Campaigners see end of FGM in Ethiopia despite death of activist pioneer


Bogaletch Gebre, renowned for her campaign of eradicating female genital mutilation in her native Ethiopia, has died, her charity Kembatti Mentti Gezzimma (KMG) announced last Wednesday, November 06. Bogaletch died at the age of 59 in Los Angeles and will be buried in Ethiopia, her charity KMG said in a statement. No details were immediately available on the cause of her death.

The former scientist and marathon runner’s quiet revolution saved tens of thousands of girls from potential injury or death in Ethiopia, which has the second highest number of women living with FGM globally, data from anti-FGM charity 28TooMany shows.

“It was most impressive how she empowered the youth to reject the practice; it is a wave of hope and change into the community,” Faiza Mohamed, Africa director of the advocacy group Equality Now, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Equality Now is building on the pioneering work of Bogaletch – who studied for a PhD in California after growing up in a village where most girls did not go to school – by supporting grassroots activists to end FGM in their communities.

Bogaletch was determined to stop female cutting in Ethiopia after it killed her sister and nearly claimed her own life, setting up the charity KMG, which translates as Kembatta Women Standing Together in 1997.

Emma Lightowlers, spokeswoman for 28TooMany, which takes it name from the 28 African countries where FGM is endemic, said she was optimistic about the future of Ethiopia and the new possibilities for human rights pioneered by Bogaletch.

World leaders have pledged to end FGM – which involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia and affects 200 million girls and women – under global development goals agreed in 2015. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)