Comprehensive Sexual and Reproductive Health

At KMG we believe for the need to break the silence around harmful customary practices and beliefs and to break the vicious cycle of GBV. Culture and traditions are integral aspects of communities; they are the identities that communities subscribe to. However, there are harmful cultural practices and belief amongst communities that are debilitating to women and in some cases deadly and which are putting women and young women at risk of HIV and AIDS. It is to these that KMG tries to address today. Our cultures and traditions contain inadvertently sustain and promote inequalities between women and men. While HIV/AIDS is wreaking havoc amongst the people it is also giving us the opportunity to address issues of inequalities and oppression that fuel the pandemic.

Child marriages that put girls and young women at risk of HIV/AIDS are still rampant in some communities in Ethiopia. Though over the year’s progress has been seen in terms of communities pushing towards curbing the pandemic work remains towards mainstreaming the approaches across all communities in Ethiopia KMG’s success here lies in its community conversation approach. Arranged marriages and forced marriages for young women are also a common practice in communities. Young women are given away to men who are much older than themselves. Young women in these communities do not have a choice; parents and other clan members decide to whom they will be given into marriage. This is done in order to keep the wealth in the extended family. This harmful practice violates young women’s rights to choice and freedom of association, and puts them at risk of HIV and AIDS.

Other forms of forced marriage take place in the form of spouse inheritances where a widow is forced to marry her brother-in-law or another relative of her deceased husband; again to keep the wealth within the extended family. In all the above cases women and young women do not have any say in the issues surrounding their right to live, they are used and traded like objects, not treated like equal human beings. And as long as these forms of forced marriages persist, women cannot protect themselves from HIV and AIDS.

Besides the permanent scarring caused by female Genital Mutilation (FGM) women have to prove their fertility at all costs in many communities. Men pressurize women to have children, and women bow to the pressure in the hope that the father of their child will marry them. We have to educate our young girls that there are options they can choose from starting from family planning methods to making informed decisions through health education and other tools.

Therefore KMG Ethiopia strive to realize the health and socio-economic well being of women and girls through

  • Increasing Knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and HCPs as well as change behaviors and Practices
  • Prevention and control of HIV/AIDS
  • Strengthening CBOs to take over HCP and GBV Activities
  • Building the capacity of Government line department and the community
  • Strengthening uncircumcised girls groups as viable young girls movement to safeguard their freedom from FGM and bodily integrity through capacity building trainings and backstopping their initiatives
  • Enhancing the institutional capacity of Durame KMG Center to enable as action learning and experience sharing as well as training center on social mobilization strategies.  

Achievements made by the organization under Program

KMG’s works around violence against women (mobilization, awareness raising, legal aid and gender awareness training) have contributed to three important changes: attitudinal changes; improved protection mechanisms and a reduction in the prevalence of FGM and other HCPs.

Improved Protection Mechanisms:  Sensitization efforts have resulted into changes in attitude, practice and the strengthening of protection mechanisms for women and girls at community level against VAW.  More than 200 CBOs including Idirs, faith based organizations; women and youth associations have integrated VAW into their plans and began developing different strategies to eliminate the practice.  Idirs in both the old and scale up communities have example, developed by-laws that criminalize VAW including FGM and polygamy and instituted a range of sanctions that are binding on all community members. Through our evaluation we have learned of various sanctions including heavy cash fines, imprisonment, eviction from the community to punish perpetrator of violence Alemayehu, a pastor in one of the churches in Boloso Sore reported that he had “excommunicated” one of his members from the church for his continued engagement in polygamy.

The mobilization of women and youth groups has also been an important strategy in strengthening protection mechanisms for women.  The “Uncut Girls Association” – which is akin to a “girls brigade” against FGM/C has for example, provided an important protection mechanism for young girls 238 such groups have been established in the project area since 2007 and now act as watchdogs – reporting violators while at the same time providing security and support for peers at the risk of experiencing violence. The groups are also engaged in advocacy campaigns against VAW using drama and other activities i.e. tree-planting for re-afforestation; and income generating activities which they are using to challenge the negative stereotypes about women’s capabilities.

Advocacy efforts by women in the Kembatta Tembaro zone have also resulted into increased protection for women.  The formal courts in the project areas have adopted some affirmative action principles; including reserving Fridays for the hearing of cases involving VAW. This action has significantly reduced the length of time for disposal of cases and has encouraged more women to report cases of abuse.  More recent developments include plans by the courts in Arbaminch to introduce alternative dispute resolutions including mediation on marital disputes to promote reconciliation; and the inclusion of women on the panel of judges in social courts. The presence of women in these courts is expected to facilitate additional support to women pursuing their legal rights i.e. equitable sharing of assets upon divorce.  All these measures are in addition to the establishment of Child and Women Protection Units in 7 district Police stations.

