Female Genital Cutting: A Panel Discussion

Marit Tolo OsteboBased on her research in Ethiopia, Marit Tolo Østebø (University of Florida/University of Bergen) will talk about the role of religious leaders in interventions that seek to eradicate ‘Female Genital Mutilation’ (FGM).
This will be followed by a roundtable discussion with the audience, and a panel consisting of Marit Tolo Østebø, Jeff Balch (Director of research and evaluation at the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa) and Zahra Naleie (project leader Federation of Somalian Associations in the Netherlands).

Lecture by Marit Tolo Østebø: Are religious leaders a silver bullet in the global Fight against ‘Female Genital Mutilation’?

NGOs and state actors increasingly involve religious leaders in interventions that seek to eradicate ‘Female Genital Mutilation’ (FGM). According to reports from NGOs and UN-bodies, the inclusion of religious leaders in anti-FGM interventions, has led to the abandonment of the practice in a number of areas. Many reports claim that whole communities and districts collectively have denounced FGM. Religious leaders are often reported to play a key role in these public declarations. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Ethiopia, this lecture provides a critical analysis and discussion of the use and the role of religious leaders in anti-FGM interventions. Taking into account historical, political and religious particularities in the Ethiopian context, the paper sheds light on a number of challenges associated with these interventions, and illustrates that the realities on the ground are often far more complex than the NGO and UN reports indicate.


Marit Tolo Østebø holds a Bachelor degree in nursing and an MPhil in International/Public Health. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Bergen, Norway (defense scheduled December 2013) and a departmental associate at the Center for African Studies, University of Florida (UF). Starting from January 2014 she will be a lecturer at the Department of Anthropology at the UF. In addition to substantial experience with humanitarian and development work in Ethiopia, Østebø has extensive fieldwork and research experience from the country. Her publications include “Women's Respect and Rights among the Arsi Oromo of southeast Ethiopia” in Aspen,H. Birhanu Teferra, Shiferaw Bekele, Ege, S. Research in Ethiopian Studies. (Harrossowitz Verlag, 2010), “Gender Equality in International Aid: What has Norwegian Gender Politics Got to Do With It?” Gender, Technology and Development (co-authored with Hilde Selbervik, 2013), “Strong State Policies on Gender and Aid: Threats and Opportunities for Norwegian Faith-based Organizations” Forum for Development Studies (Co-authored with Haldis Haukanes & Astrid Blystad 2013), “Religious Leaders - a Magic Bullet when addressing Gender Sensitive Issues? The case of Muslim Leaders and ‘Female Genital Mutilation’ in Ethiopia.” Accepted for publication in Africa Today (co-authored with Terje Østebø).


Date, time and location

28 November 2013
15.00 - 17.00 (Please note that this differs from our regular starting time)
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room 3A06