Catholic Schools in Ethiopia are asked to integrate the issue of reproductive health to their system. The Ethiopian Catholic Church Social and Development Commission (ECC SDCO) Education team in collaboration with Women and Family Affairs team organized a 3 day workshop for School Directors and teachers in Addis Ababa from December 12 – 14, 2016 on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other harmful practices.
FGM is one of the main challenges of girls and women in some parts of Ethiopia mainly in rural areas. It is stated during the workshop that girls and women are in risk of FGM because of various social pressures. Mainly fear of stigmatization and being unfit for marriage are the causes that lead parents and even women themselves to the practice of FGM despite them being aware of its danger.
On February 2013 the Catholic Bishops’ of Ethiopia declared a stand against the act of FGM strictly forbidding all members of the Church from practicing it affirming that it has no religious base. The Ethiopian Catholic Church has been working to create awareness about the physical and psychological harm FGM causes to girls and women based on this document. On the workshop Catholic Schools are asked to consider integrating the issue of fighting FGM into their systems as schools are closer to the society through students and parents. Participants of the workshop are mainly from selected Dioceses namely Apostolic Vicariate of Hossana, Apostolic Vicariate of Soddo and Eparchy of Emdibir where prevalence of FGM is higher.
According to Mr. Solomon Abebe, ECC SDCO Education Team Leader, lack of awareness and society’s misguided attitude towards FGM is the main challenge in the fight against such harmful practices. He said people who are even aware of the dangers are practicing because of social pressure and it is important to address the issue in every sector especially education.
“Teachers and education workers have direct contact with student everyday and they meet parents a minimum of 3 times a year. They know the challenges in the everyday life of student thus if they are committed they can influence change in attitude towards traditional stereotypes, that is why we brought them here today to update them on the realities of FGM nationwide and discuss on how they can collaborate in its eradication,” he said.
At the end of the workshop the participants are asked to be well familiar with the declaration issue by the Bishops’ and committee themselves to contribute to the ongoing effort to eradicate FGM in Ethiopia. The workshop is organized with the support of Norwegian Church Aid, a partner organization that has been collaborating with the Ethiopian Catholic Church in Her efforts to fight FGM and other harmful practices against girls and women. FGM is an illegal act in Ethiopia that is punishable by law.
(By Makeda Yohannes, Social Communications and PR Department of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat)