OWDA’s FGM Experience at the Proceedings of the National FGM Network Annual Experience Sharing Workshop

Established in 1999 with its head office in Jijiga, OWDA works in Jijiga, Warder, korahay, Gode, Afder and Liben zones in various integrated thematic program engagements. These include rural water supply, education, health, environmental rehabilitation and protection, pastoral community capacity building, water and sanitation, destitute children and women support, emergency relief, and fighting harmful traditional practices such as FGM.

OWDA recently launched a five years project on Improving Reproductive Health (RH) and economic condition of women and girls in partnership with NCA. The project targets Jijiga, Gode, Adadale and Denan woredas including more than 24 kebeles. The project mainly focuses on information dissemination and change of perception and behavior and works in close collaboration with local Government and non-governmental bodies.
Approaches: Using religious and traditional leaders as agents of change, conduct community dialogues (as Somalis are oral community), using media (local FM radio and Somali regional ESTV), using men as agent of change, and support FGM victims.

Success stories: OWDA involved prominent religious and intellectual persons who have written books on RH especially FGM to address the Sunna issue, and they have sensitized attendants that there is no level of cutting of clitoris. Formation of young male volunteers against FGM, incorporating RH in health education in OWDA’s Denan health centre, integrating the issues of RH and FGM in schools run by OWDA, Religious leaders who are opposing FGM including Sunna and are increasing in number and getting momentum, FGM related information is widely available, Anti FGM messages were broadcasted via Radio FANA Somali language section, and Regional mass media like Somali FM and ESTV were used to disseminate FGM related information.

Challenges:

 

  • FGM is a deeply rooted traditional practice
  • Religious leaders have different opinions about FGM,
  • Shift from infibulations to Sunna type of FGM
  • Project sites such as Gode are prone to disasters and communities have other priorities like food and water, and logistics problems.

In order to address these challenges OWDA plans to focus on a campaign on religious and traditional leaders, conduct FGM along side with development activities, and breaking the silence on the Sunna issue.

Ardo is an infibulations type FGM victim who lives in Burkayar, 22km away from Denan. As her family was poor she used to support the family financially by opening a teashop at the age of 18. Her business was flourishing when she secretly married one of her customers, who was a truck driver, which is contrary to the local traditional norms.
She spent a night with him and she got pregnant and unfortunately her husband disappeared after that night. As marrying secretly is a taboo in some rural areas she preferred not to tell her plight to anybody. She endured a painful and long labor for two days and two nights and she ended up with fistula. After leading a very miserable life with fistula one day she visited Denan clinic for medication after she participated in one of community dialogues organized by OWDA.
As the clinic is run by OWDA she was taken to Addis Ababa fistula Hospital. After Thirteen days of care and treatment she returned to her home. She is now an active anti-FGM campaigner and pledged her future to save children from this curse. Ardo is now on her first days of new life as she is on her honeymoon.