Wednesday, December 13, 2017

To keep girls in school, Ethiopians open up about menstruation | Daily Mail Online

In Ethiopia, so-called girls' clubs in schools are helping break the taboo of talking about menstruation

In Ethiopia, so-called girls' clubs in schools are helping break the taboo of talking about menstruation
There's one room at the Sheno primary school in rural Ethiopia that's different from all the others, starting with the sign over the door reading: "Menstruation is a gift from God."
Inside this converted classroom, boys and girls gather in what some pupils call the "girls' club" to break one of the country's most enduring taboos: talking about periods.
In Ethiopia, adolescent girls are generally left to muddle through puberty on their own without guidance or the means to buy sanitary pads.
Only 54 percent of Ethiopian girls finish primary school, according to the United Nations children's fund, UNICEF, and many abandon it because of cramps or embarrassing mishaps during their periods.
With child marriage prevalent in rural areas, local beliefs link menstruation to sexual activity, and so an accidental blood stain could see girls relentlessly teased by their classmates.
When 14-year-old Yordanos Tesfaye first got her period, she was "shocked and frightened".
"I went home and told my father but he couldn't afford to buy me a pad. Then I told my friend and she suggested I use a rag. However, I didn't know how to use it and dropped it on the street and I was very embarrassed," she told AFP.
Like many teenage girls, she was tempted to drop out of school, but support from the girls' club convinced her to stay.
Only 54 percent of Ethiopian girls finish primary school, according to UNICEF, and many abandon it because of cramps or embarrassing mishaps during their periods

Only 54 percent of Ethiopian girls finish primary school, according to UNICEF, and many abandon it because of cramps or embarrassing mishaps during their periods
The clubs -- officially called "menstrual hygiene management" clubs and open to pupils aged 11 and older -- began as a collaboration between local health officials and UNICEF, based on the idea that adolescent girls won't stay in school if they can't effectively manage their transition to womanhood.
"That (time) of the girls' lives is absolutely critical to manage well in order to improve the sort of academic performance and reduce the dropouts in school," said Samuel Godfrey, UNICEF's sanitation chief in Ethiopia.
The programme has been implemented in 65 schools and UNICEF is planning to expand it further.
- 'Not a disease' -
Children attend primary school in Ethiopia from the age of seven to 14 but many stay longer if they were late to enroll or have repeated a class.
At Sheno school, which has more than 760 pupils and lies some 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the capital Addis Ababa, sanitary pads are given out for free and boys and girls work together to demystify the female menstrual cycle.
Since the girls' club opened three years ago, Sheno's rate of dropouts due to period woes has been reduced to zero. The year before it opened, 20 girls left, according to the school.
Clad in a white coat, biology teacher Tafesech Balemi guides girls through the changes their bodies are experiencing, while also educating the boys.
She hands out reusable sanitary pads to girls who can't afford to buy them and also offers a shower and a mattress where they can lie down if they don't feel well.
Biology teacher Tafesech Balemi guides girls through their body changes and educates boys to demystify the female menstrual cycle

Biology teacher Tafesech Balemi guides girls through their body changes and educates boys to demystify the female menstrual cycle
"We teach students in this club that menstruation is a gift from God. We teach them that it is not a disease but rather it is natural and biological," she explains.
Tafesech also tracks girls who don't come to school and will meet with their families if she believes their absenteeism has something to do with menstruation.
At another school in the same region, Hiwot Werka, 14, was mortified when she got her period while in class, staining her uniform.
"I used to hide... the whole day until nobody was around."
Adding to her shame, her mother accused her of being sexually active and forbade her from leaving the house, beating her when she tried to go to school.
Local health officials went to speak to her family, to explain to them that what Hiwot was going through was normal and not linked to sex.
"After a time, my mother came to realise that menstruation is normal," said Hiwot, who was allowed to return to school.
- Key role for boys -
Despite the name of the clubs, boys are an integral part of it because they help fight some of the most vicious side-effects of the menstruation taboo.
An Ethiopin initiative hands out reusable sanitary pads, like those being made here, for free

An Ethiopin initiative hands out reusable sanitary pads, like those being made here, for free
Yonas Nigussie, 14, remembers teasing girls who had a mishap during that time of the month, yelling out: "You know you have blood on your behind!"
He credits the club with changing his attitude completely, and now tells friends who taunt girls to knock it off.
"I remember when my sister got her first period. I was the one who brought her pads," Yonas said.
Ethiopia is among several countries in Africa that have implemented ways to accommodate women during their periods.
In 2015, Zambia enacted a law allowing women to be absent from work without notice to help them deal with menstrual pain.
And earlier this year, Kenya mandated that all schools provide sanitary pads to girls, free of charge.

