Improving health and wellbeing, combating harmful practices

Berhan Lehetsanat, Ethiopia

2019-2022, with the support of Jersey Overseas Aid

Berhan Lehetsanat’s community-based project themes are education, health and livelihoods, benefiting disabled children, girls, youth, women, and parents of disabled children. We have been partners since 2003.

The aim of this project has been to secure better health outcomes for girls and women, including those with disabilities. Training, awareness-raising and sustained engagement at the grassroots, school, community and local government levels has helped to change attitudes and mobilize the community to eradicate the harms caused by practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), abduction, early marriage and unsafe birth traditions.

Community conversations throughout Malga woreda have led to greater public understanding of the risks, and to the adoption of community bylaws banning such practices. Cases of school drop-out, marriage before the completion of education, FGM and abduction are going down, and the number of births in health centres has risen significantly.

The project focused on the health benefits of reducing all forms of HTPs that harm and disempower women and girls, promoting girls’ confidence and ability to advocate with their peers and families, emphasizing the health message through school clubs and community conversations, while also raising awareness among their mothers and grandmothers. The vast majority of HTP/FGM practitioners in the area have been helped to convert to alternative livelihoods, and have become anti-HTP advocates.

Men and boys, government and religious establishments will all be part of the solution. We have therefore taken a whole-community approach which includes Malga’s Health, Education, Women and Child Offices, and all their staff to cooperate with community groups and leaders, school communities, religious leaders, church youth groups and the BL team, forming an active coalition for the elimination of HTP.

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