International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM: a story of hope from DDP, Ethiopia
Mamite Wardolo, a 60-year-old mother of 8 children, had been practising Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) for nearly all her adult life, but does so no longer. This is her story.
Mamite is a regular participant at the Women and Girls Resource Centre in Tulla sub city; a hub designed for women and girls of all ages to meet up for advice and counselling, to attend classes for literacy and numeracy and receive exam tutorials.
The centre, set up through an earlier DDP and Berhan Lehetsanat (BL) project, is supported by UK Aid Direct through this programme and is run jointly by Tulla sub city’s Women’s Office and BL (DDP’s local partner).
Mamite explained that she had been part of a long line of female FGM practitioners in her family that included her mother and grandmother before her.
“Practicing FGM/C did not bring big rewards”, she said. “Maybe 10 to 20 BIRR (35 to 70p) each time a ‘service’ was provided, plus tea and snacks.”
However, being an FGM/C practitioner was a welcome source of income for Mamite and she felt that it brought her respect from within her community.
As the second wife of an older man, Mamite felt forced to keep practicing to support him and her family.
Three years ago, there was a pivotal moment in Mamite’s life, when she realised she needed to stand up against harmful traditional practices (known as HTP in Ethiopia), like FGM/C.
Mamite witnessed a young girl who had bled for 8 days after being cut by another practitioner. The girl’s life was saved but she was so badly injured that she will never be able to have children. For a mother of 6 daughters herself, this experience was too much for Mamite to ignore.
Mamite began taking part in conversations in her Kebele (neighbourhood), organised as part of a previous DDP/BL programme called Education and Livelihoods for Girls and Women; a 5-year, Comic Relief-funded programme in Tulla Sub City, that exposed and tackled practices such as FGM/C.
Mamite and 59 other women FGM practitioners from the project area joined a training programme against harmful practices. With frequent contact, reinforcement and monitoring, both by the programme team and the Women’s Office, the 60 women felt supported and more aware of the law that classed FGM/C as a criminal act in Ethiopia.
Sharing experiences with other women practitioners proved a strong motivation for change, but Mamite’s motivation was strengthened by the seed funding she received through the project of 2,260 BIRR (about £75).
With this money Mamite bought 3 goats to start a small herd, which quickly grew to 7 goats, so when her elderly husband fell ill Mamite was able to sell some goats to pay for his treatment.
For all of the women who took part in the programme, the decision to seize the opportunity and accept real help to do something other than practicing FGM/C was easy, and they have become spokeswomen in their own communities against harmful practices.
"The livelihood support is the backbone for me," she said.
Mamite is proud that none of her 6 daughters are practising FGM/C, and one of her daughters is now working alongside her as an active community conversation facilitator.
As a respected older woman, Mamite is now happy in her new role of referring other women to the health centre and playing her part in community activities which discourage FGM and other harmful traditional practices.
Mamite believes that “the time for (FGM/C) is passing,” and is happy that her long family tradition has ended.
Thank you to DDP for sharing Mamite's story with us.