“We put girls at the center of what we do … Ethiopia’s future is absolutely depends on women and girls”
Head of Department for International Development (DFID) Ethiopia, Mr. George Turkington and DFID’s Deputy Head of Office Ms. Jo Moir visited ECMP’s community-based activities at Robit Kebele, Bahir Dar Zuria Woreda (West Gojam Zone of Amhara Region) on 7th December 2016. Initially, the team observed ECMP’s School-based activities, especially safe spaces in Robit Primary School and interacted with teachers and students on how they cascade trainings and empower girls to resist child marriage. The team has discussed with partners, community members, school club facilitators, teachers, school directors and religious leaders on the issue of child marriage and how school-based activities helped promoting girls’ education and empowerment.
He learnt a lot about ECMP’s School-based activities and talked to students and school teachers. This session in general enabled the DFID visiting team to witness how ECMP’s work is complementing programmes such as the Gender Education Quality Improvement Programme which DFID also supports. During the visit, he also observed some of ECMP’s Community-based activities (Community Conversations) and interacted with community members and local stakeholders as well as government officials. During the discussion, community members and kebele administrators explained how Community Conversations are becoming successful and instrumental in ending child marriage. Religious leaders and Community Police officers also took part in the interaction with the visiting team. Also in an inclusive interview he had with ECMP, Mr. George Turkington explained the reason why DFID is investing on this programme:
We put girls and women at the center of everything we do and it is really important to DFID/UKaid’s development agenda in Ethiopia. We chose to invest preventing child marriage because tackling this issue is absolutely fundamental for Ethiopia, if it is going to meet its development goals, particularly this ambitious push that the country has to reach middle income states by 2025. Some of the things that we focused on are tackling pregnancy and the complications around delivery. So that is the key area that we have tried to work on and ending child marriage is absolutely key to that. I visited a place in rural Amhara quite recently and I was really impressed to see religious leaders coming together with the community leaders and the elders; coming together with the police and coming together with grandparents, mothers and girls to talk about their issues. That really is what this programme has been all about. Ethiopia’s future absolutely depends on women and girls playing their full potential to help Ethiopia go from success to success. I was really encouraged to see, that I was able to talk to grandmothers who are saying that they have been through Female Genital Mutilation themselves and that their daughters have been through the same process; grandmothers saying that ‘we now understand that this is not something that our children and girls should suffer’; and to hear religious leaders basically talking about how they can get messages across in their sermons … and that was tremendously encouraging. I think we are in a good place in Ethiopia and there are strong government commitments.
Finally at a debriefing meeting with representatives from the Amhara Region Bureau of Women and Children Affairs, Education and Health, Mr. Turkington encouraged all stakeholders to continue the good work to meet the regional government’s commitment of ending child marriage by 2020. He said that the achievement of this commitment will require all leaders, especially political leaders, to engage and discuss the issue of child marriage in every opportunity so that it continues to be on the agenda of all stakeholders. He added that interventions that empower women and that improve gender equality are very important for Ethiopia’s strive to become a middle income country because in the process half of the population cannot be left behind. Mr. Turkington added that he was impressed by how religious leaders are cascading the lessons from the programme to their fellow priests and deacons, how grandmothers who have been involved in the programme speak with hope and optimism about their granddaughters’ future and how the programme’s interventions are embedded in schools.