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Haile Gabriel Dagne
Ethiopia: Social dynamics of abandonment of harmful practices. Experiences in four locations
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Special Series on Social Norms and Harmful Practices

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is still a widespread practice in Ethiopia, although important declines in prevalence rates can be observed in some areas of the country. Attitudes towards the practice have drastically changed, evidenced by the fact that overall support for FGM/C has declined and younger mothers are less likely than older mothers to have their daughters cut. This paper provides an analysis of the social dynamics of change in four geographic locations with different ethnic populations in Ethiopia, where interventions were undertaken to support the abandonment of FGM/C and other harmful practices. Each experience used community conversation and dialogue as a tool to promote the abandonment process, although their overall strategies and impact differed. The four experiences together provide a greater understanding of the process of change within communities and the role played by key actors within and outside the community. The study demonstrates that by addressing FGM/C within a human rights context, community members are able to consider not cutting as a possible alternative to the existing convention of cutting. The human rights perspective also encourages reflection on gender roles, generating interest and dialogue about other social practices that harm women and girls, such as marriage by abduction and early marriage.
SERIESInnocenti Working Papers
SERIES No. 2009-07