Global Resources

True story - female genital mutilation in Afar, Ethiopia

Author: J. Howarth
Publication Date: Jan 2012
The Afar region of North-east Ethiopia has one of the country’s highest rates of female genital mutilation (FGM) with around 74 percent of women and girls undergoing the practice. Since 2000, a joint programme to abandon FGM in the Afar region carried out by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has made significant progress. A crucial aspect of this campaign is a focus on the role of education in promoting freedom and empowerment. This film tells the story of two villages in Afar; one which has chosen to abandon FGM, and one which intends to continue the practice. It illustrates how, through the power of education and testimonies, communities in Afar are starting to reject FGM. Unlike many, Hawa’s wedding night was a pain-free, positive experience because she is uncircumcised. In this film, Hawa explains how it was because of her education that she was not circumcised. Educated women and girls are more aware of the health risks and ramifications, and are better prepared to resist pressure from their family and community to undergo FGM. These women and girls are able to influence those around them, teaching others about the practice and encouraging its abandonment. Hawa says, “Although I was not circumcised, I saw the effect of circumcision on my sister and my neighbour. I then gave training at many places on the harmful effects of circumcision.” Educating girls not only has a positive effect on the individual, it leads to change within the family and the community. Hawa’s mother had been a circumciser, but with the help of her education, “I am now teaching my mother and my sisters.” This half-hour-long film was written, filmed and edited by John Howarth; co-directed by John Howarth and Nancy Durrell McKenna; and produced by SafeHands for Mothers, a British charitable organisation. The mission of SafeHands for Mothers is to improve maternal and newborn health through the production of films such as this one.