Ethiopia targets activists with Israeli spyware: Al Jazeera


All-knowing spyware targeted Ethiopian journalists and dissidents living abroad [Kacper Pempel/Reuters]
All-knowing spyware targeted Ethiopian journalists and dissidents living abroad [Kacper Pempel/Reuters]

The government of Ethiopia has "apparently" employed spyware purchased from an Israeli defence contractor to spy on independent journalists and dissidents living outside of the country, a recent report has revealed.
Israel's CyberBit Solutions Ltd sold spyware to Ethiopia, which used the technology "to target activists and journalists, even PhD students and lawyers", explained Bill Marczak, a researcher at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, which wrote the report.
CyberBit, a cybersecurity company headquartered in Tel Aviv, is a subsidiary of Elbit Systems, an Israeli defence contractor with ties to the Israeli military.
Marczak told Al Jazeera at least 43 people in 20 different countries - including the US, UK, Canada, Germany, and Eritrea - were infected over the course of about a year with the CyberBit spyware, known as the PC Surveillance System (PSS).
The attacks were "apparently carried out by Ethiopia from 2016 until the present", the report found.
"The pattern that we've seen is over the years the Ethiopian government [is] buying and acquiring this commercial spyware from pretty much all the companies it can ... and employing that to essentially spy on the [Ethiopian] diaspora," said Marczak, who coauthored the Citizen Lab report.

The spyware

To infect the targeted computers, the operator of the spyware first sent an email asking activists and journalists to view a video on a website designed to impersonate popular Ethiopian and Eritrean video-sharing websites, Marczak explained.
Once someone clicked on the link, however, a message popped up saying their computer's Flash Player was out of date.
A second link then would invite the user to download an updated version of the application, but used a fictitious application called "Adobe PdfWriter". That's when the spyware would be downloaded onto the victim's computer.
Activists say the spyware is part of a wider state crackdown on Oromo protests in Ethiopia [Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]
The operator could then see every keystroke; take and save passwords; take over email accounts to target friends; view screens; turn on the computer's microphone and webcam; and install or remove programmes, Marczak said.
Essentially, he noted, the operator would have "the same sort of level of control that you'd have as someone physically using the computer".

'Not surprised'

Jawar Mohammed, an Ethiopian journalist based in the US state of Minnesota, told Al Jazeera he received an email that appeared strange.
He didn't click on the link, but instead forwarded the email on to the IT department at his media group, which also said it was "suspicious". Mohammed then contacted the Citizen Lab and they collaborated on the report into the spyware.
"I was not surprised that they would go after us, but I was surprised that the companies that produce this spyware ... are willing to sell it to dictators that will use it against activists," he said.

Ethiopia: Oromo protests continue amid harsh crackdown

Mohammed is the executive director of the Oromia Media Network, a non-profit that reports on issues that matter to the Oromo people, a minority group that lives primarily in Ethiopia's Oromia region.
The Oromo, who number approximately 35 million and constitute Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, have staged widespread protests since late 2015.
While the protests originally stemmed from their opposition to a development project that would have expanded the boundaries of the capital, Addis Ababa, it grew into a demand for equal rights and an end to systemic discrimination. 
Hundreds of thousands of Oromo protested throughout Oromia and "state security forces in Ethiopia have used excessive and lethal force against largely peaceful protests", according to Amnesty International.
At least 800 people were killed in the government crackdown, Human Rights Watch has estimated, while thousands more have been injured, arbitrarily arrested, and detained without charge or trial.
If the attempt to spy on his communications had been successful, Mohammed said his reporters and sources in Ethiopia could have become targets of government persecution.
The attack, he said, "is a continuation of the government's effort to silence and shut down the Oromo voice, the Oromo people's fight for justice and equality".
"These companies [that produce and sell the spyware] need to ensure that governments that have a bad reputation for spying on individuals, do not get ahold of this kind of software," Mohammed continued.
"They are endangering a large number of people who have committed no crime except speaking up against human rights violations. All these companies need to be held accountable."

Israeli connection

Cyberbit "makes counter-surveillance and internet monitoring technology", according to Privacy International, a UK-based group that defends the right to privacy.
A spokesperson for the company said its products are regulated by the Israeli Ministry of Defense in accordance with the Israeli Defense Export Control Law and international treaties.
"State entities that purchase these products are obligated to use them in accordance with the applicable law. Cyberbit Solutions does not operate the products," Hila Gabay told Al Jazeera in an email.
"Cyberbit Solutions is subject to confidentiality obligations towards its customers and is not permitted to discuss any specific transaction or customer."

