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“As Christians, can we correct God’s work? When we cut off a piece of a woman’s body that has been created whole, are we not questioning God?” This was the question posed by Bogaletch Gebre to a church congregation in Kembatta Tembaro Zone.
Kembatti Mentti-Gezzima (KMG) was founded by Bogaletch Gebre and her sister, Fikirte, at the end of 1997. It is a Civil Society Organization that calls for an end to all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls. It uses a range of methods to achieve its aims and argues that the root causes of inequality and discrimination against women  are rooted in  a lack of personhood  for women.

KMG says that girls in  parts of  Oromia and SNNPR are circumcised under the pretext of preparing  them for marriage or womanhood.   The organisation claims that girls are mutilated under unhygienic and unsafe situations that expose them to the risk of urinary infections, tetanus, hepatitis and HIV.    
KMG spreads information about the damage done to women by FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and the links between the practice and child death through its field tested and replicated tools and approaches like Community Conversation and Celebration of Whole Body Healthy Life. However, the organization does not focus its efforts solely on FGM – it also addresses other harmful Customary Practices like dowry, bridal abduction, polygamy and early marriage
In many woredas of the Gamogofa zone and the West Arsi area, fathers exert almost total control over their daughters’ lives – receiving a sizeable dowry for marrying them off at an early age, sometimes very young.
The only criteria for finding a suitable husband are that he is capable of paying for the girl with a sufficient number of cattle, motorcycles, weapons or meeting any other price set by the father and clan.
If the husband dies, escape from the family is not an option for the young bride, as any other man in the family has the right to make her his property.
Many cases of violence against young women go unreported – instead they are settled within communities.
“From the day a girl is born, she is violated, as she is not recognized as a whole person. When a woman gives birth to a baby girl, people do not celebrate; they do not fully recognize that a human being is born. When you tackle certain issues, such as women’s discrimination or FGM, you first need to look at things from different angles. For example, when you talk about FGM, you look at it from the health point of view, then livelihood and then environment. Things that make sense to the community,” says Bogaletch.
In order to address these age old harmful customary practices that  threaten the wellbeing and survival of women and girls, KMG Ethiopia  works to improve reproductive health  and enhance the economic status of women, such as marginalized potters and youth communities in the Kembatta Tembaro, Gurage, Segen and Gamogofa and Sidama  zones of the SNNPR and West Arsi zone of Oromia.
“When I first thought of going to work in this area, I first asked myself how to go about it. How do I get the communities to accept my word? Because, if they don’t cooperate, the problem at hand cannot be solved. You need to approach communities by trying to solve problems that affect them as a whole, not just problems that affect women. That way, everyone is ready to listen,” Bogaletch explained.
She also said that women’s problems are interlinked: “Women come up to me and say: ‘Boge, you say we are equal to men? But what about when we go home and the men abuse us? What do we do then?’ What resource do we have? Then we explain the law and tell them that law is there to protect them, even though it evidently falls short in effectively doing that. Then they say: ‘Boge, now we know the law support us to take our husbands to court for the abuses, but are we going to say to our husbands, ‘Give me money to take you to court?’ That made us realizes that these women also needed to be empowered economically.”
Since 2007, thousands of women have received legal and financial support from KMG, helping them take cases to the police and courts where they have alleged domestic violence, loss of family assets, desertion and child neglect and many of them got favorable decisions.
KMG also offers training to women on livelihood improvement and other issues to empower them personally and financially:  “The training helps us recognize what we have. We learn how to mobilize a small thing so that it can be expanded. We know how to do business, so we wouldn’t stop even if we didn’t have the support of KMG. We take loans, not gifts. We repay,” said one woman, who took part in one of KMG’s training sessions.
KMG cites as its biggest success a reduction in the level of FGM. Through its work, an increasing number of women and communities are rejecting the practice. According to a 2008 UNICEF survey, the rate of FGM in Kembatta fell from 97 per cent in 1999 to below five per cent in 2008.
KMG estimates that hundreds of thousands of girls at risk from FGM may have escaped the practice during this period. It has also changed attitudes towards uncircumcised girls, who are now increasingly able to marry, and reduced the abduction of young girls for marriage. As women have become more confident and more actively involved in their communities, incidence of rape, polygamy and domestic violence have fallen sharply.
Bogaletch Gebre has been recognised for her work with a number of international awards. In May, she was awarded the King Baudouin African Development Prize for 2012-13 in Brussels, Belgium. The award was given for transforming women’s lives by providing an innovative approach to change community attitudes to a range of culturally-embedded issues.
She was also credited with having a pioneering approach to empowering women and local communities, as well as her work in reducing the levels of female genital mutilation.