OWDA was set up in December 1999 in response to the severe drought in the region to provide emergency relief. Currently, it is engaged in the provision of water, education and health services. Muktar Sekomer Adem Board Director and Mohammed Muhumed Omer Deputy Director briefed the delegation about the activities of the organisation.
NCA has been cooperating with OWDA since 2002 for the reduction of FGM practice in the region. In Gode zone, Denan and Belehagere districts significant results were documented. Through community conversation and the involvement of clan and religious leaders community members were sensitized and were able to denounce FGM officially. The issue of FGM is no more a taboo in these localities and religious leaders address the issue of FGM during their regular Friday teachings. Uncut girls are registered and as role models OWDA ceremonially honours them. OWDA staff also vowed not to cut their daughters and to this end, a total of 34 girls have not undergone FGM.
The major challenge during the previous phase was the practice of shifting from infibulations to Sunna. However, OWDA insists that it will put maximum effort towards zero tolerance. Lack of transportation and security problems also make it difficult for OWDA to reach all of its target groups.
OWDA received 1.6 million Ethiopian birr this year (which is equivalent to what it received in the last eight years) from NCA for its anti-FGM activities. It plans to shift activities from information dissemination to bringing about attitudinal change. The community will be addressed through FM Jijiga radio station and the recently launched Somali TV.
OWDA has well equipped offices in Addis, Jigjiga and Gode. The fact that it has been operating within the targeted communities for more than a decade gives it a good leverage to convey its anti-FGM messages. The organisation also enjoys cordial relations with the regional government and the woreda administrations where it operates. This has been confirmed by the regional Women, Children and Youth Affairs Bureau (WCYAB).
EGLDAM is now physically present in Jigjiga town within an office generously provided by the regional WCYAB. This was facilitated by the establishment of the regional FGM network on December 22 2010, which is chaired by WCYAB.
Sister Zahra Abdi who is running the office expressed her belief that EGLDAM would do effective work using WYCAB offices within all woredas of the region. This was confirmed by Fatuma Saeed a gender officer with WCYAB.
The setting up of the FGM network which brings together 14 government offices, law enforcement bodies and civil society organisations is a crucial step in coordinating the anti-FGM activities within the region. The close collaboration between EGLDAM and WCYAB is commendable as they can benefit a lot drawing on the resources and capacities of each other.
To this end, EGLDAM and the representatives of WCYAB have agreed to organize at least one regional level campaign before the year end. This campaign will bring all district level heads of women affairs, and religious leaders.