Israel maintains robust arms trade with rogue regimes

On its website, Cyberbit lists Israeli bank Leumi, Samsung SDS (a Samsung subsidiary), Hewlett Packard Enterprise (which split off from Hewlett Packard in 2015), German science-and-technology firm IABG, and Regent University in the US state of Virginia among its "strategic partners and customers".
Israel is home to the headquarters of 27 surveillance companies, making it among the top five countries worldwide alongside the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany, according to a 2016 Privacy International report.
But Israel has the highest concentration of surveillance companies per capita, with 0.33 companies per 100,000 people, compared with 0.04 in the US and 0.16 in the UK, the report found.
Privacy International investigations have revealed that Israeli companies sold telephone and internet-monitoring technology to secret police in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and to security forces in Colombia, Uganda and Trinidad and Tobago.
"It is unclear how high a priority is placed on the consideration of human rights within decision-making in Israel's government when it comes to licensing exports of strategic goods. A recent amendment to export licensing rules that would have put the consideration of human rights records into law was rejected by the foreign ministry," the group noted.

Lack of oversight

In a letter to the Citizen Lab, Adobe - whose PDF editing software was imitated in the spyware emails - said it has "taken steps to swiftly address this issue, including but not limited to contacting Cyberbit and other relevant service providers".
The company called the issues raised by the research "troubling" and said it works "to try to protect our users from the misuse and misrepresentation of our brands - especially where used to deceive others in downloading malicious software".
However, according to Marczak, the problem with the commercial spyware industry is it is "not very well regulated" in terms of export controls, or ways to hold companies accountable for a range of actions, "whether it's targeting people in an abusive way or ... designing products to impersonate brands".
Spyware is becoming increasingly widespread, he added, and companies are showcasing their products at arms fairs and surveillance industry conventions around the world, among other places.
Marczak said he hoped bringing attention to how these surveillance technologies are being used will apply pressure on companies.
"Certainly bringing this issue to the public attention over and over will hopefully push regulatory agencies to take a closer look here [and] push lawmakers to take a closer look here," he said.
Al Jazeera's request for comment from Ethiopia's Government Communication Affairs Office was not immediately answered on Monday.
Cyber security in an interconnected future

Cyber security in an interconnected future

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Embassy speaks on recent protest deaths, lauds security restraint In Ethiopia

[Photos] Massive anti-govt protest in Ethiopia's Oromia state
“The United States sees peaceful demonstrations as a legitimate means of expression and political participation.  We note with appreciation a number of recent events during which demonstrators expressed themselves peacefully, and during which security forces exercised restraint in allowing them to do so.
“We are saddened by reports that several recent protests ended in violence and deaths.  All such reports merit transparent investigation that allows those responsible for the violence to be held accountable.
“We encourage all Ethiopians to continue to express their views peacefully and encourage Ethiopian authorities to permit peaceful expression of views.  More generally, we encourage constructive, peaceful, and inclusive national discourse on matters of importance to Ethiopian citizens.”
Local media portals over the last two weeks have reported of renewed tension across the Oromia region where anti-government sentiments continue to simmer. Federal security agents killed four people last week.
There were a series of protests particularly in the town of Shashamane, about 250km south of the capital, Addis Ababa, leading the U.S. embassy to issue its last security message a week ago.

Ethiopia 'deliberately blocking' U.S. Congress resolution on human rights | Africanews

