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This year’s focus on improving skills, communication, efficiency

The Ethiopian Coalition for Women against HIV/AIDS held its general assembly for the fifth time and re-elected Azeb Mesfin as president of the board of directors on February 26, 2014.

The widow of former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi took up the mantle of leadership yet again, alongside fellow EPDRF party member Aster Mamo, who currently serves in the capacity of chief government whip at the House of People’s Representatives.
The Coalition, which was formed in 2004, consists of tens of thousands of women from every region in Ethiopia. It mainly aims to stop the spread of HIV, female genital mutilation, decrease infant and maternal mortality rates, and eliminate instances of child marriages.
“We are acting as catalysts for change,” Azeb explained. “For the last five years we have been working aggressively with community leaders. We start the projects but it is the locals who are the real owners.”
Though the coalition has made big strides towards the betterment of the lives of Ethiopians its progress is being bogged down by some issues, says Azeb. The coalition discussed the prevalence of bureaucracy in its system during its previous assemblies. Though the organization is working to solve the problem there are still gaps where procedure takes precedence over action.
The other problem the organization faces is an inadequate public relations system.
“The company is unable to express itself,” says Azeb. “But this issue takes second place in our agenda. Sure it would be good to have our cause publicized widely and it enables us to leave a record of our activities for the sake of posterity but I believe that the people who are supposed to benefit from our efforts have already done so.”
For the next four years, the coalition plans to work on building its capacity. It plans to identify and help victims of fistula and FGM. Promoting a healthy maternity cycle and finding alternative work for circumcisers are also part of its goals.
“I leave it to others to judge how far we have come in the last 12 years,” Azeb added. “But the average age of marriage has increased since we started our work. Instances of FGM and infant and mother mortality have decreased significantly.”
According to Plan International, one in every five girls in the developing world is married by the age of 18. Research from another institution; 28 Too Many, says that 23 million Ethiopian women are affected by FGM making the country the second highest affected area in terms of numbers.