Friday, June 1, 2007

Where Are Dr. Grebe's Sisters?

Only someone with a heart made of stone could be unimpressed by the people and groups who were honored at last night's banquet dinner at the annual meeting of the Global Health Council. What I most want to remember from the evening is the impassioned speech for women and against female genital cutting by Dr. Bogaletch Gebre of Ethiopia.

Dr. Grebe founded an NGO called the Kembatti Mentti Gezzimma or Kembatti Women's Self-Help Center in Ethiopia in 1997 as a way to empower women and help them and their brothers, fathers, uncles change the cultural practice of scraping or cutting away the clitoris of young girls.

In accepting the 2007 Jonathan Mann Award for Health and Human Rights, Dr. Grebe honored her own mother, who she said was her mentor, and her sisters, "who carried my burden" so that she could continue her schooling and become an epidemiologist. In a strong voice that cracked at times with the power of deep-felt emotion, she then relayed that all her sisters, the ones who had pulled together to give her a chance, had since passed away.

It made you think how many other voices have been silenced before their time because of the fatal effects of extreme poverty, because of the continuing second-and-third class status of women in so many countries.

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