Persuading a people to let go of their traditions can be as difficult as bending steel but KMG-Ethiopia has been successful at doing just that. The organization began community conversations to stop dangerous cultural practices that often lead to HIV/AIDS and other sexual health issues.
According to KMG, traditions of female genital mutilation and forced marriage fuel HIV/AIDS in its country.
“Young women are given away to men who are much older than themselves. Young women in these communities do not have a choice,” KMG said. “This harmful practice violates young women’s rights to choice and freedom of association and puts them at risk of HIV and AIDS.”
The organization started their work by asking communities to elect peers who would be trained as facilitators. These facilitators now lead groups of 50 people in discussions that present basic facts about AIDS, relationship power structures and negotiating condom use.
Ethiopia has experienced a 90 percent drop in the transmission of HIV/AIDS between 2001 and 2011 – the largest decline in the rate of new infections of any country in Africa. And from 2005-2011, the country has seen a 53 percent drop in deaths caused by AIDS, from 113,825 to 53, 831 people.