Born in a small village in Ethiopia’s Kembata region, Boglatech Gebre was one of 14 children. Growing up, people described her as the average Ethiopian girl. She would help her mother with the chores and the cooking, help look after her siblings and would have to take a daily walk to get clean water for the family. However, unlike other young girls she grew up with, Gebre was secretly attending school. When she was growing up, females did not have access to education. Gebre received a secret education daily and soon she was able to read and write unlike other girls her age. She did this by excusing herself to fetch water in the early morning and having her uncle help her complete her chores. Gebre eventually received a scholarship to attend an Ethiopian school. Following studying microbiology in Israel, as well as the United States, she received her Masters and started studying for her Ph.D., leaving the program to return to Ethiopia as a women’s rights activist. Here are five facts about Boglatech Gebre.
5 Facts About Boglatech Gebre
Boglatech Gebre was an Ethiopian Women’s Rights Activist. At the age of 12, Gebre underwent genital mutilation. Although the physical scars healed, the mental scars did not. This procedure was a key factor as to why Gebre abandoned her Ph.D. to become a women’s rights activist. Gebre not only focuses on ending the act of female genital mutilation (FGM) but is also passionate about ending the kidnapping of underage girls to become child brides.
She Started a Charity with her Sister. In 1997, Boglatech Gebre and her sister founded KMG Ethiopia, based in Kembata. The letters stand for the phrase “Kembatti Mennti-Gezimma-Tupe,” which, in the Kambaata language, is a phrase that describes the power that united women have. People have credited KMG for saving 10s of thousands of young girls from becoming child brides. The charity has also essentially ended female genital mutilation in the Kembata region. In 1998, one year after Gebre and her sister founded KMG, the female genital mutilation rate was 100 percent, but by 2008, it dropped to 3 percent. The charity also focuses on providing women’s health services, because it opened up the first mother and child health center in Ethiopia. KMG also provides women and girls with education, livelihood and economic empowerment, information and health on gender-based violence, human rights information, environmental change and infrastructure development.
Gebre was Influential in Passing Legislation. Ethiopia heard Gebre’s passion for creating a safe country for women. Because of her active role in speaking out for women’s rights, Ethiopia passed bans on issues such as child marriage and female genital mutilation. Ethiopia has also banned the practices of bride abduction, polygamy, widow inheritance and domestic violence. KMG persuaded Ethiopian courts to hear the cases of women, and the country has even hired female judges.
Gebre and KMG have Received International Recognition. Since the foundation of KGM, Boglatech Gebre and the organization have won fifteen major awards. These awards include the Spanish National Committee for UNICEF’s International Award in 2015, the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Services for Human Rights in June of 2013 and the North-South Award of the Council of Parliament of Europe in 2005. All the awards the charity has received reflect its commitment to improving human and women’s rights.
She has Influenced other Improvements in Ethiopia Outside of Women’s Rights. As mentioned earlier, KMG has influenced Ethiopia’s environment and infrastructure development. The charity has planted over nine million trees that are indigenous to Ethiopia in an act of combating the environmental crisis. Gebre and the organization have also helped build bridges throughout the rural area of Kembata, opening up ways of travel that were not previously available to the local people.
On November 2, 2019, Boglatech Gebre passed away in Los Angeles, California. Although her charity did not release her cause of death, people believe it was due to a car wreck from 1987 that left her with nerve damage. Since the accident, Gebre would fly out to California to receive treatment. Initially, medical authorities told her she would never walk again, but she went on to run marathons, literally and figuratively. People knew Gebre for not letting anything hold her back, whether it be nerve damage or her gender. These five facts about Boglatech Gebre show the legacy and influence she has left behind, but KMG Ethiopia plans to continue it.
– Destinee Smethers
Photo: Wikipedia Commons