Report from Anna Mladonova, Master Programme in Indigenous Studies, University of Tromsø
Financial support to the project:
“World Health Organization Experiences in Combating Female Genital Mutilation in Addis Ababa – Ethiopia in Particular at Community Level”
The whole process started one day in November 2005, when I decided to come up with my idea to write my Master Thesis about the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM). This issue is so wide, and my sphere of interest so large that to pick only one single issue related to female genital mutilation was a problem which I was dealing with for almost three months. Later on I decided to write my Master thesis about the work of World Health Organization (WHO) in Ethiopia with emphasis on Addis Ababa. Ethiopia remains one of Africa’s most traditional societies, with a long history of independence. Although the country has a great ethnic, religious and cultural diversity, attitudes towards women’s right are relatively homogenous and the issue of female genital mutilation is not what people discuss about. FGM is the norm, taboo and ritual which takes place in the early age of the majority of Ethiopian girls, especially in rural Ethiopia. To make a research in such a traditional society is not only very difficult, particularly when we are looking closely on the ethical problem of research, but it is also bringing many difficulties, especially when research is done on such sensitive and private issue like human sexuality and genital organs. The research problem of my Master thesis is related to WHO’s challenges in dealing with the issue of FGM. First of all my research was based on collecting literal sources, which I did at home during May and June. Later on I went to Ethiopia to do the second part of my research. I stayed in Addis Ababa for one month which gave me a wider perspective on Ethiopian society, culture and the issue of FGM. My research in Country office of WHO in Ethiopia was based on finding data about experiences of WHO in combating FGM in Addis Ababa. My highest aim was to have an interview with Dr. Abonesh Haile Mariam, head of the women health office and to investigate activities undertaken by WHO in relation to the elimination process of FGM in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
During my stay in Addis Ababa I visited many local Non Governmental Organizations, which were a source of data related to the issue of FGM. Everyday’s life was like mosaic of the small pieces of happiness, small pieces of discoveries and small pieces of sadness. Later on my fieldwork continued in Geneva in WHO. My research in WHO was based on collecting literal sources in the library of WHO. My conversation with the people who work for WHO in relation to female genital mutilation was based only on email communication. Even if I got the telephone numbers I couldn’t reach the persons I wanted to speak with. Overall, I am very pleased with how my data collection went.
I am very thankful to the Centre for Sami Studies for their funding of my fieldwork. Without your help, my fieldwork would have been still only a dream and my thesis would have hardly moved forward.