This Los Angeles dinner started in a limo. This is not my usual transport when dining with my Ethiopian colleague Boge Gebre. But tonight I was introducing friends from different worlds. Our Los Angeles hosts generously provided the transportation. The car’s black velvet interior with blinking lights on the ceiling gave a surreal setting to our conversation about stopping the unbearable practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).
Boge is a modern hero. As a successful catalyst for change she (through her NGO, the Kembatta Women’s Self Help Center) has virtually wiped out the practice of FGM in several districts in Southern Ethiopia. A decade ago she returned to her country with one burning goal, “to stop even one girl from being cut!” I asked her how many girls have been spared and she grabbed my hands beaming, paused, and said with great satisfaction, “I don’t know the exact number but in 7 of the 8 districts where we work, there is no mutilation of any girl!” Many thousands I told our hosts! In 2006 I was at one of her rallies where some 15,000 people — from several villages — came together to celebrate the end of the practice. I’ve never seen anything like it!