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Cablegate: Ethiopia - First Lady Tells U/S Otero of Fgm Progress, Tip

VZCZCXRO5784
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #0190/01 0350424
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 040424Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7598
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEPADJ/CJTF HOA PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEWMFD/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 000190

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KTIP KWMN PREL OTRA ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA - FIRST LADY TELLS U/S OTERO OF FGM PROGRESS, TIP
CHALLENGES

SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) In a January 30 meeting, Ethiopian First Lady Azeb Mesfin
told Under Secretary of State Maria Otero that after four years of
intensive engagement with community and religious leaders in the
Afar region, her efforts on behalf of the Ethiopian Government (GoE)
have prompted a significant reduction in Female Genital Mutilation
(FGM). Despite the Ethiopian parliament having passed a law on
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) last year, however, Azeb acknowledged
that human trafficking from Ethiopia remains a challenge. The
meeting highlighted a potentially strong advocate and partner for
U.S. collaboration within the GoE for addressing trafficking and
women's issues. End Summary.

2. (U) Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
Maria Otero held a 75 minute meeting with Ethiopian First Lady and
Member of Parliament Azeb Mesfin on January 30 on the margins of the
African Union Summit in Addis Ababa. Azeb was joined by Ms.
Netsanet Asfaw, Member of Parliament. Under Secretary Otero was
accompanied by Charge d'Affaires John Yates, USAID/Ethiopia Mission
Director Tom Staal, Special Advisor and Special Assistant to the
Under Secretary, P/ECouns, and notetaker.

MAKING PROGRESS ON FGM IN AFAR
------------------------------

3. (U) Azeb noted that FGM remains prominent in the Muslim-dominated
Afar and Somali regions of Ethiopia, where it is largely perpetuated
by women themselves who target girls as early as seven years old in
this traditional rite. Both Azeb and Netsanet argued that FGM was
so prominent in Afar due to the region's local interpretation of
elements of the Quran.

4. (U) Azeb noted that over the past four years, she has actively
engaged to raise community awareness about, and stem the tide of,
such practices. As a result of her active interventions, community
discussions and debates, and advocacy, Azeb reported that Afari
regional leaders have now declared FGM to be a "Haram," or a
forbidden practice. By engaging religious leaders, Azeb and other
advocates against FGM were able to secure such a shift in local
interpretation of what had been seen as a "Quranic practice." Azeb
highlighted that, when it comes to countering FGM, communication
remains "a best practice," noting the importance of engaging both
women and men. Azeb proudly commented how one can now find Afari
girls who have not been mutilated. While the practice remains
widespread in the Somali region, Azeb argued that she and other role
models had to select one area in which to focus first, but that with
tangible progress in Afar they can soon begin focusing on spreading
their efforts to the more conflict-prone Somali region.

DESPITE NEW LAW, TRAFFICKING REMAINS A CHALLENGE
--------------------------------------------- ---

5. (U) While Netsanet initially highlighted strong programs within
the Ethiopian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MoLSA) to
facilitate bona fide work overseas for Ethiopians, suggesting that
trafficking was a more discrete problem, First Lady Azeb immediately
corrected her in arguing that "the problem of trafficking is getting
large" with Ethiopian women being sent all over the world. At the
same time, Azeb highlighted that the Ethiopian parliament recently
passed a law on human trafficking. Still, the new law is not
enough; Ethiopians need more information about the threat of
trafficking, Azeb argued.

6. (U) In response to the First Lady's question as to how the United
States responds to the challenge of trafficking in persons, U/S
Otero discussed the "three P's" of Protection, Prevention, and
Prosecution through the combination of awareness raising,
improvement of laws, and the provision of social services. U/S
Otero also highlighted the technical assistance that the USG
provides to other countries for the development of laws to counter
TIP, training of police on identification and response to TIP cases,
and awareness raising. The Under Secretary noted the challenge of
domestic labor trafficking, stressing the need for not only
awareness raising about workers' rights, but also the need to
provide training in domestic skills to further empower domestic
workers within Ethiopia. She also highlighted grants provided by
the State Department to NGOs around the world to help girls who have
been trafficked and to improve prosecution. Finally, U/S Otero
noted the Department's annual TIP reports as a means of tracking
progress and areas for expanded engagement around the world.

COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) Under Secretary Otero's conversation with First Lady Azeb
Mesfin highlighted some of the positive progress that Ethiopia has

ADDIS ABAB 00000190 002 OF 002


seen in recent years in countering FGM and TIP. Certainly the
United States deserves a portion of the credit for the positive
progress observed in countering FGM in Afar due to a prominent grant
from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) to
counter this barbaric rite working through Project Concern
International (PCI). Conflict and tensions between "highlanders"
and Somalis in the Somali region, however, will certainly make
countering FGM a more challenging endeavor there.

8. (SBU) On the TIP front, Foreign Ministry officials have begun
engaging Embassy Officers in recent months to discuss collaboration
to increase awareness raising of TIP issues among the Ethiopian
diplomatic corps posted overseas, as have Ministry of Justice
officials regarding training for prosecutors and judges. Such
activism may soon present opportunities to resume USAID assistance
to Ethiopia to counter trafficking. (Note: until FY-2006, Ethiopia
had received roughly $250,000 annually to address TIP, but no such
funding has been forthcoming in the last few years. Ethiopia is a
designated priority country for the U.S. Department of State, and
the G/TIP office currently is providing assistance to PCI to address
the issue. End Note.) Regardless of the conducive environment for
countering TIP and FGM in Ethiopia, however, the restrictive
Charities and Societies Proclamation (or CSO Law) passed in January
2009 prohibits foreign assistance from supporting activities that
discuss or educate individuals about their rights, thus limiting our
ability to engage comprehensively on these issues without a waiver
of the law from the GoE. Embassy Addis Ababa will, however,
continue to explore ways to collaboration and support Ethiopian
efforts against FGM and trafficking. End Comment.

9. (U) Under Secretary Otero approved this cable.

YATES

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