Djibouti, August 2003
Djibouti is one of the hottest places on earth with temperatures reaching 54 degrees Celsius. Life for women evolves around water and its arduous collection and many villages are far from the nearest water points.
Communities are remote with little or no access to basic healthcare. The brutal practice of FGM (female circumcision) is deeply entrenched in local culture as women feel without it they will be undesirable to men. Although the Djiboutian government outlawed FGM, operations are still carried out privately. Infection rates are high and the strict penalties imposed by the state on parents who circumcise their daughters mean people are too scared to seek help if operations go wrong.
The recent establishment of women’s groups and educational projects, supported by Johanniter International, is however, bringing about a positive change. The groups provide places where women are encouraged to talk about health issues, never previously discussed in public. Micro credit schemes, and craft cooperatives are helping them generate incomes to help support their families. Rehabilitation of old water sources is also a key part of this project.