababa is therefore often referred to as "the political capital of Africa", due to its historical, diplomatic and political significance for the continent.

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The topography of the Region varies from hilly escarpments in the western and southern edges with an altitude of 1000-1500 meters above sea level (masl) to lowland plains in the rest of the Region that fall in the altitudinal range of 0-100 masl, much of the area falling below 500 masl. Some areas in the Dankil depression, in the northern part of the Region, reach depths of over 100 meters below sea level.

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Findings of the FUS were published by EGLDAM in February 2008. The book entitled “Old Beyond Imaginings…” which was based on the BLS was also updated using the FUS (Yayehyirad et al, 2008). An abridged Amharic version of the book was also printed the same year.

Reports are being prepared on the status of Harmful Traditional Practices (HTP) in selected regional states of Ethiopia. The present report presents findings of the FUS in the Amhara regional state comparing them with the BLS. The purpose of this report is to identify gaps and suggest actions to be implemented in the region.

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Ethiopia is known for its history of diversified cultural and traditional practices. Some of these practices are beneficial to the maintenance and perpetuation of society as a whole, while others have long for long negatively affected the livelihood and wellbeing of its population, particularly those of women and children. The positive practices such as breast feeding, post natal care, peaceful settling of conflicts, social gathering, working in group (Idir, Ekub, Debo), extended family, and solidarity during disasters (sharing of the provisions) are beneficial for the health and psycho-social wellbeing of the society as a whole and for those of women and children whose needs have to be met and values preserved. Such beneficial traditional practices can be good examples even for the external world and their continuity should be encouraged. On the other hand, the severe harmful traditional practices such as FGM, Early Marriage (EM), food taboos, tribal marks, and other skin cutting practices that affect the health of the population should be eradicated from the country.

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Local and international activities against HTPs, FGM in particular, is accelerating due to the ever growing voices in countries where the practices are endemic but also because of growing global humanitarian concern triggered by the practice in developed countries by migrants (WHO 2008, UNFPA & UNICEF 2011, WHO 2011). Zero tolerance has been declared and commemorated every year in March, at the latest of which, the US Secretary of State declared a strong commitment of her government. The UN is expected to come up with a declaration at the end of the year.

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Dire Dawa is a small City Administration about 1300 km² - 1,258.78 km² rural and 29.24 km² urban (BFED 2010) - in size between Oromia and Somali regions As per the 2007 census, the population of the City was about 342,000 of which 68% are urban (Table 1.1). Fertility rate is estimated at 3.6 and showed no change in last 5 years (BFED 2010), and annual growth rate (1994-2007) was 2.5% compared to 2.6% for Ethiopia as a whole (CSA UNFPA 2008).

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Gambella is one of the emerging regions of Ethiopia found in the South-Western part of the country. The region has a total population of about 307,000 of which 159,679 are males and the remaining 147,237 are females (Table 1.1). The region is divided into three zones and one special zone.

The majority of the population, both in the rural and urban communities, in Gambella Region is protestant followers. The other major religions in the urban community are Orthodox and Muslim.

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The main objective of the FUS was "to examine/measure changes observed on prevalence, knowledge, attitude, intention and behavior... towards HTP (harmful traditional practices) at national level and to recommend appropriate strategies in future directions". The relationships between HTP and the myriad background factors are complex. The FUS was envisaged as not only documenting the situation 10 years after the BLS but also as an attempt to document changes and their determinants.

The FUS was completed and a national report submitted to EGLDAM and launched in June 2008 (Fisseha et al. 2008b). A second edition of the book “Old beyond Imaginings: Ethiopia, Harmful Traditional Practices” (Yayehyirad et al. 2008) and an adapted Amharic version have been published.

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Ten years after the Baseline Survey on Harmful Traditional Practices of 1997, EGLDAM (then NCTPE) undertook this Follow Up Survey with the objective of examining/measuring changes and recommending strategies for the future.

The study documented changes in background factors in the last 10 years noting, among others:

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Traditional practices could be, operationally, defined as customary acts transmitted from past generations and likely to be passed to the next. According to a joint WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA statement, the "norms of care and behavior based on age, life stage, gender and social class are often referred to as traditional practices".

Judgment on whether a particular traditional practice is harmful or beneficial is never easy, nor should it be taken lightly. However, knowledge about the physical and psychological nature of man has advanced greatly since the nineteenth century. There is now a more thorough understanding of the structure and function of the human body, as well as of human psychic and social life. There has been an improvement in the conditions for more objective assessment and judgment on whether a traditional practice is harmful to human beings, and therefore incompatible with accepted scientific theory and practice. The United Nations Economic Convention Article 15 (1) (b) has recognized the right of every one "to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its application". This is denied to most people in traditional societies.

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In 1997, the National Committee on Traditional Practices in Ethiopia (NCTPE), now EGLDAM), conducted a nationwide Baseline Survey on HTP (BLS) in Ethiopia (NCTPE 1998) and also produced a book based on it (NCTPE 2003). The Baseline Survey is 10 years old. The need to update the information base for further action was critically felt by all partners. Accordingly, EGLDAM launched a Follow up Survey (FUS) with financial support from the Norwegian Embassy and administration support from Save the Children Norway (SCN).

The main objective of the FUS was "to examine/measure changes observed on prevalence, knowledge, attitude, intention and behavior... towards HTP (harmful traditional practices) at national level and to recommend appropriate strategies in future directions".
The relationships between HTP and the myriad background factors are complex. The FUS was envisaged as not only documenting the situation 10 years after the BLS but also as an attempt to document changes and their determinants.

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Ten years after the baseline study of harmful traditional practices (HTP) in Ethiopia, a decision was made by the Board of EGLDAM to conduct a follow up survey in order “to examine/measure changes observed on prevalence, knowledge, attitude, intentions and behavior… toward HTP at national level, and to recommend appropriate strategies”.

With financial support provided by the Norwegian Agency for International Development (NORAD), EGLDAM conducted an extensive survey covering all regional states and almost all ethnic groups of the country. The study involved over 65 thousand participants, and lasted a little more than one year. The survey method was carefully designed to reach as much as possible the same study sites and ethnic groups that were included in the 1997 baseline survey. There was also little change in data collecting procedures, and the number of subjects involved in the survey only exceeded the baseline, thus ensuring high credibility to the findings.

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