Increased Reporting:   As indicated above, improved protection mechanisms have boosted women’s confidence to report cases of abuse. Since 2007, approximately 1,425 women have received legal & financial assistance enabling them to report their cases to law enforcement agencies.  Some of the common violations reported include: dispossession of family assets (land, property) upon death/ separation from spouses, domestic violence; desertion & child neglect as well as women seeking divorce.   Of those reported, 700 cases have been concluded and the affected women awarded their rightful share of property.

Reduction in the Prevalence of FGM: KMG’s biggest achievement has been its contribution to a cultural revolution by mobilization of communities to challenge the myths and social acceptance of the practice of FGM in the targeted communities.  KMG’s interventions have contributed to changes in attitude on FGM and an increased appreciation of its harmful effects to women’s health and its linkages to increased maternal mortality.  As a result, more and more parents and girls are rejecting the practice – which has contributed to a phenomenal reduction in prevalence levels.   According to a survey conducted by UNICEF in 2008; the % levels of those practicing FGM in Kembatta Zone had reduced from 97% in 1999 to 4.7% in 2008 and could have reduced even further as of May 2012. KMG estimates suggest that up to 250,000 girls at the risk of violence   may have survived this harmful practice and have been supported to live healthy and productive lives.

Unexpected outcomes:

Targeting of rights defenders: Another outcome though isolated has been the danger posed to CBOs engaged in the fight against VAW.  In one community, a leading advocate and community member involved in the rescue of an abducted girl and arrest of her abuser was brutally murdered in revenge, possibly by the perpetrators of VAW.

Impact on decision and policy makers and contribution to achievement of broader national and international policy targets

Impact on decision and policy makers has involved changes to policies, practice and attitudes of decision and policy makers to benefit project target groups.

At national level agencies such as UNICEF, UNFPA, and the National Commission for HIV and AIDS recognised and adopted the CCE-CC tool that KMG uses for community mobilisation.

KMG has strategically targeted influential community based structures to effect change. In constituting the initial core group that commences the community conversation, representatives from the community self-help schemes (Idir), clan leaders (sanacha in Oromiya), religious leaders (Imams especially in the areas which are predominantly Muslim), school-teachers and other opinion leaders are strategically involved. This has secured buy-in and ownership, which sustain the dialogue mechanism once it becomes community led. As the assessment of outcomes shows, the number of Idirs that issued and enforced by laws on HCPs grew from only 11 in 2008 to 292 in 2009. The consultant observed a clear appreciation of HCPs, gender equality, human rights, and development issues among these categories in the areas visited.

Another category of decision makers that were impacted although on a very limited scale were 14 law enforcement agents (7 prosecutors and 7 police officers trained on violence against women from 7 districts. Monitoring reports from 2008 showed that cases were being handled faster coupled with more severe sanctions. By 2009 the targeted police stations had each established Child and Women Protection Units. This is an indicator of the potential impact KMG could make enhancing women’s access to justice.

Contribution to achievement of broader national and international policies, conventions and targets is linked to the contribution of KMG interventions and outcomes to poverty reduction and realisation of MDG priorities in both direct and indirect ways. A summary based on a review of the three end of year grant reports (2007-2009) is provided below.

  1. Community mobilisation towards self-help development initiatives especially through support to the women’s SACGs, youth clubs and PLHIV, for development of sustainable livelihoods contributes to MDG1 – eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. KMG was a founder member and is now Board member of the Network of Ethiopian Women’s Associations. NEWA is carrying out high-level work monitoring the effectiveness of the Poverty Reduction Strategy within Ethiopia and developing a methodology for more grass roots monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of this policy.
  2. Direct financial and material support for girls to continue their education and investment in school infrastructure contributes to MDG 2 – achieve universal primary education. 
  3. The strong focus on equality and access to justice for women and girls strongly contributes to MDG 3 – promote gender equality and empower women.
  4. Similarly, protection of women and girls from HCPs, education, the direct provision of health services (MCH) and strengthening women’s socio-economic status is an indirect contribution MDG 4 and 5 – reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.
  5. Use of HIV and AIDS as an entry point for the CCE-CC and the special focus on well-being and reduction of stigma related to HIV and AIDS contributes directly to MDG 6 – combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
  6. Programmes on environmental protection especially the reforestation initiative to repopulate the Hambericho mountain and biogas production constitute a noteworthy contribution to MDG 7 – ensure environmental sustainability.
  7. Finally the Executive Director’s membership to an international network on the eradication of FGM and the recognition given to her and KMG’s achievements resonates with MDG 8 – develop a global partnership for development.

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