An international rights group is accusing the Ethiopian government of literally blackmailing United States as Congress moves to heighten human rights and political reform calls on Addis Ababa.
According to a statement released by Freedom House dated October 16, 2017 and titled “U.S. Congress Should Call Ethiopia’s Bluff,” Senior Program Officer for Africa, Joseph Badwaza, said Congress should go ahead with its efforts and discard the Ethiopian government’s “bullying tactics.”
A bi-partisan human rights resolution by U.S. lawmakers known as the H. Res 128 has been halted by Addis Ababa with the threat of severing security cooperation with the U.S. if it is pursued any further.
Experience shows that Ethiopia would never follow through on the threat to halt security cooperation. The government fully understands who would be the ultimate loser if it did.
The statement quoted Republican Congressman Mike Coffman as confirming that Ethiopia’s position was relayed by its ambassador in Washington who said the country will “stop counterterrorism cooperation with the United States if Congress went ahead with a planned vote on a resolution calling for human rights protections and inclusive governance in the country (H. Res. 128).”
Freedom House is, however, of the view that any such move by the government would be against its interest hence the need for Congress to box on with its efforts at securing the rights of suppressed Ethiopians and the opening of the country’s political space.
“Passing H. Res. 128 would send a powerful message to Addis Ababa to get serious about undertaking reforms, and the Ethiopian government’s bullying tactics should not derail it. Members of Congress should call the bluff, place the resolution back on the House agenda, and approve it.
“Experience shows that Ethiopia would never follow through on the threat to halt security cooperation. The government fully understands who would be the ultimate loser if it did,” Freedom House said.
What is the H. Res. 128 about?
H. Res. 128 is a human rights centered move with strong bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, it has as many as 71 cosponsors.
The resolution passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously in late July 2017 and was scheduled for a vote by the full House on October 2.
One of its authors, Republican Congressman Chris Smith said during the committee mark-up, the resolution is like a mirror held up to the government of Ethiopia, and it is intended to encourage them to recognize how others see them and move forward with reforms.
“While the resolution contains provisions that call for sanctions—under the Global Magnitsky Act—against Ethiopian officials responsible for committing gross human rights violations, the more important reason why the government took the severe step of threatening the U.S. Congress is the damage that this resolution could do to the country’s image,” Freedom House averred.
Ethiopia’s regional and global security capacity and international profile
The country is largely seen as a security and political big boy in the restive Horn of Africa region. Aside Eritrea, it is on good terms with all its neighbours.
Ethiopia despite its security headache back home, also plays a huge role in global security circles, as one of the biggest contributors to international peacekeeping.
It is a current member of the UN’s Security and Human Rights Councils. It is engaged in the fight against Al-Shabaab in Somalia, it is at the forefront of regional diplomacy efforts to restore peace to South Sudan and also hosts the African Union headquarters.
Its legitimacy back home is, however, seen as shaky and highly unsteady. The government employed lethal force against anti-government protesters from late 2015 through the better part of 2016.
A situation that led to deaths and massive detentions even though Addis has refused to allow for an independent probe into the tensions which combine politics and security in a very restive region.
It took a 10 month state of emergency imposed in October 2016 with its draconian rules to quell the protests. There has been recent undercurrents in Oromia region where protests are gaining momentum.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Corruption Is Holding Back Democracy and Prosperity in Ethiopia

Ethiopia, a huge and beautiful country that straddles the Great Rift Valley just north of the equator in Africa, traces its history to biblical times.
Blessed with a long growing season and rich agricultural land, it is also a nation in political turmoil—albeit also one that is a key U.S. ally and partner in the fight against terrorism throughout that turbulent region of the world.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s political coalition claimed all 547 seats in May 2015 parliamentary elections that critics charge were conducted in an atmosphere of government intimidation.
Little remains of democracy in Ethiopia, especially since the hardening (beginning in 2015) of enforcement of laws that repress political opposition, tighten control of civil society, suppress independent media, and control online activity.
Although robust economic growth has reduced the percentage of the population living in poverty, the government’s violent repression of demonstrations in the past 12 months by the large Oromo tribe has claimed hundreds of lives.
In response to domestic and international pressure, in 2016 the government established the Ethiopia Human Rights Commission to investigate abuses.
Regarding the police’s aggressive use of teargas at a festival that triggered a stampede that killed dozens, the head of the Commission, Addisu Gebre-Egziabher, said that the state actors were “negligent.”
Speaking at an event attended by Heritage Foundation analysts in July 2017 at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, Gebre-Egziabher promised that those in power using excessive force are “being held accountable.”
This is a step in the right direction, but only time will tell if it is truly effective.
The commission is still largely connected to and dependent upon the government for substantial action. Freedom House reports that the media remains severely restricted in the country and that some journalists are among the political prisoners held by the state in grueling conditions.
Ethiopia’s overall score in The Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of Economic Freedom has risen by more than three points during the past five years, but if human rights conditions deteriorate, continued progress could be jeopardized.
Hopefully, the Ethiopia Human Rights Commission will be empowered to hold corrupt leaders accountable and lay a foundation for greater respect for the rule of law in the country to foster greater economic growth.
It is imperative, though, that the commission be more than just a public relations exercise by the government.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct a misquotation of Addisu Gebre-Egziabher, head of the Ethiopia Human Rights 


Charles Busch is a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.
Portrait of James M. Roberts

