Digital Public Defence: Asresash Demissie Abathun

MPH Asresash Demissie Abathun at Institute of Health and Society will be defending the thesis "Abandoning a culture: Attitudes and Perspectives toward Female Genital Cutting in Somali and Harari Regional States, Eastern Ethiopia" for the degree of PhD (Philosophiae Doctor).

The public defence will be held as a video conference over Zoom.

The digital defence will follow regular procedure as far as possible, hence it will be open to the public and the audience can ask ex auditorio questions when invited to do so.

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Digital Trial Lecture – time and place

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Adjudication committee

  • First opponent: Senior Lecturer Vanja Berggren, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Second opponent: Professor Beth Maina, Uppsala University, Sweden
  • Third member and chair of the evaluation committee: Professor Emeritus Per Hjortdahl, Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo

Chair of defence

Associate Professor Hilde Wøien, Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo

Principal Supervisor

Researcher Abdi Gele, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo


The World Health Organization defines Female Genital Cutting as the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for no medical reasons. It is internationally recognized as a violation of women’s and girls’ rights.  FGC is widely practiced in Ethiopia, with the Somali and the Harari regions having the highest prevalence. Since 2011, Ethiopia has had campaigns against FGC, but no studies have been conducted to determine whether the decade’s anti-FGC campaigns have changed the attitudes toward the continuation of FGC among people in the Somali and Harari regions.

The aims of the thesis were to advance our current knowledge on the global abandonment of FGC by investigating the attitudes and perspectives of people in Somali and Harari regions of Ethiopia toward FGC. The study uses both quantitative and qualitative approaches.  A cross-sectional study that involved 478 randomly selected school boys and girls, and eight focus group discussions of 64 participants were conducted.

Despite years of anti-FGC campaigns in Ethiopia, the practice is still a major concern in the Somali and Harari regions of Ethiopia. Women in the Somali region, and some religious leaders strongly supported the continuation of female genital cutting. Contrastingly, 86% of the respondents (school boys and girls) condemned the practice of FGC, and the majority (68.3%) of them mentioned that FGC has a health risk.  Almost 60% of young male respondents in both regions stated that they preferred to marry uncircumcised girls.  About 82% of the study respondents supported the abandonment of FGC in both regions.

Overall, these findings imply that considering the deep-rooted nature of FGC, there is a need to educate and empower girls and women. Besides, there is a need to involve religious leaders, key informants, and young people to use a social convention theory to promote collective change among the intermarrying families and the community at large through community conversation.

Additional information

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Published Aug. 21, 2020 8:23 AM - Last modified Aug. 25, 2020 10:16 AM