"Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."  Matthew 25:40 

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Liaison to Ethiopia

Ethiopia is situated in North Eastern Africa bordering Sudan to the north and north west, Eritrea to the north and north east, Djibouti to the east, Somalia to the east and south east and to the south lies Kenya.

Listen to the Ethiopian National Anthem

Meet Our Liaison to Ethiopia




 Kembatta Women's Self-Help Center

The Kembatti Mentti Gezzima-Tope (KMG) focuses on the empowerment of women in sectors such as health and education.

Located in the Southern region of Ethiopia, in four wereda (districts) with a population of 850,000.


Like many Muslim women in the area,
this workshop participant is reticent in discussing what up until now has been
a taboo subject. AIDS deaths are rising most rapidly among young women who have limited access to health information, and have often been subjected to harmful traditional practices which put them at greater risk for infection.

 > FGE The Amazing Wedding > Bridal Abduction > HIV / AIDS

The statistics are clear and horrific.

Ethiopia is one of five nations in the world with over 2 million people infected by the HIV/AIDS virus. In 1999, Ethiopia’s AIDS death toll was 280,000 – the second highest in the world.

By 2005, deaths will rise so rapidly as to reduce the average Ethiopian life expectancy by 17 years. By 2008, over 10 million will die. These stark projections come from the United Nations Development Programme.

Few nations are more emblematic of the “Feminization of AIDS” than Ethiopia. More than half the HIV/AIDS victims are women aged 15-49. The fastest growing population by far is teenage girls. The infection rate in girls between the ages of 15 and 19 is seven times of boys their age. Yet, a 2000 survey found that more than 60 per cent of women ages 15 to 24 did not know that a person who looks healthy may be infected with HIV.

KMG drama groups perform plays and songs against FGE and other harmful traditional practices. At a conference for 600 teachers, KMG actors depicted abduction, genital excision, and gender inequality in the workplace, provoking intense discussion.


One of the reasons young women are at such high risk is FGE, the crude surgery that subjects young women to the excision of their external genitalia, leaving them with chronic infections and scars that tear during intercourse. Another silent transmitter of the HIV virus are the “plastic bag” doctors who travel rural areas with crude, reusable blades in plastic bags advertising themselves as “surgeons” who “operate” on young girls for $5 each. Soldiers returning to our region from wars exacerbate the problem. In collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), KMG has also launched a program to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS that includes introducing the female condom to the wives of demobilized soldiers to help them protect themselves and to raise their awareness of reproductive health issues. Socio-economic forces are also to blame as girls, trained for little but household chores, flee degraded rural areas to cities seeking work, only to be raped or turn to prostitution to survive

Through its integrated programs of
health, environment, and livelihood, KMG is doing its best to fight back on all these levels. When we held our first anti-HIV/AIDS rally in 1999, AIDS was a word no one said out loud in Kembatta. Those who knew about it at all saw it as a “sinners disease.” The next year, our rally brought 4,000 participants who watched educational films shown at night on a school field and cheered the region’s first-ever live theatre. “Any concept of performance, theater, drama, is totally new for the region,” said Boge Gebre. “What is amazing was those young women and men who were never before on stage performed and even improvised scripts about FGE and about how HIV/AIDS is traveling at such a fast rate to rural areas and killing women, even unsuspecting wives.”

Performers in the KMG AIDS drama group have had no training in theater, however, they’ve proved to be amazingly inventive writers and persuasive actors.

The United Nations Development Programme asked KMG, a small, young organization, to develop in Ethiopia an innovative program that works intensively with local communities to help them create unique campaigns to combat HIV/AIDS. KMG’s first program was in the largely Moslem district of Alaba, where illiteracy is extremely high and 100% of girls are subjected to FGE. Now, KMG has been asked to expand this program to other districts.

KMG actors perform out of doors in Alaba.

Educating our people about HIV/AIDS is something we do constantly. Every building we build, every program we operate,every grant we seek has a critical component aimed at fighting AIDS. For example, we are beginning to convince the traditional surgeons who perform FGE to understand that they are actually harming the young women they once believed they were preparing for marriage. But, by asking them to stop, we are robbing these respected women of both status and income. At our Mother and Child Health Center, we plan to train them as network of rural HIV/AIDS educators and birth attendants, with access to virtually every village in the district.

Health sector activities:

The primary goal is to raise awareness of the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), including the increased mortality rate among young girls and women giving birth as well as the dangers to their newborn children and the increased infection rate of HIV/AIDS. The center provides health education around topics such as immunization, family planning, personal and environmental sanitation, and HIV/AIDS. Sensitisation workshops and programmes started in July 1998 and have been extended continuously over the past 3 years. It has to be noted that community participation in these workshops, including for example community elders and church leaders has been intense and therefore the center hopes to provoke open and lively cross-gender dialogues about FGM and Harmful Traditional Practices (HTP) taking place in everyday life.

Education sector activities:

The effects of educational empowerment programs on women are best described by the words of Boge Gebre who said: " Watching these women from rural communities present their ideas strengthened my belief that women do not lack brains, but opportunities." The first phase workshop that took place in November 2000 examined the impact of socially constructed gender roles and responsibilities of Ethiopian women. Knowledge about gender equality and equity spread as the participating women brought it into their villages and as a sign of their increasing self-esteem they suggested a workshop dealing with the same topics but dedicated especially to men.

Contact Bogaletch Gebre for more information about the centre and its activities:
Bogaletch Gebre
Kembatta Women's Self-Help Centre
PO BOX 13438
Addis Ababa
Tel: + 00 251 1 670791
Fax: + 00 251 1 670792
E-mail: kmg.selfhelp@telecom.net.et
Website:  http://www.kmgselfhelp.org/index.html
Contact Web page: http://www.kmgselfhelp.org/contactus.html 


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