James M. Roberts is the research fellow in freedom and growth at The Heritage Foundation's Center for International Trade and Economics. Roberts' primary responsibility is to produce the Index of Economic Freedom, an influential annual analysis of the economic climate of countries throughout the world.Commission. Gebre-Egziabher only stated that security forces had been “negligent.” The remainder of the sentence came from a Reuters report.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Migrants in France Say Police Abuse Is Common - The New York Times

PARIS — New allegations of routine police harassment of migrants in Calais surfaced Wednesday in a report detailing officers’ nearly daily use of pepper spray as well as limited access to food and the destruction of migrant shelters.
Human rights workers and around 60 migrants, nearly half under 18, told Human Rights Watch of daily identity checks, shortened hours for aid agencies to distribute food and unsanitary conditions caused by a lack of toilets and water.
They also accused officers of using pepper spray with abandon.
“There’s nowhere else that I can think of where I’ve encountered to this extent the use of pepper spray on people who were sleeping and especially on sleeping children,” said Michael Bochenek, senior counsel to the children’s rights division of Human Rights Watch.
The report documented many complaints about the treatment of migrants that have arisen since the razing of “the Jungle,” an area in Calais where 6,000 to 10,000 migrants, many from Africa, Afghanistan and elsewhere, were living in often squalid surroundings. It was dismantled in October and the migrants were bused to other places around France.
Despite efforts to discourage them, migrants still travel in large numbers to Calais, an English Channel city, hopeful that despite many new safeguards intended to stop them from boarding trucks or the Eurostar train bound for England, they will be among the lucky ones to make it to better lives. While they wait, they camp outdoors in scattered groups, sleeping in the underbrush and under highway bridges. There are now an estimated 400 to 500 migrants in the Calais area and perhaps more, Mr. Bochenek said.
Continue reading the main story
Calais’s prefecture, the local government that oversees the police, disputed their depiction in the Human Rights Watch report and said the allegations that the police “gratuitously and systematically” used pepper spray were “calumnious.”
“The police in Calais work, as they do elsewhere in France, within a legal framework which allows them to conduct identity checks,” Fabien Sudry, prefect of the department of Pas-de-Calais, said in a statement. “In keeping with the prosecutor’s mandate, they can disperse groups and unauthorized gatherings and they can remove people who are in France illegally.”
Mr. Sudry said the police were also permitted to stop migrants from boarding the Eurostar train or from entering Calais’s port area. There have been 17,867 attempts so far this year, he said.


A police officer confronted migrants in Calais in June. CreditPhilippe Huguen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Sudry said his office had received only three complaints about police conduct since the end of 2016, and he encouraged people who believe their rights have been violated to file complaints. Migrants living in insecure circumstances rarely have the wherewithal or the necessary language skills to do so, however, suggesting that number of formal complaints is not an accurate indicator of police abuse.
Migrants and aid workers complain that the police often take an aggressive stance toward migrants without provocation. Of the 61 migrants interviewed for the Human Rights Watch report, 57 said they had been hit with pepper spray at some point; 55 said they had been sprayed in the last two weeks. A day after being sprayed, aid workers say, children still suffer eye problems.
A 17-year-old identified in the report as Moti W., an Oromo from Ethiopia, told the rights group’s researchers: “This morning I was sleeping under the bridge. The police came. They sprayed all over our face, hair, eyes, clothes, sleeping bag, food. Many people were sleeping then. The police sprayed everything.”
It is also routine for the police to confiscate sleeping bags and extra clothes and to disrupt food distributions, especially those that occur at night, Mr. Bochenek said.
Pierre Henry, the director general of France Terre d’Asile, an aid organization that helps migrants applying for asylum, denounced the abuse. “Nothing justifies such degrading treatment,” he said.
Mr. Henry said the government should make a coordinated effort to handle the migrant influx, rather than relying on the police. More welcome centers are needed where migrants can stay, bathe and eat safely and apply for asylum, he said.
A government proposal would create more lodgings for people seeking asylum and greatly speed up the application process. But it would also hasten expulsion of those found not to have met France’s asylum requirements.
France’s ombudsman for human rights, Jacques Toubon, said the plan did not go far enough. Like Mr. Henry, he recommended that the government open many more welcome centers to process the thousands who are arriving in France.
“When you ask the police to manage migration problems and you don’t offer all the responses possible to permit the migrants to have their rights, you have difficulties,” Mr. Henry said. From a police perspective, he said, the only solution is “dispersing the migrants.”