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Reducing the prevalence of Harmful Traditional Practices in Ethiopia

Despite sustained global efforts and achievements over the years, Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) continue to be widely practiced around the world.

HTPs are cultural practices against women and girls that inflict physical and psychological damage. These include child marriage, milk teeth extraction, and abdomen massages for pregnant women, but one of the most prevalent HTPs is female genital mutilation (FGM).

According to the UN, FGM comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring female genitalia for non-medical reasons, and is internationally recognized as a human rights violation. Although FGM is outlawed in many countries, the law often goes unenforced and the practice remains prevalent.

In many cases, these practices cause a number of short- and long-term health complications, social stigmatization, and denial of education and other opportunities. This, coupled with an extreme lack of resources and awareness leaves women with lifelong physical and mental scars.

Addressing Harmful Traditional Practices against Women and Girls in Ethiopia

Despite being outlawed in Ethiopia in 2004, FGM and other HTPs are still routinely practiced in the country, especially in rural areas.

One such region is Minjar Shenkora, where FGM, early marriage, milk teeth extraction, and uvula cutting have been identified as requiring special focus. The woreda (district) is characterized by low income and literacy levels, with the majority of the population working as labourers, traders and commercial sex workers.

In partnership with the Emmanuel Development Association, HPIC is implementing a two-year project in Minjar Shenkora aimed at reducing the prevalence of HTPs by:

  1. Educating religious and other community leaders about the harmful short- and long-term effects of HTPs in order to change long-held socio-cultural beliefs, attitudes and practices;
  2. Empowering girls, women and families to make informed decisions by educating them about the harmful effects of HTPs; and
  3. Increasing availability of quality physical and mental health services for women and girls affected by HTPs through medicine and equipment provisions to local health facilities, training and capacity-building for health professionals, and fistula repair surgeries for victims of HTPs.

Through this project, HPIC aims to reach 7,000 community members (including 5,000 women and girls) to reduce the prevalence of HTPs such as FGM, and to provide much-needed resources and support for girls and women who are living with the trauma of having undergone one or more of these practices.

When girls and women are able to make informed decisions about their bodies, there is no limit to what they are able to contribute to their communities and to the world. Empowering them through education and healthcare is one way that HPIC is working towards greater gender equality and a more equitable future for everyone.

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